Of all film genres, perhaps the two most diverse are science fiction and horror. From galaxies far far away to dystopian visions of Earth, science fiction has covered everything from otherworldly creatures to disturbingly plausible artificial intelligence. While modern horror has struggled with originality (found footage, haunted houses, and cabins in the woods have dominated the last decade), the best of the genre scared audiences in endlessly inventive ways, using monsters and ghouls as metaphors for very real issues.
Given both genres often revolve around the fear of the unknown, many filmmakers have successfully merged science fiction and horror to create some of the scariest, most original films of all time.
Though the sub-genre has been around since 1951’s The Day the Earth Stood Still and was popularised by 1979’s Alien, no sci-fi horror film is as perfect as John Carpenter’s The Thing. A remake of a popular 50’s sci-fi, Carpenter kept the original story (Antarctic researchers discover an alien creature in a block of ice, and all hell breaks loose) but ramped up the fear factor to create one of the most terrifying films ever made.
The key to making a great sci-fi horror is to give audiences a unique glimpse into an alternate world while scaring the hell out of them. The titular ‘Thing’ is an original sci-fi creation, capable of possessing any living being and distorting them beyond all recognition; the scares are provided by the paranoia of not knowing who the alien has replicated (a metaphor for the AIDS crisis of the eighties; like the best horrors, The Thing is allegorical), and the brilliantly repulsive special FX.
A chilling take on extra-terrestrials (ironically released in cinemas at the same time as ET), The Thing is an ingenious science fiction story and an even greater horror film.