Sunday, September 6, 2015

SHF.2015.09.06.5 Dark Star


I received my copy of John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon’s space story Dark Star (1974) from Amazon today, so it was movie night. John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon worked together on this satirical science fiction film that originated from a student short film at USC. Producer of The Blob, Jack H. Harris, had seen the project and obtained the theatrical rights and he added additional footage in order to bring Dark Star to feature length.

The film begins with an epistolary entry from Earth to the crew of Dark Star. We learn that the crew has been in space for 20 years, their commander has been killed from an on-board accident during hyperdrive and the crew’s request for additional equipment is denied due to budgetary constraints. The crew’s directive is to destroy unstable planets by releasing bombs and then using warp drive to get away from the planet as quickly as possible.

When the crew is not cooped up in their control room, which does have a vague similarity to one of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey sets, they are sitting around in their makeshift bunkroom, bored to tears. Each tries to find some way to pass the time: Boiler (Cal Kuniholm) pulls out a switchblade and I kid you not, he clears space on the table in front of him and he sprays out his hand against the surface and then stabs down at the space between his fingers. Hmmm, where did that get replicated? Doolittle (Brian Narelle) plays a bottle organ that he has constructed while Pinback (O’Bannan) plays sight gags with props, records a video diary, and has an alien (a huge beach ball with claw feet). Talby (Dre Pahich) remains for the majority of the film, in the observation bubble located on top of the ship. And, Commander Powell (Joe Saunders) is held in a cryogenic tank, but can still dole out expert advice when pressed.

Through a chain reaction of events, Bomb #20 receives some damage. When pressed to engage its release mechanism, it refuses and instead is planning to detonate still attached to the ship. Bomb #20 refuses to listen to Pinback, but Powell advises Doolittle to teach the bomb phenomenology. Teaching the bomb to become sentient works and Bomb #20 returns to the holding bay of the ship. However, Doolittle has taught the bomb to be skeptical of its own beliefs. As a consequence, when Pinback tries to get Bomb #20 to respond, it begins making biblical references and ultimately, comes full circle and brings light into the darkness by exploding. Pinback and Boiler are instantly killed; Doolittle and Talby are sent adrift in opposite directions, each headed to their own destinies.

Although Dark Star is not a space horror in the traditional sense, it is important to consider the film in understanding the career of filmmaker John Carpenter, who went on to make three space horror films and writer Dan O’Bannon who went on to do Alien. There are a couple of other points of interest in this film. For example, although a small aspect at the climatic moments of the film, the idea of a sentient artificial life is intriguing and has been explored previously in 2001: A Space Odyssey and many after it. While satirical, the film does touch on the impact of space exploration and isolation on astronauts. This point has been made in Europa Report for example.

My Blu-ray version also had a supplemental interview with author Alan Dean Foster regarding Dark Star, he mentioned he had to add so much material to the novelization of the film. He padded his story by focusing on character development. When asked about the beach ball alien, he said that he finally had to accept that it was a beach ball. He decided to let readers to fill in the details. He felt it was already funny, so he did not want to add to it.

Other supplements included an interview with actor Brian Narelle and documentary on John Carpenter. Sadly, Carpenter himself did not appear in the documentary, but rather a pre-recorded interview that was spliced interviews with other stars and crew from Dark Star.

If you want to be a completionist of Carpenter, O’Bannon and/or watch a space film that touches on space horror concepts, then watch this film.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

SHF.2015.08.30.4 Abstract Update

The deadline for abstracts closed this past Tuesday and as expected, procrastination was alive and well! In the couple of days leading up to the deadline, I received the same amount of abstracts that I had received in the almost three months leading up to the deadline! Given that most people are making the most of summer, I was blown away by the overwhelming response to my call for abstracts.

The abstracts were diverse in their frameworks and the movies they represented. I was pleased by the variety, however it has made my review challenging. Because I can only accept a certain number, around 15, I had to cut pitches that I would have liked to keep. I easily could have put a second book together.

I’ll be finishing my deliberations tonight and tomorrow I will be making some people happy and some others disappointed. It’s the worst part of the editing process because I wish I could give everyone a slot. That said, my nebulous idea is now developing a structure that in my humble opinion will result in a cohesive group of essays that explore and analyze the genre, giving space horror a tread within the scholastic dialogue of science fiction and horror.

