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A still from Possessor Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Karim Hussain

Movies

Has sci-fi horror peaked?

Has sci-fi horror stopped moving forward?

Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.

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Sci-fi horror is one of the most popular sub genres out there. It has produced fan favorites like Alien, The Thing, and PG: Psycho Goreman. Mixing the unknown of other worlds with the terror of our reality has proven to be a winning formula. Other types of horror have seen their popularity go through peaks and valleys, but scary science fiction movies always seem to draw interest. 

So, why does it feel like sci-fi horror has stalled? 

There is definitely a lack of original ideas. Two of the most popular movies of recent years have been Sputnik and Color Out of Space. The former is basically Alien in a modern skin while the former was written by H.P. Lovecraft in the first part of the twentieth century. This is a huge problem in this particular type of film.

There is nothing wrong with being influenced. There have been scores of stories that have looked to Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic for inspiration. The issue with science fiction is that it also has to be looking forward. One of the reason Brandon Cronenberg’s Possesor worked so well is even though it has giallo and cyberpunk influences, it managed to bring a new aesthetic and feeling.

Has sci-fi horror peaked?

Sci-fi horror movies are still coming out with regularity, and they are often entertaining and fun to watch. At the same time, they are not bringing anything different. The genre has become content to deliver the same things since fans seem willing to watch them. But when you think about it, has there been anything as groundbreaking as Alien? (And even then, John Carpenter will tell you that it is a complete rip off.) 

Granted, there can only be so many genre defining movies in a person’s lifetime, but there has not even been any films that have failed attempting to try something different. There are some really bad horror movies that have dealt with social media, but the idea of technology becoming too much a part of our lives was visited by Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury decades ago. There is no Fight Club in sci-fi horror. 

The question becomes, does the genre have to do anything different? As long as technology continues to advance, there will always be minor tweaks to familiar stories. And as long as these changes lead to entertaining films, audiences will not complain. Unfortunately, that is the most important factor more often than not. Still, it would be nice to see something that shakes us to our cores like Cube once did.

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