It may be the long journey through space to get to Earth, or something in the air irritates the aliens who settle on our planet in the movies, unleashing their evil nature.
Even the most brilliant and technologically advanced extraterrestrials, when they do not want to attack humanity directly, treat us like lab rats, performing the most horrible and unbelievable experiments on us.
But is it not hypocritical to complain about their cruelty when we inflict it on almost all other animal species?
Let’s face it: these evil aliens, whether they are beings from outer space who love to hunt like Predator or shiny xenomorphs with pure killer instincts like Aliens, do nothing but confront us with ourselves and our own folly.
Today, however, I’d like to skip the better-known extraterrestrials and instead offer you some lesser-known films that sometimes have yet to make it to theaters, which I’m sure every Sci-Fi fan will find quite interesting.
So get ready and look up: something is about to land nearby.
Table of contents
Apollo 18 (2011)
Okay, I admit, today’s first movie takes place not precisely on Earth but on the Moon. However, can’t we consider the small satellite a bit like it was an accessory property, a kind of back garden of our planet?
Space travel has lost a lot of fascination since the glorious days of Jurij Gagarin and the first Apollo missions; nevertheless, the Soviets and the Americans continue to send men to probe the mysteries of the old yellow ball that shines in our skies every night.
One of these missions is indeed Apollo 18, officially tasked with collecting lunar soil samples, but actually tasked with installing top secret instrumentation for espionage during the Cold War.
Except that, after they land on the Moon, the American astronauts find the remains of some of their Russian colleagues at the bottom of a crater, with their spacesuits and helmets horribly ruined, as if they had been attacked by some vicious animal.
At the same time, during the night, they hear something moving outside their survival module that damages their equipment and seems to infect one of the men like a virus.
While the Americans struggle to survive, the command seems intent instead on burying the story forever, leaving them to die forgotten by all in the cold solitude of space.
Gonzalo López-Gallego is a not-so-famous director with a not-so-long film resume; however, his talent for low-budget horror supported by solid Russian colleague Timur Bekmambetov, creator of the entertaining action/fantasy saga consisting of The Night’s Watch/Day’s Watch.
In this case, we have evil little aliens in a claustrophobic movie in the cramped environments of spaceships and space habitats, where the story is finally shown to us through what happens instead of explained with the summary as if we were poor saps.
Attack the Block (2011)
We’re definitely back with our feet back on Earth with the next movie, where this time aliens lay siege to a tenement building in London’s housing projects.
Indeed, what seemed like just another night for young Moses and his gang of petty thugs becomes a struggle to survive when a series of spaceships land near their neighborhood.
Initially, the gang smoothly tears the strange invaders to shreds, but they do not know that that is just the vanguard of a much stronger and more numerous group of extraterrestrial soldiers about to arrive.
What then to do to resist? Simple, hole up in the den of the local drug dealer/weed farmer on the top floor of the block, trying to take out the threat, one enemy at a time, while outside, the police and city authorities have no idea what is really going on.
Once again, we have a good director with a small curriculum, Joe Cornish, who imbues this tasty parody of the usual American-style good-looking heroes fighting off the invasion of ugly, evil aliens with irresistible British humor.
There are no heroes here, only underage boys who are either easy at mugging and assault or so stoned that they don’t realize they have a snarling behemoth in their living room.
Putting a face on all these kids is young John Boyega, later absorbed into the endless whirl of Star Wars sequels (you think they won’t make any more?), who makes his courage count in the way I most prefer: in a movie where imagination and good cinematic craft win out over the big budgets of far-off, gilded Hollywood.
Because like the headline of an old Elio Petri movie said, The working class goes to heaven, while their unemployed children will stay home and save us from extraterrestrials.
Another story, another group of friends trapped against the unknown in a film where, this time, humans are as evil as (if not more so) cruel aliens.
It all begins with young April, the daughter of a divorced couple who wants to sell the old family home, who decides to spend the weekend taking some beautiful photographs for the real estate agency.
