Science Fiction and Horror are two genres that share a lot in common and, on occasion, can be interchangeable. Both use narratives to address larger thematic issues at heart - be them ethical, moral or psychological. Both often involve the fantastic, dabbling in matters and planes of understanding beyond the human mind and both involve a degree of suspension of disbelief. When thrust into such a universe, the audience is asked to take a leap of faith with the filmmaker, excepting the ground rules set and witness them invert, bend and ultimately climax in catastrophe or success.
And both can be downright terrifying. There's a reason video stores of the 90s often combined the genres in aisle shelves beyond conserving space. While it may be easy to put Halloween firmly under the "horror" banner" at your local Blockbuster, it may be a little more difficult to place something like Alien. There's plenty of space stuff, but Roger Ebert famously described it as a "haunted house in a spaceship." So its genre placement is a little more ambiguous.
There have been some truly terrifying sci-fi films, usually starting with a bang that immediately thrusts viewers into the action, letting its technical speak unfold through the narrative.
Here are the ones that gave us a jolt right out of the park.
Director Vincezno Natali's directorial debut has followed his career throughout, each film putting its audience in a state of vague confusion and discordance before unveiling the thrust of the story. Cube opens with a Kafka-esque situation, as a bald man in what appears to be some sort of prison outfit awakes in an empty room, a hatch on each of the four walls. It's clear he's uncertain of his surroundings, or even how he got there, so he persists through one of the hatches to explore.
What happens next is fairly infamous, to the extent that noted hack director Paul W.S. Anderson has blatantly ripped it off more than once throughout the Resident Evil franchise. As he cautiously walks forward, a wall of thread-thin, sharp wire flies through him. His body falls to many small pieces in the shape of the title after remaining still for a moment. It's not only jarring, but it sets up the rest of the film - where characters are tasked to find an escape route of booby-trapped rooms - all cubes housed within a larger cube.
That there's no explanation for their entrapment - some sort of twisted variation on the Stanford Prison experiment, a perverse torture dome for billionaires or worse - only adds to the dread set