The alien, the unknown, the different, call it what you will; it appears in the most varied and unexpected ways on the silver screen, giving us compelling sci-fi movies of danger and discovery.
It is the quintessential science fiction, a genre that explores the infinite possibilities of the cosmos, catapulting us into distressing adventures filled with strange creatures and timeless mysteries.
Even amidst the vastness of the stars, our tiny hearts on Earth beat the loudest.
From invisible interlocutors beneath our skin to beings whose sole purpose seems to be to consume life, space invaders take many forms and consistencies.
Some of today’s movies display colors impossible to conceive of, disrupting all certainty; others manifest as a total blackout, a dark menace that absorbs all light. Yet even in these cases, the resilience of the human race shines last in the darkness.
It always begins with a lone spacecraft crashing, bringing an unwelcome guest. Our familiar planet is suddenly transformed into a theater of cosmic conflicts that have been traveling who knows how long over our heads without us having the slightest suspicion.
Although interstellar creatures are the embodiment of danger, they also remind us of a fundamental truth: cinema, with its capacity to shock and amaze, is an ever-expanding universe of sci-fi movies where each new alien landed is a frontier to be explored.
Having precise this spinning galaxy of words and concepts, how about taking a closer look at today’s strange invaders?
Table of contents
Under the Skin (2013)
The first story begins in a familiar but foreign Scotland, where a mysterious woman appears amid us.
This enigmatic female figure travels in a van driven by herself, trapping lonely men along the way and then dragging them into her black abyss, a surreal and terrible place where she absorbs their lifeblood and essence.
Her alluring looks and seductive attitude are practical tools in her arsenal, as well as a mysterious biker sidekick who covers her tracks as she captures her prey in an endless cycle of attraction and terror.
Scotland is revealed as the perfect backdrop for this deadly game, with the vast highways to isolated villages amidst vistas of extraordinary beauty where the protagonist moves silently and lethally.
But even this alien is not entirely devoid of passions and feelings. Hence, an encounter with a disfigured man leads to a change in her perception of her relentless mission.
In Jonathan Glazer‘s hands, the plot becomes a frighteningly beautiful canvas, painting with the fine direction a delicate picture of macabre loneliness.
Scarlett Johansson shines with an algid and unstoppable performance, capable of arousing awe and disquiet in equal measure.
Nevertheless, her participation failed to seduce the general public, remaining only a daring attempt to elevate the narrative beyond the ordinary.
This particular cinematic experience is only for some because it does not suit those seeking the typical adrenaline rush of alien action/thriller sci-fi movies.
Indeed, it is an invitation to abandon the familiar and seek a unique perspective on humans from the eyes of a seemingly disinterested star visitor.
Yet we celluloid fans are willing to devote all the time in the universe to unearth the hidden gems of cinema, and in this work of nuance and controversial reflections lies a genuine treasure.
With the next story, we move to the vicinity of Earth’s atmosphere aboard the International Space Station.
After retrieving an experimental probe, the technicians and scientists stumble upon a discovery that could change the course of human history.
Indeed, while examining a sample, the astronauts manage to awaken a single-celled organism, which begins to grow more complex to the extent that they call it Calvin affectionately.
Unfortunately, the euphoria quickly fades when Calvin evolves at an alarming rate, becoming equally intelligent and dangerous, severely injuring a lab rat and even an equipage member.
What initially looks like a scientific triumph soon becomes a race against time in a desperate attempt to contain an unprecedented biological threat that could efficiently exterminate all of humanity if it makes it to Earth.
Daniel Espinosa orchestrates a science fiction thriller with a decent dance between tension and terror. However, he could have given room for a bit more daring on the horror side.
Undoubtedly the best aspect is the presence of a stellar cast of residents of the international space station, with a colorful ensemble of distinct and well-delineated personalities.
Rebecca Ferguson stands out for her portrayal of the doctor with a character as balanced as a rock amid a storm.
Her male colleagues are more impulsive and immature, played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds. They are less prepared to deal with the threat and slower to understand the gravity of the situation until it is too late.
As a sagacious veteran, Hiroyuki Sanada offers a more reasonable compromise, even if his character is not entirely convincing but still crucial to the plot.
Effectively combining fun and intelligence, this movie always retains sight of its primary goal: entertainment. A goal it achieves perfectly, especially with an exciting conclusion.
