Space has fascinated moviegoers since the dawn of cinema. It has been seen as a place for adventure, exploration, and hope for the future. In the horror genre, however, space is a terrifying place where no one can hear you scream. For some just looking into the empty blackness of space can fill one with existential dread, and make us question our existence. Why are we here? Are we alone in the universe? And if we are not, will aliens simply see us as insects ready to be squashed? Space in horror isn’t like Star Trek or Star Wars. It is a dark and dreary place where we are at the mercy of forces beyond our control.
One of the most universal human fears is the fear of the dark. When it is daytime we feel safe and secure in the light, but after dark, we become lost and afraid in the dark unknown. The film is a standard marooned space film, following a shipwrecked group of passengers on a cargo ship. After becoming trapped on a distant planet they discover a planet of death with an endless desert and very little water. The planet is also inhabited by nocturnal predators who only come out at night to hunt, and a month-long solar eclipse will occur in a matter of hours. The captain recruits condemned criminal Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel) to guide the survivors and lead them to safety. Pitch Black is a very effective sci-fi horror film for its simplicity. The characters are trapped on a planet with monsters and they must get through the darkness to get to safety.
There is a constant sense of danger throughout the story that plays on our most basic fears of survival. Not just from the dark and the monsters, but from Riddick himself, you can never tell if he’s going to help the group, or leave them to die and save himself. Riddick is what makes this movie so memorable. The idea being if you want to defeat monsters, why not use a monster to survive? The film d is fast-paced but also takes the time to develop its characters. It’s not a perfect film by any means but it’s a very effective space horror film if you’re ever doing a marathon.
Ok before you attack me, I am aware that this is objectively not a good movie. There are other films I could probably have put on this list but hear me out. When slasher franchises run out of ideas many times they just say, fuck it lets send him to space. For me, this is the best example of that working because this film is aware of how stupid it is. Jason Voorhees is cryogenically frozen and thawed out in the future and runs amok on a spaceship. That’s it that’s the whole movie, and for some reason, it works. Like any good Friday The 13th film, this one is really fun with some great kills. My personal favorite involves liquid nitrogen and face-smashing.
The film doesn’t get too into the technical aspect of how everything works in the future. We know that at one point the earth died out and people went to space and found another planet, ok fine by me. The human race has mastered interstellar travel, androids, and nanites that heal injuries in a matter of minutes. The film says its 400 years in the future and they have advanced technology, just accept it. While it is a dumb slasher movie set in space, it’s not boring, the film is a fast-paced movie with tons of kills and idiot characters to knock off one by one. Sure there are better films than this one, but this movie really is a great bad movie, and sometimes those are worth checking out too. Plus where else are you going to see Uber Jason fight a gun wielding android?
Science and discovery can be a wondrous and great thing, it can also lead to destruction and things beyond our comprehension. Event Horizon follows the crew of the starship, Lewis, and Clark, as they attempt to rescue a lost ship, the Event Horizon an experimental ship that disappeared on its first outing seven years ago. Once abroad they discover horrors beyond their wildest terrors and the existence of a dark alternate dimension from which the ship had been for seven years.
The Event Horizon was created to travel faster than the speed of light by opening black holes in space and traveling through them to another point in space. The idea of a black hole fills us with curiosity and dread, as it represents the unknown and untamable power of space. Like Jurassic Park this film is saying, just because you have the power to do something doesn’t mean you should do it. “You broke the laws of psychics and you didn’t think there would be consequences?” That line pretty much sums up the point of the movie, there are certain things in this universe that mankind was not meant to do, in this case, mess with the fabric of space and time. Being haunted by your darkest secrets and fears in the cold darkness of space is enough to fill anyone with fear.
The film that made us all afraid of space. Ridley Scott’s Alien is one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. It is one of the first films to show us normal blue-collar people in space, living their day to day lives. The film treats space travel as a place of exploration, but also one where people just go to work to support themselves and their families. Alien sets the stage for an entire genre of film and one of the longest-running franchises in film history. One aspect I have always loved about this film is it’s cast of characters. You get to know them and see their relationships with each other. By the time the xenomorph pops out of Kane’s chest, you get a feel for who all of them are, which is what makes their deaths hit harder and feel more real. The film also has a great sense of claustrophobia abroad the spaceship Nostromo.
Once the xenomorph has been born and escaped into the ship, there is nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. The characters are trapped on their ship with a perfect killer, a monster living off of pure instinct with only one thing on its mind, to kill. Unlike being trapped in a haunted house the characters can’t just leave, they are in the farthest reaches of space and no one is coming to help. The xenomorph represents our fear of the unknown in space. It is a creature that is faster, stronger and more durable than us and has no interest in doing anything but killing. The claustrophobic ship setting combine with a deadly monster makes for a thrilling and terrifying film. This is also our first time seeing Ellen Ripley played by genre legend Sigourney Weaver. A relatable and powerful character who goes above and beyond to protect her friends and battle the invader that has taken over the ship. The greatest space horror film by far.
As we go forth looking to the stars, we continue to look for answers to our place in this universe. Space films will continue to fill us with wonder and fascination, but also with dread, anxiety, and fear of the terror in the stars.