Surprisingly, her boyfriend Kyle invites some friends over without warning her, while she thinks they will spend a few romantic days alone as a couple.
But the power goes out during the night, and they are left in the dark as April shoots a stranger with the family rifle, throwing him into the pool.
Given today’s topic, the stranger is obviously an alien, so when his cronies arrive on a flying saucer seeking revenge, all the merry friends scurry off into the woods.
They find shelter from the madman Travis, a longtime friend of April’s father’s, obsessed with the conspiracy that the government has struck a longtime deal with extraterrestrials, turning a blind eye and covering the tracks of their occasional abductions of people.
With Extraterrestrial, the pair of Colin Minihan as director and Brittany Allen as lead actress returns, a solid partnership that takes these low-budget productions to the max, as they will do even better later in the splendid thriller What Keeps You Alive.
Minihan takes advantage of every horror movie cliché conceivable, from buddies pent up in an Evil Dead-style cabin to stereotypical-looking aliens to flying saucers that appear to be lifted directly from the iconic and naive Ed Wood‘s Plan 9 from Outer Space.
For all lovers of the genre, it offers a breath of fresh air; although nothing is new, it executes the formula with delightful and compelling cinematic precision.
The Signal (2014)
The later film presents a group of teenagers better prepared to fight the evil alien danger, as they are all students at California‘s elite MIT and Caltech.
When a mysterious hacker, Nomad, fries their university’s servers, young Nic and his friends Haley and Jonah set out to find the source of the signal, an abandoned and dilapidated shack in the Nevada desert.
However, as they approach the dead of night, a light rips through the darkness, and a mysterious force sucks them up.
Nic awakens in a military facility, not knowing what has happened, surrounded by troops and scientists in hazmat suits who subject him to an endless series of tests and laboratory procedures.
Even the military complex seems out of place, abandoned to an age of obsolete technology and overseen by Damon, a petulant and apathetic researcher.
Refusing to be prisoners, Nic and his friends cunningly flee into the desert while Damon and his soldiers pursue them, viciously killing anyone they encounter.
We continue to abuse alien and military clichés (it’s a ‘who’s meaner‘ contest), but again, with an excellent director like William Eubank, who makes all the difference in this world and beyond, given the topic.
There is an excellent cast of young actors, including Brenton Thwaites and the promising Olivia Cooke, on the run from the terrific Laurence Fishburne, abandoning the wise-guy Morpheus role from the Matrix franchise to become a total psycho in uniform in charge of a handful of killers.
This is not the first time I have mentioned The Signal, and it certainly will not be the last because it is one of the most intriguing sci-fi movies of the past decade and it’s always worth remembering.
Await Further Instructions (2018)
We end with the smallest of today’s little unknown movies, where absolute madness and evil come from the obtuse mentality of particular human beings, even before the cruel aliens.
It begins almost trivially, with an ordinary English family getting together for Christmas, with young son Nick introducing everyone to his new partner, Annji.
Although initially the father, mother, sister, and her husband try to be friendly, eventually racist stupidity emerges in the most awkward comments toward their host’s black skin, who at that point would obviously and quickly like to leave.
Unfortunately, at that very moment, a kind of enforced isolation imposed by an unknown alien force begins: every door and window of every house in town is sealed with an impenetrable black wall, while all means of communication, such as cell phones and computers, are cut off.
The only thing functioning remains the television, whose screen strange messages begin to appear that will lead this small household to disintegrate into total madness.
Indeed, determined to obey at all costs what he believes to be official government directives, father Tony will follow instructions to the letter beyond all logic and human compassion, leading everyone else into the abyss.
Critics and audiences did not well-receive this strange Johnny Kevorkian movie. Still, I think director and screenwriter Gavin Williams perfectly succeeded in encapsulating the essence of this miniature of our society within a larger and more mysterious story of alien invasion.
Simply terrifying Grant Masters as the crazy head of the family, the classic, rigid racist bigot who, this time, ironically, finds himself in charge of a desperate situation, making it even worse for everyone.