More updates to follow in the coming months. In the meantime, I’ll be posting articles (weekly is my plan) and I hope to post articles by guest writers too!  

Monday, August 17, 2015

SHF.2015.08.17.3 Reminder: Abstracts Due August 25, 2015

I wanted to post a reminder that the deadline for sending in abstract submission for my forthcoming anthology tentatively titled Essays on Space Horror in Films, 1950s – 2000s is quickly approaching with just over a week remaining. If you have an interest and an idea percolating, please try to submit. In the meantime, here are some questions you may be thinking about:

Who can contribute to this anthology?
I hope you! If you can write a structured essay that has sound analysis supported by well researched reference materials and is engaging for the reader then consider submitting an abstract approximately 300 – 500 words, a one-page CV, and a brief preliminary draft bibliography so I can see what direction you are going with your literature review. These are due by August 25 to You can also direct any questions to that email address as well.

Successful contributors will receive a complimentary copy of the book after the book has been released.

 What is the anthology going to be about?
The anthology will include a collection of essays that will deconstruct and analyze the space horror genre by utilizing a theoretical framework of the author’s choosing. The data set should include a space horror film or collection of space horror films ranging anywhere from the 1950s when the genre really took off to present-day films.

I kept to films since that is where the genre has been most fruitful. Films from anywhere are acceptable, as long as they can be identified and categorized as space horror. Unfortunately, I will have to reject any abstracts focused on any other mediums.

What are typical themes for this genre?
There is not a predefined set of theoretical frameworks to be utilized when defining, exploring and analyzing space horror. There are so many to choose from; I want writers to select the theoretical lens they feel will best work with their chosen data set. Here’s a brief list of themes:

  • Claustrophobia, Outer Space fears (Pandorum, Dark Star, Europa Report, The Black Hole)
  • The influence of slasher films (Alien, Event Horizon, Jason X, Sunshine, Leprechaun 4: In Space)
  • Psychological (2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, Sunshine, Moon)
  • Body Horror and/or transformation (Supernova, Event Horizon, Hellraiser: Bloodline, Slither)
  • Final girl (Alien, Prometheus, Dead Space: Downfall)
  • Paranormal/Occult (Event Horizon, Hellraiser: Bloodline, Dracula 3000, Ghosts of Mars)
  • Cold War fears (most invasion films of the 1950s – 1970s)
  • Doppelganger (Event Horizon, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, Moon)
  • Compare/Contrast maleficent vs. animal “aliens” (Xenomorphs in Alien franchise vs. alien species encountered in Pitch Black, Apollo 18, Europa Report for example)
  • Alien abduction (Communion, Fire In The Sky, Extraterrestrial)
  • Found footage (Europa Report, Apollo 18)
  • Sacrifice of self and/or self-destruct sequence (Alien franchise, Event Horizon, Critters 4, The Last Days on Mars)
  • Role of AI, robotics and/or the concept of “uncanny valley” (Alien franchise, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Prometheus, Dracula 3000)
  • Bram Stoker and Space Vampires (Dracula 3000, Planet of the Vampires, Lifeforce)
  • Exploring Literary roots such as H.P. Lovecraft, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, etc.

Why put this anthology together?
Although there has been a plethora of space horror films and much has been written about science fiction, horror or on individual films (mostly the Alien franchise), I found a gap in analysis when it comes to the space horror genre in cinema. Hence, through my selection, it is my goal that the essays included in this anthology will represent an in depth exploration of the genre as well as bridge the gap of critical analysis that currently exists between science fiction and the horror genres.

Who is the intended audience?
An independent popular culture publisher will publish the anthology and readers are expected to include individuals studying and/or curious to increase their understanding of science fiction, horror and of course, space horror.

When will this anthology be available to purchase?
I wish it was tomorrow, however editing does take time. By September 1, I will respond to all submissions with either an acceptance or decline email. For those accepted, they will receive a detailed style sheet to format their essay that they will have five months to write. Essayists are expected to submit an essay of 5,000 – 8,000 words by January 31, 2016. Of course, early submissions are most appreciated and allow me to get a head start on the editing process.

