Ranking The Horror Movie Sequels That Sent Their Monsters To Space
The plots to Leprechaun in Space or Hellraiser: Bloodline might sound desperate, but horror sequels aren't bad just because they send their killers into outer space. We rank them from worst to best.
“In space, no one can hear you scream.” That tagline isn’t amazing just because it’s attached to Alien, one of the greatest movies of all time. It also captures the inherent horror of space: the vast emptiness, the utter solitude, the complete helplessness. It’s no wonder that horror has been a part of space stories since the beginning, as seen in not only the Alien franchise, but also forerunners such as It! The Terror From Beyond Space and Planet of the Vampires.
With that in mind, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that several horror franchises have sought to shake things up by sending their monsters to space. Yes, it might initially sound odd to launch a gothic castle dweller like Count Dracula or the campground-bound Jason Voorhees through the stars, but the premise allows moviemakers to enhance the threat posed by their monsters by adding the emptiness of space and some cool sci fi weaponry. Of course, some filmmakers take advantage of this opportunity better than others, so let’s count them down from the worst to the best.
9. Amityville in Space
The newest movie on this list, Amityville in Space is also one of the most bizarre. When a priest asks God to take a demon-possessed house off the face of the Earth, the Almighty gets surprisingly literal and launches it into space. Centuries later, a team of space marines (prepare to read those words a lot) finds the floating house along with the original priest. Together, they must rid the house of its evil before it makes its way back to Earth.
Unfortunately, Amityville in Space is also the worst movie on this list, which is in keeping with Amityville films. While Amityville 1994: It’s About Time absolutely rules, most Amityville movies – including the hit original from 1979 – are pretty dull affairs. Worse, as a real location, the name Amityville cannot be trademarked, allowing low-budget filmmakers to slap the title onto any movie they want, further diluting a forgettable set of films. Amityville in Space follows this sad tradition, making every other entry on this list seem like a masterpiece.
8. Dracula 3000
Alright, I’ll admit I’m pushing it on this one. Dracula 3000 is not part of an established franchise, such as the Universal horrors. It’s a new story, written by Ivan Millborrow and director Darrell Roodt, that puts a vampire on a spaceship in the year 3000. Furthermore, it operates as something of a reboot, with Caspar Van Dien playing Captain Abraham Van Helsing, Alexandra Kamp as Mina Murray, and Langley Kirkwood as Dracula’s German non-union equivalent Count Orlok. However, the movie doesn’t work without audiences bringing their knowledge of previous Dracula stories.
That said, Dracula 3000 doesn’t really work in any way at all. Roodt has a reputation as a prolific South African director, but he can’t wring anything worthwhile from this lackluster cast and cheap production design. Like so many of the bad entries on this list, Dracula 3000 relies on references to Aliens and fails to use its budget limitations to any effect. Perhaps worst of all, it is incredibly boring, a movie that mistakes bad actors staring in horror with actual horror.
7. The Cloverfield Paradox
Space aliens played major roles in the original Cloverfield and its excellent sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane, but those were alien invasion movies, which took place on Earth. The direct-to-Netflix third film breaks the model by focusing on scientists on a research station. When the scientists use a particle accelerator, they open the door to a parallel universe, resulting in all manner of strange phenomena.
Helmed by future Captain America: New World Order director Julius Onah, The Cloverfield Paradox boasts an impressive cast, including Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Brühl, and Elizabeth Debicki. Even better, the movie includes some striking sequences, such as a person manifesting in the middle of a steel wall. However, despite these attributes, The Cloverfield Paradox remains a surprisingly inert movie, one that recognizes the potential of a story set in space but never manages to convey urgency. It’s worth putting on for background noise while you do your laundry, but does not reward careful viewing.
6. Critters 4
Honestly, the most shocking part of Critters 4 occurs during the opening credits, when the words “Angela Bassett” pop up on screen. Just two years before her Oscar-nominated performance in What’s Love Got To Do With It?, Bassett plays Fran, pilot of a ship transporting Crit eggs off of Earth. Sadly, Bassett doesn’t get much to do, and thus makes much less of an impact than her co-stars, which include Anders Hove as a surly captain and Brad Dourif as a irritable, but well-meaning scientist.
Sadly, Dourif might be the only worthwhile thing about Critters 4. The Chiodo Brothers designs of the Critters remain great, but they’re still tiny puppets who don’t look terribly menacing when on the attack. Previous entries in the series have addressed that problem by putting them in crazy scenarios, but this entry chooses to largely ignore the monsters. In its place, director Rupert Harvey relies on character development for franchise regulars Charlie and Ug (Don Keith Opper and Terrence Mann, respectively). Even superfans would have to admit that none of Critters 4’s charms come from its space setting.
