A Bloody Good Time 07.19.12: Top 20 Sci-Fi/Horror Films, Part 2 (#10-1)
Posted by Joseph Lee on 07.19.2012
From Alien and its sequel to Re-Animator, The Fly, Frankenstein and more, 411's Joseph Lee concludes his look at the top 20 sci-fi horror films with #10 - #1!
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.
Last week I began my look at the top 20 sci-fi/horror films. Then I realized I probably should have increased it to 30, because the comments section let me know there were several I missed. I'm obviously not changing my top ten, and I had already posted the first half. So maybe in the future I'll present an honorable mentions list or something to look at the ones that I missed. Or maybe I'll let you stew that your favorite got left off. Nah, I'm not that mean. But I can't see where any of the ones I missed would fit into my top ten, so there may be some you like missing. Just giving you a fair warning now.
Anyway, let's look at the feedback.
Drew replied: I don't expect it to be on next week's list, but I often feel that Pandorum is a very underated Scifi/Horror film. It's not great has it's fauts, but I felt it was legitamatly the first original and unique scifi/horror film in a while, with the space ship design and mission to how the monsters where and came about.
I honestly can't remember a thing about Pandorum but I don't remember liking it. I'm thinking it's time for a rewatch, because I can't imagine myself not enjoying a movie with Ben Foster in it.
Mur asked: You thought Prometheus was a good movie???
Yeah. So did a lot of other people. Funny thing about opinions, everyone has them, and they usually vary. Snark aside, I think Prometheus is a very good horror film. If you disagree, that's fine, but you may not like my "end of the year" list.
Dan Baltrusis said: I tell you Joseph Lee, I swear we are two brothers from another mother. Every time I read your columns I pretty much have the same view of horror/sci-fi movies as you. To me "Killer Klowns from Outer Space" is the greatest B-movie ever. I hope you have "The Thing" (1982) in your top ten. Great column as always, keep up the good work!
Yeah, Killer Klowns is pretty great, especially if you're into B movies. Some people aren't, but I don't think those people like to have any fun.
411's own Ben Piper added: I don't know why, but Kevin Dillon has always annoyed me. I'm sure he's a nice guy, but I can't stand him as an actor.
Yeah, he was one of the things about the remake of The Blob I didn't like. The guy that's supposed to be your hero came off as a douche.
Guest#9411 said: I actually have seen Altered States and damn if that movie doesn't need an update. It has images that would be awesome if it had access to modern technology. Up there with Dreamscape as movies that should have been made after CGI was commonplace.
I don't know if I'd necessary say it needs a remake but I wouldn't be against it. A relatively obscure (compared to most) horror movie getting remade would be preferable to a classic that needs no update.
APrince66 responded: Kudos for putting both Blobs in. I loved them both, and played the heck out of both my VHS copies back in the day. And Yes, Predator counts. I'll save adding my personal top 3 for next week. Awesome job as always.
Yeah I remember watching the original Blob quite a bit as a kid, renting it along with the Universal classics from the library or catching them on late night TV. Now the only way to watch any of them on TV is TCM, which is probably the best non-premium movie channel you'll find.
Jason Douglas said: I'm pulling for the overlooked Brainscan, but I don't know that it deserves what would now have to be top ten status. Mark me as one who loves Killer Klowns. Clowns have always scared me unless they are openly evil like these or Doink. Definitely a fan of the Blob remake. The effects are awesome, it has the lovely Shawnee Smith who I've lusted for most of my life, and it includes an exceedingly rare instance of a child being killed by the monster, which I'm surprised didn't cause a controversy.
Man, Brainscan is definitely one that I like, but I couldn't justify putting over any of the others on this list. There's a lot of dated stuff in it and Edward Furlong is kind of annoying. But it still mostly holds up as movie I like to watch.
AG Awesome asked: Hey Joe, I sent you an email asking you about a Universal Horror film list. Did you ever do one and if so can you please share the link?
I don't think I've ever made a proper list but I've talked about the Universal monsters a lot in the past. Maybe sometime soon I'll go ahead and rank my favorites.
Finally, we have Flash Gordon with: I doubt they will make the list due to their b level status but Screamers, tremors, invaders from mars and Man's best friend were all pretty good.
Hopefully the Mist, Cube and They live make it.
Screamers is a very good B-movie and Peter Weller is great in it. I love Tremors too. See, this is what I'm talking about. I made my top twenty when I should have made a top 30 to accomodate all these films I forgot about. Definitely going to have to look into doing another sci-fi/horror edition of this column soon because of it.