Essays will be returned for correction and the final copy is expected no later than April 20, 2016. Delivery of the manuscript to the publisher has been promised no later than June 1, 2016 and I hope that the book will release by the end of the year.

If you have questions that I haven’t answered, please feel free to email me at

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Status Update: New Post Coming Soon!

Hello All!

Michele here. After reporting on two cons back-to-back early this month, I found I needed a bit more time to recharge my creative batteries. I sincerely appreciate your patience and I will be back with a brand new post this Sunday, August 2nd.

Please stop back by!

~ Michele

Post Script: I'm still looking for submissions for my upcoming anthology Essays on Space Horror in Films, 1950s - 2000s. Submit your abstract, a draft working bibliography and a brief (one-page ideally) C.V. to no later than August 25. Thanks! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

San Diego International Comic Con

Hello all! The first two weeks of July is jammed packed with attending not one, but two huge events in Southern California.

Last weekend I attended the 24th annual Anime Expo held at the Los Angeles Convention Center and which is North America's largest anime and manga event at over 90K attendees this year. Tomorrow through Sunday, I will be in further south at the annual San Diego International Comic Con, the grand-daddy of all cons!

While I'm gone, my weekly posts are on hiatus - I really hate to do it since I'm just getting this site started - but I promise, I will be back on Sunday, July 19.

Please bookmark this site and do come back by for lots of upcoming discussions and reviews regarding space horror in films!

Monday, June 29, 2015


As I mentioned in Part I last week, after my anthology was released late last year from McFarland & Company (James Bond and Popular Culture: Essays on the Influence of the Fictional Superspy, 2014), I spent the next few months weighing several ideas and completing cursory research on my shortlist of ideas that I felt had the most promise for a second book. By the beginning of this year, there was one idea that sifted to the top of my list and that was space horror, in part because I was preparing a presentation on a comic book series, Caliban, by Garth Ennis (Avatar Press), which was a space horror story about the human crew aboard the Caliban and the events that unfold after their ship literally crashed into an alien spacecraft. I presented that paper at Wondercon in early April. Afterwards, I spent another month preparing my pitch.

I pitched my proposal for a collection of essays exploring space horror in films last month. By that time, I had probably watched about 20 – 25 films. Some films I had seen before such as Alien (1979), Event Horizon (1997) and Pitch Black  (2000), but there were some I had not seen before, such as Pandorum (2009), Planet of the Vampires (1965) and The Last Days on Mars (2013). From my viewings, I noticed certain recurring settings, alien manifestations and interactions, and tropes that were repeated often enough that they are worth mentioning.

Event Horizon


I found four central settings or mise-en-scenes that became visible from my research and the settings were used either separately or in combination with each other. The labels I use are based on scientific (astronomy) terms and are bolded below. The first setting takes place entirely or almost exclusively in outer space on a spacecraft or on a space station. Examples would include Event Horizon and Dracula 3000 (2004) because in both of these films, the action takes place entirely on a spacecraft(s). To me, these are ‘pure outer space’ space horror films. The second setting for a space horror story takes place on a planet or moon outside of our solar system. This setting is categorized as Extrasolar and would include Alien and Pandorum. The third setting refers to a story set within our solar system, but not on Earth. These would be known as Extraterrestrial and would include Apollo 18 (2011) and Europa Report (2013) for example. The last setting refers to stories set on Earth and are known as Terrestrial. They are often called “invasion films” and would include Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and The Blob (1958).

As mentioned at the start of this section, I found there was crossover between each film’s setting such as Alien, which took place on a planet outside of our solar system (Extrasolar) briefly, but was for the most of the film, set on a spacecraft. What was interesting is that a majority of the earliest identified space horror films that started appearing in the 1950s - The Thing from Another World (1951), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Blob, and believe it or not, Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) – were terrestrial. However, over the intervening decades since these movies premiered, space horror films have diversified from its roots, expanding to all four settings.

The Blob


Every good story has an antagonist. Of space horror films I have watched, most often the nemesis is an alien life form and will usually represent one of three broad categories. The first type of alien is a physical entity unto itself and does not need to inhabit a host. Examples include the alien hunter in the Predator franchise, the alien creatures or bioraptors in Pitch Black, and the watery tentacle creature in Europa Report. 