Color Out of Space (2019)
We can hardly say there is a lack of horror with aliens in the upcoming movie, wholly set in an isolated farmhouse inhabited by the lonely and bizarre Gardner family.
Father Nathan tries to support his ailing wife, Theresa, leading a peaceful and dull existence with their children, Lavinia, Benny, and Jack.
The tranquility, however, is shattered by an extraordinary event when a meteorite of impossible-to-describe color crashes into the valley.
Immediately the impact is followed by a series of bizarre phenomena. The healthy water becomes polluted, mutating animals and plants into weird shapes or even fusing them together. At the same time, members of the Gardner family also exhibit increasingly strange behavior.
As what was an idyllic life becomes a living nightmare, reality warps around them, isolating the valley into a trap under the control of alien color.
At the helm of this surreal-toned alien invasion, we find Richard Stanley, a veteran of ’90s B movies such as “Hardware,” an unusual sci-fi packed with body horror worthy of David Cronenberg.
Stanley launches himself without a parachute into adapting one of H.P. Lovecraft‘s darkest tales by releasing the great writer’s dreamlike, divine madness straight from print to our screens.
What elevates the tension to an even higher level is The Shining-style family disintegration, with performances by Nicolas Cage and Joely Richardson as parents who transform from victims to executioners in this drama permeated with supernatural elements.
The late but significant arrival of the character played by Elliot Knight, a policeman determined to shed light on the events, closes the circle and leaves the story open for a possible sequel, the potential of which we can see for a new, vibrant horror saga, ready to tint the film genre with unexpected colors.
The Blackout (2019)
For today’s last two alien sci-fi movies, we move to faraway old Russia, probably not very popular politically today but whose cinema was resurfacing in even the most popular productions in recent years.
As per the title, this story with a global-level blackout that turns off every light on the face of the Earth except in Moscow and some nearby regions.
Since the incident has knocked out all contact with the rest of the world, the authorities prepare for the worst and build defensive outposts around the city.
It is not long before someone attacks these outposts. Still, the enemy is not aliens or other humans: crazed herds of animals that attack anyone on sight without logic.
When the army finally leaves the city, they discover some survivors and a specimen of the aliens invading Earth.
These aliens had been here many centuries before, studying it for their culture, but now they intend to occupy it as their planet is dying.
Obviously, the human survivors do not agree much with their plan. So war is waged against an enemy with highly advanced technology and the powerful ability to manipulate thought.
Director Egor Baranov forges an adrenaline-fueled and spectacular survival fight, even too much at some points, with a few action scenes that go on longer than necessary.
I doubt many will recognize the cast members, such as the pair of fellow soldier protagonists and leaders of the survivor enclave, Pyotr Fyodorov, and Aleksej Čadov.
Actors who are very famous in their homeland but little exported internationally, as unfortunately, most Russian performers are, are blamelessly paying for a general climate of hostility to the Russian government and army.
With today’s latest movie, we remain in Russia and on the subject of aliens, but we return to the distant 1980s, during the tense Cold War period.
It begins with Dr. Tatiana Yurievna, a young psychiatrist with unconventional methods, summoned to an isolated military base to examine the Konstantin case.
Indeed, cosmonaut Konstantin has just returned from space as the sole survivor of an accident on his spaceship.
However, the soldier has not returned empty-handed but brings back to Earth with him a puzzling secret: an alien parasite lives inside him.
As she deepens her analysis, the doctor discovers that the foreign entity comes out of Konstantin’s body during sleep to feed and explore the cell.
While Tatiana would like to understand how the parasite affects Konstantin’s psyche and physique, commander Colonel Semiradov sees the parasite as an opportunity for Soviet military power.
But of course, the alien also has his own opinion about his fate, with very different plans from the military and the doctors.
I know very little about the director, Egor Abramenko, who does an even better job here by focusing more on the psychological thriller rather than the simple (but always tasty) Hollywood-style action.
Excellent and beautiful is the young protagonist Oksana Akinshina, the only free conscience on the entire base, which takes little time to switch sides with the poor soldier played again by Pyotr Fyodorov.
He is a prisoner in two cells, one inside the other: the room where the army locks him up and his own body, from where the alien escapes every night without his even having any memory of it.
Finally, it’s just as solid that the villain, played with the right face by Fedor Bondarchuk, is obviously intent on turning anything the scientists discover into a weapon.