Some science fiction can embolden the human spirit, inviting us to step out into a wider universe to experience the vast and unimaginable wonders it has to offer. Some science fiction shows us how human ingenuity will solve even our greatest problems and improve our lives for the better.
Other science fiction points out that those vast and unimaginable wonders are terrifying and will probably try to eat you, while human ingenuity is better at nothing more than finding really imaginative ways to kill people.
This month, Horror Channel will be showing a week of films that fall into the latter category with its Sci-Fear Week from Saturday the 20th November through to Friday the 26th, at 9pm each night.
Expect a cold, unfeeling universe filled with terrors that will freeze your blood, and technological horrors that will leave you feeling like your dad when asked to send an email with an attachment, as we take a look at films that will make you think, “Retreating from the harsh light of knowledge into the comforting shadows of ignorance and superstition: is it all bad?”
The Last Days On Mars
(Saturday, November 20th, 9pm)
Zombies have a proud history in space, as we’ve covered before, but The Last Days On Mars might just be the purest example of the sub-genre. On the last day of the first manned mission to Mars, the discovery of fossilised bacterial life becomes the source of an extremely un-fossilised zombie outbreak.
In any good zombie movie, the real meat comes not from the zombies but from the friction between disgruntled human survivors who’ve been cooped up together far too long – and nothing says “cooped up” like a long-term space mission. This is the UK premiere of the movie, so there’s never been a better time to watch.
(Sunday, November 21st, 9pm)
When Kirk Douglas and Harvey Keitel star in a science fiction movie penned by Martin Amis, the result is either going to be a work of timeless genius or a fascinating curio you cannot look away from.
We will leave it up to you to decide which it is. Suffice to say Saturn 3 features a killer robot that runs on brain tissue extracted from human foetuses stalking its prey across the moon of Titan. This film has it all: machine-human brain interfaces, space colonists fleeing an overcrowded Earth, severed heads, a dog – the works. It’s a proper scary funfair ride of a sci-fi movie.
(Monday, November 22nd, 9pm)
You might know Cell as “the movie based on the Stephen King book where mobile phones turn people into zombies”. That summary is accurate, and yet it doesn’t really capture what makes this film terrifying. The “phone zombies” aren’t your standard lurching Romero fare. You genuinely get the feeling these are humans who have had their software overwritten by… something. They don’t move in hordes, but in herds, or sometimes swarms.
Some people argue that the zombie apocalypse genre is played out, but this is an alternative and deeply unnerving take on the genre.
Also, don’t tell anyone else we said this, but the movie might actually be better than the book.
(Tuesday, November 23rd, 9pm)
If you know nothing else about this film you probably know it as “the David Cronenberg film where telepaths make people’s heads explode”. Beyond that, however, is a gritty, intrigue-filled battle between rebel psychics and the military-industrial complex, dripping with glossy eighties cynicism. If this is a gap in your film knowledge, it’s one you should really fill this week.
(Wednesday, November 24th, 9pm)
Do not confuse “Extraterrestrial” with the other film where the protagonist encounters an alien lifeform while processing their parents’ divorce, even though that film’s title is just an abbreviated version of this one. This film is substantially less family-friendly, and we don’t just mean there are cops pointing walkie talkies at children.
Extraterrestrial takes the classic “teens encounter horrors at a cabin in the woods” premise, and adds a big steaming helping of UFO conspiracy theory paranoia. It’s great fun for all the family (who are 15 or over).
(Thursday, November 25th 9pm)
Kill Command is set in the near future, where robots handle all manual jobs, freeing up the human race to pursue more meaningful, creative and fulfilling goals, heralding a new age of prosperity and happiness.
Just kidding, everyone’s unemployed and riots are a daily occurrence. Even one of the oldest professions, killing people, seems to be on the verge of obsolescence.
It’s against this background that veteran US marine Captain Bukes leads his unit in a training exercise against some state of the art, artificially intelligent autonomous drones. Do the drones get “a bit too into it”? Do they perhaps take things too far, and spoil the fun for everyone?
You will have to watch and find out.
(Friday, November 26th, 9pm)
This film begins with a child watching his father be taken into the night sky by a mysterious blinding light.
A lot happens in the film after that. It’s hard to say which of those things we should tell you about, or frankly, which of them you would believe if we did.
So, we will simply conclude that when this film was released on home video in 1983, there was an attempt to prosecute it under British obscenity laws.
Oh, and at one point a toy clown comes to life and it’s probably the least weird thing to happen in the entire film.
It’s not just the scary stuff on Horror Channel – it screens top sci-fi content all year round. Check out what’s showing in the Sci-Fi Zone, weekdays between 6pm-9pm.
Sky 317, Virgin 149, Freeview 68, Freesat 138