Last week we had movies like The Blob (both versions), From Beyond and Altered States. This week, I present my own personal top ten favorite sci-fi horror films ever.
#10: They Live (1988)
As good as John Carpenter is with his horror films, it's when he ventures into sci-fi that he's probably at his best. Think about it: They Live, The Thing, Escape From New York (which isn't horror and won't make this list). All great movies. They Live is a sci-fi film that mostly gives the audience the concept that is grounded in science fiction (aliens take over the world) but keeps it low-budget and simple by having the baddies appear to be human. It really works in this case because without the glasses, you can't tell who is who.
I don't know if anyone thought Roddy Piper, a wrestler, would have very good acting ability before this film came out (and they may still not), but he completely owns this movie with his performance. Maybe Roddy's natural charisma was all that he needed for what is a fairly standard role, or maybe Carpenter was able to play to his strengths. Maybe it was a combination of both. Either way it was really fun to watch. It also contains one of the best fight scenes ever between Piper and Keith David.
#9: Re-Animator (1985)
If Frankenstein were an egomaniac and completely out of his element, he would be Dr. Herbert West. West is intelligent, sure, but he's also full of himself and has no idea how to handle what his creation unleashes. He brings the dead back to life all in the name of science (and his own ego), with no regard for the consequences to anyone else. His creations run amok, killing others and all he cares about his how he's going to look. Sure, he seems cool and collected, but you can tell that he isn't. That's of course why it's so fun to watch Jeffrey Combs in the role.
Re-Animator also straddles the line between the horror and sci-fi genres, as it has zombies (a horror staple) but it also focuses heavily on the mad scientist route, which has "science" right there in the name. Either way it's definitely a comedy, albeit a dark one, and it's very entertaining. You can't go wrong with Combs and Stuart Gordon working together, and it happens to be adapting the great H.P. Lovecraft at the same time. It's a gem of the 1980s horror scene.
#8: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Body Snatchers has had three remakes (and countless other copies) because it's a very simple and terrifying idea: what if someone you've known you're entire life suddenly becomes someone else entirely? Your mother, your son, your wife, they fall asleep and wake up completely different. Kevin McCarthy is great in the role of the hero, who always seems to appear utterly helpless in the face of the danger sneaking up on the world. The aliens are taking over and there's no way to stop it because no one knows it's happening. Kind of gives you more appreciation for They Live too, since this could easily be a prequel of that movie.
The film ends without a happy ending, which is a must for stories like this. It's the reason why The Invasion wasn't as well-recieved as the other incarnations because it just shrugs off the previous events and has an ending where everyone is happy and healthy. The story is much scarier when you see Kevin McCarthy running through the streets, trying to get anyone to listen to him that their very identities are in danger, but not being able to convince anyone. When he does, there's no way to tell if it'll do any good. It's a dark and scary movie even today.
#7: Aliens (1986)
How do you top Ridley Scott's Alien? You don't try. James Cameron's Aliens is a completely different animal than the last film. Sure, it has its scary moments, and it does contain some elements left over, but it's mostly it's own film. It's bigger, it's more action-packed and it contains more aliens to really up the ante. We also get the epic battle at the end between Ripley and the Alien Queen that pretty much sums up this movie in a nutshell.
Aliens actually used to be what I preferred over Alien, but times change and occasionally so does taste. I've grown to appreciate the original more but that in no way diminishes this movie. The movie's endlessly quotable, contains a lot of memorable scenes and is proof that you can go in a completely different direction with a sequel and still be a great movie.
#6: Cube (1997)
Years before Saw went on to dominate the horror scene, Cube already beat it to the "deadly trap" type of horror movie. But unlike the Saw films (well, the first, at any rate), there is no possible way this could ever happen. Several strangers are imprisioned in a giant cube shaped machine with hundreds of rooms that rotate on a fixed schedule. They have no way of knowing which rooms will have traps, what traps the room will have or if they are going in the right direction without figuring out the pattern.
With that synopsis, Vincenzo Natali crafts a expertly scripted and incredibly worthwhile film with decent acting, great direction and even some nice kills. I've mentioned this film on here several times because I never feel like it gets the love it deserves. Sure it's low-budget, but that doesn't make it bad at all. In fact, I actually think that helps it. While it does contains some special effects, it focuses more on the terror of the situation and the helplessness of the people inside the titular Cube.
