Sci-fi and horror share some of the same genre roots and there have been several excellent mixes of those two genres in the past. Obviously, David Cronenberg is a particular expert here; from “The Fly” to “eXistenZ,” he kept on giving thought-provoking and at the same time, scary films to cinema.
Then there were, of course, Scott’s “Alien,” Carpenter’s “The Thing” and many more classics. While the genre doesn’t always deliver good stuff and we often get cheap rip-offs of better and more popular films, some really entertaining movies end up being overlooked. Here are 10 of them that you may like if somehow you missed them.
10. Spring (2014)
A romantic body horror film, how does it sound? Sounds good in “Spring.” After his mother dies, he loses his job, and is wanted by the police for a bar fight, Evan decides to travel to Italy to get his mind clear. There he meets a cosmopolitan, charming student named Louise, with whom he soon falls in love. It basically starts similarly to “Before Sunrise.” Then Evan decides to stay in Italy for the time being, and accepts a job on Angelo’s farm for accommodation. It quickly becomes clear that the highly intelligent Italian may have a dark secret.
The movie takes a very Lovecraftian (and is very good at it) turn from here. Some may find it surprising and would maybe prefer the film to stay as a romance drama but that’s the strength of the film. Few filmmakers nowadays spend so much time introducing a character. And this preliminary work does not negate twists; on the contrary, even though one of the lovers is a monster, the tragic-beautiful romance itself makes this shocking revelation an even more human and honest portrayal than the vast majority of pure romance dramas. That’s how the film works on every level – it’s effective as a romance drama and is a very creatively made body horror.
9. The Cell (2000)
Exploring a person’s mind by literally wandering around in it. This is the new method experimented by therapist Catherine Dean who has to go into the serial killer’s mind to find the hiding place of the girl he kidnapped last.
Tarsem Singh is certainly a director with a strong visual sense, which gets heavily featured in “The Cell.” Jennifer Lopez may have an inconsistent filmography, but she has some interesting features in her resume. Movies like “Maid in Manhattan” and “The Wedding Planner” can make her filmography easy to dismiss, but then again, she was also in “Out of Sight” and more bold stuff like “U Turn.”
As for “The Cell,” it was actually a box office success, but it rarely gets talked about and even the critical reception was rather focused on its aesthetics. But the film was more than that. It had interesting characters that made us care about them, and while most of the cast was there more for their presence rather than acting talent, one member of the cast – Vincent D’Onofrio – is a great standout with a delicious performance. The film has everything – it sometimes plays like a children’s fairy tale, sometimes a brutal thriller like “Se7en,” and is often a surreal, visually satisfying, overall interesting cinematic experience.
8. Dreamscape (1984)
Before there was “Vanilla Sky,” “Inception” and all the rest, there was “Dreamscape.” An impressive and very cool mix of several genres like horror, science fiction, fantasy, adventure, action and more – “Dreamscape” is not without its flaws, but then again, it’s also wildly entertaining.
The film is about an attempt to help people who experience recurring nightmares; a research program is using psychics to enter patients’ dreams. Everything works fine until the president becomes one of the patients, and an assassin attempts to kill him in his sleep. The cast of Dennis Quaid (such a compelling leading man performance here), Christopher Plummer and Max von Sydow is more than you could wish for, and another reason why the movie works so well.
Another plus side is that it never loses its sense of humour, which is very important when you make a film like this. It also may look like a B-movie thanks to its budget and the crazy directions the story takes, but the movie actually has more depth than you expect it to have, and some critics even argued that it has something to say about the political climate of its time.
7. Screamers (1995)
Screams may not be the next “The Thing” to give you that strong sense of paranoia, but still it’s a very entertaining picture that critics were way too harsh on. At least Roger Ebert, though mostly disappointed with the film, admitted that the movie was “made with a certain imagination and intelligence.” Despite being made with a low budget and the fact that it was a complete box office failure, it has a grim premise that works, even if it is not too scary.
It adapted ”Second Variety” by Philip K. Dick pretty faithfully and the atmosphere was cool as well. Considering its budget at the time, all of these things comes off as even more impressive. The ending feels slightly underwhelming, but before that, the seasoned genre specialist Duguay largely relies on creating suspense with the paranoia of his protagonists and he largely succeeds at that.
The theme is what happens if humanity’s technological development goes too far. The whole thing is actually similar to the Terminator series, even. You’ll likely complain about one or two things here, but still “Screamers” is a film that should be seen by everyone who loves themselves some ‘90s sci-fi horror.
6. Carriers (2009)
A virus has mutated and invaded humans and there is no cure in sight. The epidemic has wiped out almost all humanity in our film. And four young friends make their way to a secluded beach to await the end of the epidemic. Then they encounter a man named Frank and his infected daughter, whose vehicle has run out of fuel. They escape from him when he attacks them, but their car breaks down.
Put into extremely limited release by Paramount in 2009 after spending years in studio lockdown, “Carriers” unfortunately didn’t get enough attention when it was initially released and years after Chris Pine got famous, the movie still didn’t get any renewed attention. The film is admirable for trying to take a realistic approach with the ultimate fear of disease/death and how humans react in such a situation.
Not only is it an effective horror/science fiction, but it also has a surprisingly good dramatic depth behind its story and it also has a very fine cast to pull everything off, especially Pine. Unlike some other films on the list like “The Hidden,” this film has no “fun” side to it. It’s a very bleak film and the pacing can turn off some people. But “Carriers” is worth watching if you like post-apocalyptic and viral outbreak kinds of movies.