The second type of alien uses a human as a host, physically or psychologically, and morphs the host so that it is readily apparent to others and at other times, the change is subtle enough to fool the people around them. These aliens are typically some sort of organism or parasite that penetrates the host in a violent way. Doom (2005), The Last Days on Mars (2013) and The Thing (1982) are good examples here. A psychological ‘parasite’ is more difficult to uncover. Solaris (1972) and Sunshine (2007) had apparitions that took up physical space and multiple people could see and interact with them. In each film, individuals were changed psychologically.

The last type of alien transcends the physical plane and is considered paranormal, usually appearing as apparitions or occasionally seeming to take up physical space. In Event Horizon, each crewmember of the Lewis and Clark experience apparitions of individuals from their pasts that only they can see. In the case of Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill), he becomes possessed by the spirit aboard the ship and he self-inflicts bodily harm to himself, physically changing his appearance to match the horror and chaos of the alternate dimension the prior crew encountered during their gravity drive experiment. This category also includes the occult oriented aliens, so here’s where those interplanetary vampires and the Cenobites that astronauts sometimes encounter would fit.

There is one other aspect of the alien that needs to be considered: to be or not be a sentient alien. There are aliens that are interpreted as hostile, but in fact, are only driven by the instinct to survive. The bioraptors in Pitch Black are not sentient beings but are an alien species led by their instinct for survival. They are led by the most fundamental need to exist – hence, they have not evolved. On the other hand, one sentient alien being would include the hunter from the Predator franchise. The hunter’s actions are thoughtful and with intent. They have advanced themselves through the development of clothing, armor and technology for example, which they use for the purpose of hunting others. In the former example, the horrifying nature of the film’s aliens boil down to a “survival of the fittest” mentality, while for the latter film, the motivation is more devious and intentional.

Bioraptor from Pitch Black


Below, I have identified a number of recurring tropes during my film watching. I am starting out with the stereotypes that had the strongest validity within the space horror genre, then I will follow up with the remaining tropes that I feel will need more time and analysis. However, I felt they still have importance in this dialogue. 

Sense of Isolation
A sea of black with twinkling stars and glowing planets may provide wonder and awe, but after traveling in space – days, weeks, months, years – isolation sets in and takes a physical and emotional toll on each person. We have seen this countless times – Event Horizon and Europa Report – where bodily fatigue, depression, and an anxiousness to get home to Earth are prevalent. Additionally, space represents danger to humans because there are deadly hazards to space travel: the threat to the air supply if the ship is damaged and the adverse impact of gravity and radiation to the human body.
If a crew finds themselves in trouble, they know they are alone. And if any space horror has taught us, any help will be too far away (months or even years) to be of any assistance because the alien or aliens are faster at annihilation.

Elite squad from Doom

Military and/or Corporate Presence
In many of the space horror films, there is either a military component such as the special elite squad in Doom or the marines in Aliens (1986) for example – or a corporation presence such as Weyland-Yutani throughout the Alien franchise. Eventually, the crew discovers they are expendable in the eyes of the corporation, or alternatively, the military. The crew, or the remains of it, may also identify there is a “turncoat” in the group. An individual will turn, either intentionally or not, against their fellow crewmembers because they are following their corporation’s directive and/or trying save their own skin. This person is a walking dead man.

Returning to Aliens as an example, Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) is a company man and he creates a situation, which Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Newt (Carrie Henn) should be impregnated by an alien. He does this with the intention of smuggling an alien embryo back through intergalactic customs. However, that tactic was foiled. Later, when the aliens are storming the base, Burke becomes scared and tries to save himself, to the detriment of the others. He uses the intended escape route and locks the door so the remaining survivors cannot use that route, but he comes face to face with an alien and his own demise.

High Fatality
In many of the films set in space, there is a limited number of crew, usually ranging between 7 or 8, which is probably the tipping point for the film to have just enough time to introduce and develop each character for the audience to identify with and keep track of during the movie. Alien had seven crewmembers as did Dracula 3000, while Sunshine, Event Horizon, Last Days on Mars, and Doom (the marines) had eight. Some of the outliers included Europa Report with 6, Pandorum with 5, Stranded (2013) with 4, and Apollo 18 with 3, while Pitch Black, Aliens and The Thing had over 8. As a trope device, it is about the right count of deaths for the purpose of pacing tension and suspense.  Ultimately though, the presence of aliens are seriously bad for a human’s longevity and with crews typically averaging around 7 or 8, it doesn’t take long for an alien to get to…..