#5: Mimic (1997)
The only film Guillermo Del Toro made before this was Cronos, and while that was a weird little movie, it gave no indication of the extraordinary director he would go on to become. Really, Mimic doesn't give that indictation either, but it does let you know that he's very talented and loves his creature effects. Mimic seems to get forgotten among all the garbage that came out towards the end of the 90s, but it's a solid thriller with amazing special effects and some nasty killer bugs.
The story involves a breed of cockroach created to kill another breed that is spreading a disease. But these cockroaches rapidly evolve and begin preying on man. It's the perfect kind of plot for a 50's B-movie, but it's played straight and is actually very effective. As one person praised The Blob remake for, this also has the guts to kill off two kids just like it would any other actor. You'd be amazed at how effective that is as a scare when it's not used that often in movies. It lets you know that the director isn't playing around and anyone can die at any time.
#4: Frankenstein (1931)
One of the first ever blends of sci-fi and horror comes from a story that did both effortlessly. Frankenstein features a mad scientist who gives life to a sewed-together group of dead body parts. He does it all in the pursuit of science and to prove it can be done. But just because something can be done, doesn't mean it should be done. It doesn't help that the monster is given a criminal's brain and is quickly rejected by its creator.
This is one of those films that I would describe as perfect. There aren't many, but Frankenstein is definitely up there. Boris Karloff is amazing as the monster, evoking both fear (more so then, but he has his moments now) and empathy for the creature. Colin Clive and Dwight Fyre also shine in their roles, and the direction of James Whale can be matched against many big name Hollywood directors and come out looking better. The fact that everyone got together again to make just as good of a film in The Bride of Frankenstein speaks a great deal about how talented they all were.
#3: The Fly (1986)
If there's one movie David Cronenberg should be known for, it's his remake of The Fly. I know that Videodrome and Scanners have their fans, but this is superior in every way. The cast is phenomenal, the special effects still hold up today and the story is scary, funny and even tragic. Not only is this a great sci-fi or horror film, it's a great film, period. No matter how many times I watch it (and I watch it at least once a year, if not more), I never tire of it. If that's not the sign of a great movie I don't know what is.
Jeff Goldblum is a one man show here, as Seth Brundle starts from humble yet brilliant scientist and devolves (or evolves, depending on your view of things) into a grotesque monstrosity by the end. The special effects are some of the best I've ever seen. His slow, disgusting transformation, the "Seth Brundle Musuem of Natural History", all of it. It's just a macabre look at body horror that hasn't really been replicated or topped.
#2: Alien (1979)
When Ridley Scott makes science fiction, it's hard to beat. In Alien, he takes the slasher film archetype (not even perfected yet, as Friday the 13th was a year away) and applies it to a completely different location. A space crew unleash an alien on board their ship and are killed off one by one for reasons that are never really revealed. Is the alien just a natural predator? Is it eating them? Sure, the Director's Cut does elaborate a little on this, but the theatrical version doesn't. All you know is that this is a monster that you've never seen before and it's fond of killing.
HR Giger's design is completely original and even if the other films managed to get a similar look, there's just something about this particular alien that is different and scarier than the rest. I think it's slightly more humanoid and sleeker. Maybe that's just me. This movie also succeeds with its atmosphere, invoking dread as the film continues and the crew is picked off one by one. About as perfect a blend of science fiction and horror as you're likely to get.
#1: The Thing (1982)
I'm going to let you in on a secret. The top three in this column could be interchangable depending on my mood. I love them all equally for completely different reasons. It's not a knock on any of them, it's just that they're all great and I usually have a hard time distinguishing which one I like better. If forced to choose, I'd have to go with The Thing. I love the paranoia that grows between the characters. I love the gore and creature effects and I love the cast.
Kurt Russell as MacReady is one of his best performances. It's not so much that it's well-acted (although it is), but that MacReady is just a bad ass in every sense of the word. Sure, he could be a Thing, but out of everyone there you get the feeling that he's probably not because of how much he's ready to kill it. Then again, maybe it's doing that to help preserve itself. You see what I mean about paranoia? The concept alone is frightening, much like Body Snatchers because there is no way to know if someone is a Thing unless you cause a violent reaction to draw it out. And if you do that, you're not going to live long enough for it to matter.
That's it for me. What's your favorite sci-fi horror film? Did I leave any out? Leave some comments here on or my Twitter. Next week I'm going to rest my mind by going back to the Godzilla franchise and looking at the dumbest monsters.
Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)
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