5. Fire in the Sky (1993)
Alien abductions rarely translate well on film. Real-life accounts of close encounters are often too goofy or too abstract to come across compellingly on-screen. Not to mention that “little Green Men” and “greys” have lost much of their terror during their decades-long tenure in pop culture. So it’s no small feat that Fire in the Sky succeeds where so many others have failed. An adaptation of the infamous Walton Experience, Robert Lieberman’s 1993 film smartly opts to focus on the human impact of the incident rather than investigating the validity of Walton’s claim, which details an extraterrestrial abduction that took place in the fall of 1975 in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests.
While Fire in the Sky’s depiction of the encounter and alien monsters bears little resemblance to Walton’s actual claims (you’ll have to trust me that this is a good thing), its PTSD-rattled depiction of alien abduction is one of the most traumatizing sequences in all of sci-fi. Straddling an uncanny tonal line between shit-your-pants nightmare fuel and TV-movie sincerity, Fire in the Sky’s success rests squarely on the shoulders of its stellar cast (including D.B. Sweeney and Robert Patrick), the talents of cinematography legend Bill Pope, and the demented minds over at Industrial Light and Magic. (Meg Shields)
4. Communion (1989)
There’s no doubt about it: Philippe Mora’s 1989 alien abduction film Communion is a camp masterpiece. It features Christopher Walken wearing a giant hat, delivering his lines in a staccato cadence, and a strange dance scene featuring a naked Walken and a bunch of little gray men. He even grabs an alien and yells, “are you old?” right into its face, a line that I repeat to my cats with concerning regularity. And yet, this story wasn’t meant to be campy. In fact, the film is based on Whitley Strieber’s book of the same name, where he documents his own experience with alien abduction.
In 1985, he claims he was abducted by “the visitors” while vacationing at his family’s cabin in upstate New York. While the film adaptation is incredibly campy, Communion still taps into the paranoia and trauma that comes with such an alleged experience. Scenes where Walken is hypnotized reveal the terrors that occurred on board the ship, and the moment where the alien is shown creeping around the Streiber family cabin is particularly hair-raising. This film is a one-of-a-kind horror experience that has to be seen to be believed. (Mary Beth McAndrews)
3. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Of all the icons of alien horror, Audrey II may not immediately jump to mind, but this mean green mother from outer space absolutely should. Audrey II isn’t like the other alien monsters on this list. They don’t hide in the shadows or stalk their prey by themselves; instead, Audrey II relishes the spotlight brought to itself by Mr. Mushnik’s Flower Shop, pushing Seymour Krelborn to do the dirty work of feeding the voracious plant human blood. Audrey II offers Seymour everything he wants in life, so long as Seymour continues supplying it with body, after body, after body.
But Audrey IIs hunger knows no bounds and quickly outgrows its tiny potted plants and has its sights set on spreading its roots out of Skid Row and across the entire world. The original ending, deleted for the theatrical release but preserved on physical media, allows us a chance to bask in the bonkers glow of dozens of gigantic plants demolishing cities across the world, at once a tribute to other monster films like Godzilla, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Day of the Triffids, and hell–even The Deadly Spawn! (Jacob Trussell)
2. The Blob (1988)
The 1958 version of The Blob is a damn fine movie, and it features a brilliant and horrible alien antagonist. It’s this massive pile of Jell-O sludge, invoking what must be a horrible way to go — the blob tumbling atop your body, consuming your flesh, your organs, your bones. You never see it go through the process, but the very idea is traumatizing.
The 1988 version of The Blob (see what we learned from director Chuck Russell’s commentary here) actualizes that traumatic imagination. Here we get to see the creature go through the digestive process of consuming a human form, transforming its flesh into gelatin and its bones into something equally firm and wet. Tony Gardner‘s army of effects technicians deserves a round of applause. Right now, you reading this, yeah, you, stand up and start clapping. This blob owes a lot to the 1958 technicians, but Gardner’s team took a nasty idea and made it one of the most repulsively grotesque movie monsters ever. You can never trust that Jell-O on your plate again. (Brad Gullickson)
1. Attack the Block (2011)
We all know that aliens in outer space are scary — Ridley Scott has proven this time and time again. But there’s something about aliens on earth that kicks things into a new gear. It’s the invasion of the strange into the familiar and the feeling of helplessness that just adds fuel to the fire. And there are few films that exploit this for all its worth quite like Attack the Block. Joe Cornish’s action-packed take on an extraterrestrial invasion features John Boyega as the leader of a London street gang turned local legend as he takes down phosphorescent monsters to defend his council estate. With heart, grit, and a real sense of humor, Attack the Block is a truly inventive take on alien tropes that’ll excite and terrify in equal measure. (Anna Swanson)
Related Topics: 31 Days of Horror Lists