Five best sci-fi/horror films to help a non-horror geek survive October
Geek culture is not a monolithic entity -- far from it. Underneath the big tent of geekdom, you'll find factions big and small, for every possible slice of nerd life. Few of us embrace only one slice of geek life, but even fewer of us are true polynerds, embracing any and everything labeled "geek." That means no matter the geek occasion, some of us are left out in the cold. Here in October, most of us geeks are basically celebrating nerd Christmas, but for those poor bastards that don't love horror, it can be hell. Everyone -- and I mean everyone, even the tragically mundane -- is watching horror movies, and expecting you to join in because, "Hey, you're like a total geek, you must love this stuff!"
But you don't, and it gets old explaining that.
Luckily, there is a solution that should work for all but the rarest of the geek breed. See, much like chicken and waffles, peanut butter and chocolate, or beer and anything, horror complements science fiction beautifully. That means there's a handful of great films you can watch and enjoy with your horror-loving friends, be they geek or not. They get the scares, you get the sci-fi and everybody wins. To get you started, here are five of my favorite science-fiction/horror hybrids -- that's one a week between now and the end of the month, including a double feature for the actual day of Halloween. That should keep you busy until it's safe to dislike horror again.
Ridley Scott's classic "haunted house in space" film is a great way to kick things off, because its undeniably science fiction -- spaceships, androids, aliens -- and it's just as undeniably horror, because it will scare the shit out of you. If you're not familiar somehow (for shame!) it's about a commercial deep-space vessel that picks up a pesky critter while responding to a distress signal. Then the critter gets loose and they have to try to catch it, which goes ... poorly. It's an all-time classic and one of the best mergers of horror and science fiction ever made. Plus, you can maybe talk your movie pals into watching the second one, which is much less horror but also pretty much a perfect movie.
We're not done with alien lifeforms just yet! We are done with spaceships, however. Sorry. Back on Earth, the most remote, alien and inhospitable place possible serves as the setting for John Carpenter's The Thing. A bunch of people at a remote research station discover they've accidentally let some thing in, and spend the next few hours of their lives trying to figure out who it's currently imitating. Yeah, it can look like pretty much anyone it wants to, so that's a fucking problem. The effects are a bit dated, but this movie can still give you nightmares.
On the one hand, it's a film about a time-traveling cyborg trying to ensure that the robots rule unmolested in the future. On the other, it's basically a top-notch slasher flick. What, you never looked at it that way? Relentless, unkillable foe that can't be reasoned with or escaped, tracking the heroine wherever she goes -- ring any bells? Seriously, put a hockey mask on this fucking guy and you're halfway to making it a Friday the 13th flick. Just because the later entries in the franchise abandoned the horror elements for pure sci-fi action doesn't make this any less of a horror movie.
David Cronenberg's early career is basically a master class on how to merge science fiction and horror. Some cleaved closer to pure sci-fi -- Scanners' psychic mutants, for example. Others were more purely horror, like The Brood's weird child monsters. Others are almost too weird to classify as anything -- looking at you, Videodrome. With his remake of The Fly, he hit the perfect balance of science fictional and horror elements. Cocky scientist Jeff Goldblum learns the hard way why it's important to keep your workplace pest-free when his teleportation experiments accidentally jumble his DNA up with that of a fly. And man, it is ever fucking gross. Your gore friends can enthuse about the puking scenes while you dissect the plausibility of fly and human DNA mixing via teleportation. Everyone wins.
Notice anything about these movies? Yeah, they're all fucking old. Hollywood still tries to mix the two flavors up from time to time, but the occasions where it's worked over the past fifteen years have been few and far between. One of those few successes was the little-seen 2009 film Splice by Vincenzo Natali. It's about genetic manipulation, and a couple who go a little (okay, a lot) too far with mixing and matching those genes, coming out with an ubercreepy, semi-human baby thing. Then shit gets weird. Real weird. Decent acting, a solid story, clever premise and a willingness to "go there" shared by few modern films sets this one apart. Plus, you probably haven't seen it a dozen times, unlike most of this list.
So there it is -- a list that should get you through the next few weeks without pissing off your friends or subjecting yourself to a bunch of movies you hate. And who knows? Maybe after you learn to embrace the horror elements in these films, you'll learn to love horror, and you'll have opened up one of the great expanses of geekdom for your enjoyment.
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