Ripley from Alien

Sole Survivor
….the sole survivor: This person defies Darwin’s law and either defeats the alien in a climatic battle or is able to escape, until the sequel – think, Ripley from the Alien franchise. In some stories, the last survivor has to complete their task, which will cause their death yet will be for the greater good, such as in Sunshine, Last Days on Mars and Europa Report. We often see this trope utilized in the slasher films where the last survivor is the ‘final girl’ and while that is the case in a few of the space horror films I have watched so far, I think it is the exception rather than the norm. More often, either the entire crew dies or there will be a small number of survivors, usually two or three, such as in Event Horizon, Pitch Black and Pandorum.

‘Uncanny Valley’ or the Evil Android
I noticed that if there is an android or a central computer present in the story, then they usually turn out to have questionable intentions that may or may not lead to the termination of human life. Such is the case with Ash (Ian Holm) in Alien, David (Michael Fassbender) in Prometheus (2012), and Bishop (Lance Henriksen) in Aliens, which were androids made to pass as human and do so for a time during their respective films. Occasionally, instead of an android, there may be a central computer, often referred to as ‘Mother’ and controlled by the military and/or corporate entity within the film. Two examples of this can be found with Alien and with the Japanese anime Lily C.A.T. (1987), which was directly influenced by Alien. I think it is a fascinating concept that I would like to spend more time researching and expanding on in a future blog, especially in light of Isaac Asimov’s laws regarding robotics – robots should not injure humans – and the concept of ‘uncanny valley’ whereas there is an adverse reaction and/or discomfort in humans. 
Example of foreshadowing

Foreshadowing Events via the Ship’s Name
Foreshadowing, the use of a clue in the narrative that eludes to or predicts an event later in the film, is an intriguing concept that has not had much discussion from what I have found thus far. In particular, I think there is a need to mediate the literature, mythology, and real events to their filmic references. For example, Joseph Conrad’s novel Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard (1904) for the Nostromo ship in Alien and the fictional town Sulaco lends its name to the ship in Aliens, while William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1610-11) is referenced in Forbidden Planet (1956). The Icarus I and Icarus II  ships in Sunshine reference Greek mythology, while the Lewis and Clark is the rescue ship in Event Horizon and references the early American explorers.

"Icarus" by Cosmonaut Vladimir Dzhanibekov

Below, I have briefly described a handful of tropes that I am still conceptualizing and will be explored in future blog posts. However, initially I think they are valid points that are worth pointing out, with their significance pending further investigation.

Kafka’s Metamorphosis
The Metamorphosis (1915) written by Franz Kafka is a novella about Gregor Samsa, who wakes up to find himself mysteriously transformed into a large beetle-like insect. Kafka explores Gregor’s adjustment and his family’s response to his transformation. Many of the space horror films involve a transformation of one or more individuals who have been invested with an alien being. The majority of the time in these films, the point of view is from the uninfected humans, but sometimes there are breakout performances: Dr. Weir in Event Horizon, Goat (Ben Daniels) in Doom and Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) in District 9 (2009).

Symbolism & Semiotics
The religious references in Event Horizon, the concept of mother/motherhood in Aliens and the copulating facehuggers of the Alien franchise are just a few of the many examples that could use some semiotic analysis. 

I noted several instances of humor, particularly in the first and second films of the Alien franchise. Humor provides a break in the tension of fear and can result some fantastic memorable lines in the heat of the action.

Dinner table scene from Alien

Gather Around the Table
This is an interesting one because it employs tradition of family and friends breaking bread together. In the films, it becomes a vehicle to gather all of the characters for the purpose of introducing them, revealing the group’s dynamics and relationships, and setting up the story that will unfold. There are meal scenes in the Alien franchise, with the first film having the most famous, but I noticed there are similar scenes in Sunshine, Event Horizon and Europa Report.

