Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

Terror Comes in Many Forms – Why You Should Watch A Sci-Fi Horror Movie This Halloween

4 min read

Human beings are naturally cautious of the unknown, and as a genre frequently offers a speculative look into the greatest unknown of all – the future. Whether it's the idea of aliens usurping the human race at the top of the food chain or our technological creations turning on us, sci-fi has brought countless potential futures to life on the silver screen, sometimes in horrific and visceral fashion. Although we think of this as a modern phenomenon, borne out of a collective embrace for all things tech, the crossover of modern science fiction with can be traced back to Frankenstein and perhaps even earlier. While horror and science fiction are thought of as separate categorizations there's certainly a great deal of overlap, and with the spooky season upon us it seems only right to examine some of the more pervasive films that straddle the line between horror and sci-fi.

 

No look at the relationship between sci-fi and horror could really start anywhere else other than . It might seem obvious, but the transformative nature of 's masterpiece where both sci-fi and horror are concerned is both ground-breaking and iconic. From the infamous chestburster scene to Ripley's chase through the Nostromo, the level of tension and full-on dread revolutionised the concept of horror and science fiction meeting. At the core of that is the fear of the “other” and the threat posed to the human race. Cultivating the concept of a creature who has ascended above humanity in the food chain speaks to the very heart of society's greatest fear. Naturally, the threat of extra-terrestrials is a huge part of science fiction, but its crossover into the horror genre is exceedingly effective, as seen in everything from Event Horizon to . The notion of humans as an endangered species speaks to a collective fear that is at the core of existence as we know it.

Going in a different direction, such is the breadth of the possibilities where the concept of terror mixed with sci-fi is concerned, one of the most obvious fears exploited by the sub-genre is that of technology rising up against us. Since long before humans had the internet at the touch of a button on a handheld device, a fear of being overrun, superseded, and replaced by a superior artificial intelligence has lingered on the minds of great science fiction writers. As such, it's no surprise that should present such an exercise in terror. While 's classic has become embedded within popular culture, and with it Schwarzenegger in perhaps his most iconic guise, it's easy to forget how genuinely unsettling the film is. While Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees may be the poster children for the unstoppable horror villain intent on butchering those in their paths, they are still human to an extent. What if they were substituted for a machine bent on destruction and with a (literal) laser focus on its target? In many ways, that is an infinitely more terrifying concept.

Fear of technology is not always limited to the ill intentions, or sentience of the machines, but also to the ethics of the scientific community if that technology became a reality. Perhaps the most memorable examples of the dangers of technology in the wrong hands can be found in the films of . Although the Canadian director has long since solidified himself as the master of the “body horror”, much of his work centres around the themes of technology. From to all the way up to his most recent work with , Cronenberg has taken a look in great detail at the horrors of technology and its effect on the human mind, body and soul. However, perhaps his greatest achievement on that front is . Although a remake of the 1958 film of the same name, Cronenberg focuses far more on the transformative technology and the pitfalls of using it to reach beyond human capabilities. 's performance as the eccentric Seth Brundle is memorable, but the intensely graphic nature of the visuals during his transformation and the hubris that leads to his eventual downfall and horrifying metamorphosis acts as a cautionary tale around the dangers of technological advancement.

Of course, the melding of horror and sci-fi is not the exclusive preserve of the classic film, there are plenty of modern auteurs operating in that particular cross section and using it as a way to frighten and delight a whole new generation of audiences. is one such director, especially with both and , who has used science fiction to great effect to provide scares and social commentary. is another who has successfully melded both genres with Annihilation and to provide genuinely unsettling moments that reflect the particularly 21st century dangers of technology. While the elder Cronenberg is still out there providing sci-fi-tinged frights, his son is also unleashing his own brand of tech-horror with 2020's Possessor providing a thrilling, but particularly disturbing take on the future of technology. As we advance as a society, so do the nightmare-ish visions of what may come to pass on Earth, or indeed beyond our current reach.

Naturally, there are a plethora of examples of horror and science fiction coming together under one banner to create something truly terrifying. As a medium, horror films are a particularly visceral way of getting into the depth of the human psyche, but while the supernatural and the murderous slasher are staples it is the combination of the endless potential of human scientific endeavours and the utilisation of that unlimited possibility to tell stories that are truly chilling and makes the sci-fi horror sub-genre such a source of interest. This , if jump scares or gore aren't for you, why not try something that takes a delve into the future or something from another world and see how truly scary science fiction can be.