5. Leprechaun 4: In Space
Like nearly every other movie on this list, Leprechaun 4: In Space takes its primary inspiration from Aliens, especially by featuring a group of knucklehead space marines. Fortunately, director Brian Trenchard-Smith gets added mileage by casting the great Miguel Nuñez Jr. and Full Metal Jacket alum Tim Colceri as part of the team. Throw in Guy Siner chewing scenery as what appears to be Werner Herzog playing Doctor Who villain Davros, and you get a surprisingly good time. Lep gets in some of his best kills in this entry, including emerging from a marine’s nether regions and flattening a guy’s head like a pancake.
But as impressive as the kills certainly are, none of them feel particularly “space-y”. Warwick Davis has his usual fun as the wisecracking Leprechaun and the space marines do sci-fi stuff on the ship. But the two don’t really feel connected, especially when a late transformation adds another monster to take the attention off of Lep. So while the effects are generally pretty great and the kills are a lot of fun, Leprechaun 4: In Space feels too much like a missed opportunity.
4. Hellraiser: Bloodline
Perhaps the most infamous of the movies on this list, Hellraiser: Bloodline does indeed involve cenobites in space. Leaving aside the fact that cenobites in space is an objectively awesome concept, that’s not really what Bloodline is. Instead the movie takes place across three timelines, only one of which is on a space station in the 22nd century. They follow Phillipe Lemarchand, the toy maker who invents the Lament Configuration in 1796 France, and two of his descendants (all played by Bruce Ramsay), the first in 1996 America and the other in 2127 outer space.
The last of the theatrical Hellraiser movies, Bloodline looks great, with striking blue gels and all the gore effects you want from the franchise. Despite the studio meddling that drove original director Kevin Yagher off the production, to be finished by Joe Chappelle and credited to Alan Smithee, the movie remains a great time. Ramsey may not be quite up to the task of playing three different characters, but Pinhead never disappoints and a baby Adam Scott shows up as a French libertine. But I have to put it near the middle of this list simply because the standout sequences take place in the present and the past, with the space setting largely used for a narrative frame.
3. Invasion of Astro-Monster
In the popular imagination, Godzilla is a giant green lizard who destroys Tokyo and also sometimes New York. Most casual fans think of Godzilla as cool, but not a good guy. But pretty quickly into the franchise, Godzilla – along with Rodan and Mothra – become heroes, protecting the Earth against other creatures, especially the alien monster King Ghidorah. That’s certainly the case for the sixth entry in the series, 1965’s Invasion of Astro-Monster. The movie follows a team of scientists who visit Planet X, which is being terrorized by “Monster Zero” – who we recognize as King Ghidorah. In exchange for the cure for cancer (!), the scientists teleport Godzilla and Rodan to Planet X to face their old foe once again.
Of course, Invasion of Astro-Monster is great. Original Godzilla director Ishirō Honda is back behind the camera, joined by Eiji Tsuburaya on special effects. The kaiju battles are fun, especially with Ghidorah’s new performer Susumu Utsumi giving the monster a more other-worldly feel than previous iterations. However, only part of Invasion of Astro-Monster takes place on another planet. As the title suggests, the rest of the movie involves the citizens of Planet X controlling the three kaiju and sending them to attack Earth. Which is, of course, awesome, but not enough space action to merit a higher ranking on this list.
At first glance, Predators doesn’t seem like an outer space movie at all. When its main characters – including special forces officer Royce (Adrien Brody) and Israeli Defense Force sniper Isabelle (Alice Braga) – wake up in a jungle environment, they assume they’re still on their home planet. Only as they try to make their way to civilization do they realize that they are on an alien planet, a training ground where the Predators practice before heading off to hunt.
While not as spacefaring as other entries on this list, Predators does exactly what you want from an outer space sequel. The movie takes a familiar premise – that of a bunch of tough guys fighting off an alien hunter – and flips it around by putting the prey on a new world. The new context works marvelously, letting Predators follow its predecessors in tearing apart cartoonish tough guys, while showing how the predators always outmatch the humans, on Earth or otherwise.
1. Jason X
Sure, the idea of Jason in space sounds ridiculous. I mean, this is the guy who spent 2/3s of Jason Takes Manhattan riding a boat, and then arrived in a New York that looked a lot like Vancouver. But as soon as Jason sticks a woman’s face in liquid nitrogen and then smashes it on the counter, we realize we’re watching the perfect space sequel. Jason X has a lot of goofy sci-fi stuff, including a sexy robot lady and a Star Trek-style holodeck, but it remains a Friday the 13th film at its core, in which an unstoppable killer slashes up moronic teens.
But what makes Jason X an utter blast and the best movie on this list is how perfectly it combines the two key aspects of the franchises involved. It is 100% a movie about Mama Voorhees’ baby boy running amuck on a spaceship, hacking at VR players with his machete, killing space marines in ironic ways, and regenerating with nanobots. More than any other spacebound sequel, Jason X understands how to put its killer in a new context and take advantage of the new possibilities that the approach allows.