Carrying on from Saturday’s post, I give you the rest of my top sci fi thriller movies…
an environmental disaster film in space doesn’t quite do it justice. It’s a film about consequences, scientific difficulties, and disaster.
Among the troubles faced by the crew are maneuvering the space ship through space (it isn’t as easy as Star Wars and Star Trek would have us believe…also not nearly as much fun), solar radiation, and decisions about rescue ops vs. greater-good ops (so to speak). The crew of the Icarus are on a journey to the sun, well, to near the sun anyway in an attempt to reinvigorate the dying star and secure a future for humanity on Earth. Along the way they pick up a distress signal from another ship and make the decision to alter course, rescue those aboard and whatever else might be on the stranded ship worth salvaging. As this puts their original mission in a bit of jeopardy, it is not a popular move will all of the crew. As it turns out, it not only puts Earth in serious peril, but also the crew of the Icarus, as they have added a serial killer to their ranks as a result of the rendezvous. And while that might sound as if that sort of storyline has been done to death, Sunshine keeps things tense and the outcome of the mission is constantly in doubt.
All that is fine and makes for a great movie, but what I really love about Sunshine, and why I think all you true science fiction fans out there should make it a point to see this film, is how far the makers of this film went to attempt to use credible science, or credible scientific speculation, in the story. And that’s something I think any fan of this genre should support. Though the rest of the story makes from some pretty tasty icing on this cake.
Classic. Iconic. Cornerstone. You can append any of those terms to John Carpenter’s The Thing, the first movie in his Apocalypse Trilogy, wherein an apocalyptic event is released upon the world and we, the audience, gets to see the initial release event. In The Thing, that event comes in the form of an alien life that infects a person and takes them over, thus making it almost impossible to detect…except for its homicidal streak. Just like another movie that pulled this off with great effect (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), the alien threat is only part of what’s going on here. The alien could be any of the members of the remote research facility where the action takes place and everyone knows it. A foreboding arctic environment, cramped living quarters, and a terror potentially walking amongst them, the group of scientists begin to succumb to paranoia and that unique sense of claustrophobia that comes when the flight-or-fight mechanism is reduced to fight-or-die against a great unknown. And, as with the fantastic Invasion of the Body Snatchers the ending hints that things just might not be okay…
The Signal had the misfortune to be made a little to close to 28 Days Later and it’s follow-up 28 Weeks Later. It’s a similar kick off event, but the movies are quite different. While the 28 movies feature a virus (a relatively common sci fi Uh-oh event), The Signal decides to pit our technology against us as the root of our problems. A signal being broadcast from cell phones, televisions, radios, and presumably other sound emitting devices, turns people from everyday jes-folks into raging homicidal maniacs. That alone isn’t all that interesting, but this movie decides not to tell its story in a straight-forward narrative, but to break up the telling into three parts, each told from a different characters perspective.
Of all the movies I have on my list, this is probably the biggest love-it-or-hate-it film. Or at least, I think it is (though maybe it’s the one below this one). This movie is violent and doesn’t pull back. We have two protagonists who are adulterers and the other is the cuckolded husband (who has been exposed to the signal and is attempting to hunt down his wife). So, on the whole, it can be a little difficult to root for anybody. But you do manage to root for the non-crazy cheaters after a while*.
The biggest complaint about this movie is its frequent shift in tone. Part one, following Mya, is pretty straight-forward horror/thriller, part two following Mya’s husband, Lewis, is dark comedy, part three, wherein Mya’s lover, Ben, attempts to reunite with her, is a fusion of both. I like this movie, but even I admit that, of the different sections, part three could have used a little more work to smooth things out. On the whole though, I enjoyed this one. It ventured out and attempted to create a new flavor (which was perfected in Shaun of the Dead…not on this list as I couldn’t justify calling it science fiction – and that’s the only reason) and I don’t care what the critics say on this one, it tastes pretty sweet to me.
Primer makes my list not because it is especially horrific or thrilling in the same sense that the rest of the films are, but in the sense that what the characters are on the verge of is extraordinarily dangerous in its unchecked consequences. There is a tension that runs through this film that can be hard to pick up on at times because, as you will soon find out upon watching this movie, this film assumes that you can keep up with its scientific wanderings. I’m going to say something that might cause a few of you to skip to the next film. That’s okay, but I’m hoping that you’ll hear me out and give this one a whirl, because those who do will be rewarded with a heady experience. Ready? Here we go: make no mistake about it, this is a thinking geek film, so be ready to fire up those brain cells (you’re all down with Stephen Hawking, right?).
Oh, well, okay it isn’t that bad, but the conversation can get a little crazy at times. At the heart of this one are two guys who build a time traveling machine. They eventually arrive at the decision to test the machine themselves (which by that point might actually be a foregone conclusion). And then you have to begin to question if the person on the screen is then current them or the future them. What are the motivations? What are the consequences?
This is clearly the black sheep** of this list and won’t appeal to everyone. In fact, I dare say it won’t appeal to many, but for those who enjoy some cerebral thrillers, Primer offers a particularly enjoyable ride (and not a DeLorean
in sight, thank goodness).
As I said yesterday, I’m not normally a fan of zombie films. They break that long held belief of mine that, no matter what, when you’re dead, you’re done. Resident Evil takes the zombie and supposes a science fiction reasoning for their existence. They are the result of a laboratory experiment-turned-disaster. Enter a team of commandos who are sent in because the research is so valuable (sound familiar? *cough – Event Horizon*). And as you might expect, things don’t go well.
Oh, but zombies aren’t this teams only worry. Resident Evil isn’t just a zombie movie, it’s a monster movie too, as this research facility didn’t just work on reanimating the dead for combat use. No, no, no, don’t be silly. They were also engaged in monster creation and when it all hits the fan, the monsters get free of their cages and wreck havoc (as monsters are wont to do). Oh, but it isn’t just a zombie and monster movie, it’s also a haunted sci fi house movie. The laboratory has an all-seeing security system that comes complete with creepy-little-girl mode that slices and dices things that it views as a threat to contaminate the outside world.
So…yeah, the folks in Resident Evil are going to have a tough day. I saw this film in the theater near the end of its run, being not a fan of the zombie genre, but a fan of the monster/haunted house stuff and having had the movie recommended to me by a friend. I was the only one in the auditorium that afternoon and for weeks I was keeping one eye over my shoulder. That initial viewing, the fun of it and the aftermath, has stayed with me and, if you haven’t watched it, can be with you too. The zombie-monster-haunted house-secret government lab-killer computer story that is Resident Evil has something for everyone, making it the perfect way to round out my list.
*My own personal biases here might have made it more difficult for me to root for them. Maybe it’s me after all.
**Also not appearing in this list. Did anyone see this movie? I haven’t, but I’m almost sorta tempted. Weresheep – wicked!