They’re Heeeeeeeere: Aliens in the Horror Genre

They’re Heeeeeeeere: Aliens in the Horror Genre

By Kelly Florence & Meg Hafdahl

From the purported sketches of aliens on cave walls created in India ten thousand years ago to the 1947 Roswell incident in New Mexico, humans have always had a fascination with tales from beyond. As fans of The X-Files (1993-2018), it’s probably not surprising to learn that we both love an otherworldly plot. Likely, our love for this subgenre began with reading copies of Weird Tales, watching numerous episodes of The Twilight Zone on television, and rewatching both of our favorite George A. Romero movies, Night of the Living Dead (1968) or Dawn of the Dead (1978). These plots speculated that something in space caused the dead to arise and become what we now refer to as zombies. We thought that was So. Cool.  

When we were a bit older, we rented VHS copies of Alien (1979) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) because our parents recommended them. We sat in awe of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in the Alien movies and imagined what it would be like to communicate with a spaceship. Whether it is alien abduction with little green men, large, shapeless figures that loom over us in our sleep, or beings that take on the bodies of people, we’re here for it. And why wouldn’t we be? With the recent news of UFO sightings and evidence surfacing from the government itself, 34% of Americans now believe in alien life compared to only 20% in 1996. We guess we were ahead of our time. Here are some horror movies that fit this theme we love and recommend.

Fire in the Sky from 1993 begins with a statement declaring what you’re about to watch is based on a true story. This account of the 1975 abduction of Travis Walton does an amazing job of getting us, the audience, to empathize with multiple parties. First, we understand how frustrating it would be to witness someone you know getting abducted by a spaceship and then having no one believe you. Second, the townspeople and law enforcement have every reason to doubt the story of the surviving men. It is, after all, supernatural. Finally, in a goosebump riddled final act, we witness what happened to Travis when he was taken by aliens. We can’t help but wince and cringe along.

If you’re looking for some great jump scares and other involuntary movements when watching alien films, we recommend Signs (2002) and A Quiet Place (2018). Each, in their own unique way, tells the story of a family working through the aftermath of an alien invasion. As things on screen are revealed, you may grasp the person next to you or cover your mouth to prevent an audible gasp. (If you know, you know!) We love an unexpected ending and both these films deliver.

A movie that may have flown under the radar of a lot of people is Coherence from 2013. While not a straight up alien flick, this film offers a psychological thriller portrayal of how a group of people react to the unknown. The plot: a comet passing by Earth causes an evening among friends to turn strange. With its solitary setting and untrustworthy undertone, Coherence will get you thinking about your own surroundings as you watch the evening play out.

Two very recent movies we suggest checking out in this genre are Jordan Peele’s Nope from 2022 and No One Will Save You from 2023. With fantastic direction, acting, special effects, and editing, each gives an unsettling view of how we could fight to survive something attacking us from outer space. 

While neither of us have had an experience with a UFO or alien sighting, the thought is both fear inducing and exhilarating. As author Arthur C. Clarke wrote, “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” The truth is out there, friends. To learn more about the science and lore in your favorite alien movies, check out our The Science of…book series in which we feature numerous movies, books, and television shows that explore these concepts.


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