Element of Romance
Although one would think that the crew is too busy trying to stay alive in a space horror, there are references to either an established relationship between two of the crewmembers such as Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) in Prometheus, or the potential for a relationship to be hinted at, such as Ripley and Hicks (Michael Biehn) in Aliens and Carolyn (Radha Mitchell) and Riddick (Vin Diesel) in Pitch Black. In Doom, an interracial relationship is brewing between Samantha Grimm (Rosamund Pike) and Duke (Razaaq Adoti) and Aurora Ash (Erika Eleniak) and Humvee (Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister) explore a human and android romance in Dracula 3000. However, I have yet to come across same sex relationships, except in the comic book series, Caliban.

Check back next week where I will begin exploring the themes I listed on my call for papers.

© Copyright. Michele Brittany. 2015. All rights reserved. All text, graphics, and photos are protected by US and International Copyright Laws, and may not be copied, reprinted, published, translated, hosted, or otherwise distributed by any means without written permission.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


After finishing up my first book, James Bond and Popular Culture: Essays on the Influence of the Fictional Superspy (2014, McFarland & Company), I spent some months trying to decide the next subject I wanted to explore in an anthology format. I mulled over several ideas, but finally narrowed my scope to two themes and then proposed one, the space horror genre in films. While the theme came quickly, writing the proposal took some time because I needed to revisit some of the seminal films such as Alien (1979) and Event Horizon (1997) as well as several newer films that I hadn’t seen, for example Sunshine (2007) and Pandorum (2009). Since the beginning of the year I have watched approximately 20 – 25 films, which is a drop in the bucket for the number of space horror films made, but they revealed a number of commonalities between them regarding setting, aliens, and tropes of the genre, which I will discuss in Part II. Below, I begin by talking about the beginnings of the genre as well as provide my data set. 


According to an IMDB search of the Sci-Fi horror list, some of the earliest identifiable space horror films that could be identified as a trend in films offered to audience-goers were in the 1950s. Movies like The Thing From Another World (1951), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Blob (1958), and believe it or not, Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) introduced fears of invasion and hostile aliens and were allegories of the real threat of nuclear bombs, Communism, and the rising Cold War threat that pervaded society, such as the Civil Defense Films that used Bert the Turtle to teach Americans to duck and cover in case a nuclear bomb was dropped.

The seeds of the genre were planted decades earlier, around the turn of the 20th century, in literature. H.G. Wells and Jules Verne stories of alien invasion inspired the roots of the spy/espionage genre, but it also inspired horror from space. When the concept of moving pictures gained traction within the public psyche and filmmakers were looking for subjects to explore in their films, two films stand out. The first, A Trip to the Moon (1902), by Georges Melies is the story of a group of men that visit the moon via a rocket ship and Melies’ slight of camera lens. Audiences that saw the film were astounded and amazed because the stories up to that point had centered on portraying real life events. Melies’ film sparked imitators. However, it was Ashley Miller’s A Trip to Mars (1910) in which a scientist discovers a powder that causes reversed gravity. The scientist floats to Mars and explores the red planet, which is inhabited by a strange and frightening alien race that look an awfully lot like evil clowns. 

After a brief cinematic foray into space exploration and the potential horrors glimpsed in 1910, it appears that the filmmakers moved onto other topics of interest, but that is unverifiable because the majority of early films have been lost or have decayed beyond restoration. To examine how the genre developed and evolved would require referencing back into the literary output. H.P. Lovecraft’s The Color of Outer Space (1927) followed later by writers Edgar Rice Burroughs and Ray Bradbury with stories like The Martian Chronicles (1950) for example added breath and depth to the genre.

As the 1950s began, so too did the interest in science and space, in a post-World War environment that had been rocked by the development and use of atomic warfare. The Cold War was warming up and the spirit of competition in all arenas became of importance to the USSR and US. It should come as no surprise that cinema, established as a influencing media conduit to society, perpetuated the tension and fears of the decade as mentioned at the beginning of this section. The decade provided space horror in the guise of alien invasions, either out in the open as in War of the Worlds or more covert and sinister, as in Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Blog. While small town America was being inundated with little green men, interest in what life was like on other planets were being conceptualized, such as Altair IV in Forbidden Planet (1956) and Metaluna in This Island Earth (1955), but were minimal in comparison to the multitude of invasions that ravaged Earth.

