One of the best things about science fiction is it can be weird. Really, really weird. More often than not, it isn't weird, it's just spaceships and ray guns and robots, and that's all fine and dandy, but the genre's ability to go deep into the WTF zone is one of its great strengths. Sure, sometimes the results are more "Huh?" than "Wow!" but the effort is important all the same. Tonight at the Sie FilmCenter, the Sci-Fi Film Series from the Denver Film Society and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science kicks off with Upstream Color, a very weird science fiction film from Shane Carruth about a parasite that can control human behavior.
In honor of this strange launch to the series, it seemed a good time to look back at some other really, really weird sci-fi films. They're not all great -- not by a long shot -- but they're all damn strange, and worth a look if only for the one of a kind conversation starter "I saw the most bizarre film the other day..." they provide.
See also: Join the cult of Altered States
There's no better place to kick off this list thanPrimer
, the debut film fromUpstream Color
director Carruth. It's a time travel story, but it sets aside the usual time-travel nonsense for something much stranger and, ultimately, far more believable. It's also insanely complicated and mind-bendingly obtuse at times, but it's the rare movie that's worth the effort to figure out WTF is going on.4) A Boy and His Dog
A young Don Johnson stars in a post apocalyptic tale of a boy and his telepathic dog. They wander the wasteland searching for food and girls, then the boy gets kidnapped and taken underground to a weird, regimented society that wants to harvest his sperm. It's a weird enough premise, but the execution makes it several times weirder.3) Beyond the Black Rainbow
The good news is this film has impeccable style, a fantastic retro synth soundtrack and at least a few interesting ideas. The bad news is that's all it has, lacking much of a story (there's a psychic girl held against her will and ... uh ... something else, maybe?) or a point, making it a bit of a frustrating exercise. Still, it's full of weird shit, and maybe, if you can find the right cocktail of drugs, you can extract some sense from it. Or just get really, really freaked out.2) Southland Tales
Richard Kelly's debut filmDonnie Darko
is something of a weird sci-fi cult classic. His follow up,Southland Tales
, is several orders of magnitude stranger. Set in the near future of 2008, it posits a world where terrorists detonate a pair of nukes in Texas, leading to a fascist Dystopia where a shadowy government program called US IDENT watches everyone, all the time. Then there are the parallel dimensions, time travel, hallucinatory drugs, mysterious power sources and the most insane cast of lunatic characters ever gathered together, making for one glorious mess of a movie that has to be seen to be believed. (Just kidding, you won't believe it even after you've seen it.)1) Zardoz
The '70s were a wacky time. And only a very wacky time could produceZardoz
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. Sean Connery stars in this warped tale of the far future, where dudes in weird loincloths kill people on the orders of a giant, floating stone head. Pretty standard stuff, then, at least if you're coked to the gills and maybe also trying ketamine for the first time after reading a shitload of pulp sci fi from the '30s. But hey, youngish Sean Connery in a loincloth! That's always nice.