Now that Alien: Covenant has hit theaters, it might be a good time to talk about the sci-fi horror genre, especially because it has a lot more going on than rampaging aliens and humans trying not to get sucked into the vacuum of space. In this Fandor video essay, Leigh Singer not only gives us a great list of must-see films to watch post Alien: Covenant, but we also get some insight into what the sci-fi horror genre is all about and why it gives filmmakers the chance to really explore the depths of human fear.

This video essay explores a lot of great aspects of the sci-fi horror genre, but perhaps the most intriguing one is the fact that films set in space, a place of absolute extremes, compile many of the most important horror tropes into a perfect package. This is because space encapsulates so many of the things that drive human fear—the unknown, loss of freedom, pain, loneliness, and, of course, death. So, when horror filmmakers set their movies in space they're essentially telling their characters, "There's a giant alien with acid saliva and razor-sharp claws chasing you on this spaceship. You're out of fuel and your spacesuit has little oxygen. You are not strong enough to fight and there is no escape. Now, survive."

If horror films have taught us anything it's that when a knife wielding maniac breaks into your home and tries to filet you, do not run up the damn stairs. You run out to the street and scream your head off like a normal person. Or if you're foolish enough to live in the woods, you make for the closest body of water (unless your attacker is aquatic), because psycho movie murderers are very aware that swimming is the least threatening thing anyone can do (unless the attacker is aquatic) and are self-conscious of looking like a dork in front of their prey. 


That's an interesting aspect of horror films: the challenge of escape. While some films, like Nightmare on Elm StreetCujo, and pretty much every zombie movie ever, don't offer victims a means for escape, forcing them to face the threat head-on, most films force victims to use their brains to counteract their assailant's brawn. But sci-fi horror takes it to the next level.

They not only pit victims against monsters/murderous humans that are much stronger than them, but the inescapable situations they're put in are also the least supportive of human life; space, spaceships, space stations, and alien planets always seem to not have, or have very little of the most important thing to a human being: oxygen.

Sci-fi horror characters have it rough. They have to survive a super strong and adept alien monster. They have to survive explosions and malfunctioning space crafts. They have to survive loss of oxygen, extreme heat and cold, and their brains exploding in the vacuum of space. It makes Earth-based horror film characters seem like a bunch of privileged brats. 

Source: Fandor Keyframe