The 1950s were the heyday of the invasion films, but interest waned in the 1960s for spies and cowboys and to the crime/vengeance and slasher films of the 1970s. However, the space in ‘space horror’ would be resoundingly added into the term with Ridley Scott’s 1979 Alien, which follows the story of the Nostromo crew as they explore the mysterious abandoned ship on LV-426 and encounter a new and hostile alien species. The idea of being in space, far from home with limited precious resources (eg. oxygen) struck fear into the crew and the audience. Scott’s film was one of the first movies to successfully combine science fiction and horror in an interstellar setting and spawned several inferior imitations in the 1980s.

As the Alien franchise continued to churn out sequels further exploring Ripley’s relationship with the Xenomorphs, by the mid 1990s, formerly successful earth-bound franchises were turning to space in an effort to revitalize their films, such as Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996) and Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997). It was with Event Horizon (1997), which embodied a complex story of religious symbolism and paranormal within the familiar slasher and haunted house tropes that rejuvenated the genre and further defined it.

In the 21st century, space horror films are still finding an audience, but not necessarily the financial backing of mainstream dramas, superheroes and romantic comedies. That said, in the last few years, there have been some fascinating films that has continued to explore and jeopardize our existence: Sunshine in 2007, Moon and Pandorum in 2009, and Europa Report in 2013.

There are outliers, as in any genre. One is the psychological space horror that began with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Andre Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972), which was recently remade in 2002. Another group are the alien abduction films – Communion (1989), Fire In the Sky (1993) – and the concept of the “uncanny valley” were explored between Ripley and Bishop in the Alien franchise and with David in Prometheus (2012). There are others and those will be discussed further in the section on space horror tropes.


As mentioned earlier, I watched and revisited some of the space horror genre films I have in my collection already or was able to stream on Netflix in alphabetical order. I included their year of release and director details:

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick)
Alien (1979, Ridley Scott)
Dead Space: Downfall (2008, Chuck Patton)
Doom (2005, Andrzej Bartkowiak)
Dracula 3000 (2004, Darrell Roodt)
Europa Report (2013, Sebastian Cordero)
Event Horizon (1997, Paul W.S. Anderson)
Extraterrestrial (2014, Colin Minihan)
Ghosts of Mars (2001, John Carpenter)
Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1996, Kevin Yagher & Joe Chappelle)
Lily C.A.T. (1987, Hisayuki Toriumi)
Pandorum (2009, Christian Alvart)
Pitch Black (2000, David Twohy)
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959, Ed Wood)
Planet of the Vampires (1965, Mario Bava)
Prometheus (2012, Ridley Scott)
Slither (2006, James Gunn)
Snow Devils (1967, Antonio Margheriti)
Solaris (1972, Andrei Tarkovsky)
Stranded (2013, Roger Christian)
Sunshine (2007, Danny Boyle)
The Blob (1958, Irvin Yeahworth)
The Last Days on Mars (2013, Ruairi Robinson)
The Monolith Monsters (1957, John Sherwood)
This Island Earth (1955, Joseph M. Newman & Jack Arnold)

And here is a short list of additional films that I have watched, although not recently:

Beware! The Blob (1972, Larry Hagman)
Communion (1989 Philippe Mora)
Fire in the Sky (1993 Robert Lieberman)
Forbidden Planet (1956, Fred M. Wilcox)
Invaders from Mars (1953, Cameron Menzies)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, Don Siegel)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, Philip Kaufman)
Night of the Creeps (1986, Fred Dekker)
Species (1995, Roger Donaldson)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, Robert Wise)
The Quatermass Experiment (1953, Val Guest)
The Thing (1982, John Carpenter)
They Live (1988, John Carpenter)
War of the Worlds (1953, Bryon Haskin)

Check back next week for the second part of this introduction where I will discuss space horror settings, aliens and tropes.

© Copyright. Michele Brittany. 2015. All rights reserved. All text, graphics, and photos are protected by US and International Copyright Laws, and may not be copied, reprinted, published, translated, hosted, or otherwise distributed by any means without written permission.

Poster art from Francesco Francavilla