Can sci-fi movies be horror movies?

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Photo used with permission from Google Commons

A xenomorph from the movie Alien

Science fiction movies usually take place in the deep dark wasteland we call space. When movies that are meant to be scary take place in this void, should they be categorized to be horror movies?

One such movie that is categorized as both sci-fi and horror is the 1979 classic  Alien. Alien is known to be a classic sci-fi horror movie, but the movie is unrealistic compared to movies like Friday the 13th, which takes place on Earth, giving off a more relatable fear than the one in Alien. “Friday the 13th plays more towards the realism of a big person with a hatchet and how it could really happen to anybody. All it takes is some crazy person with a weapon and a few victims,” junior Kyle Jordan said.

Alien has been an iconic horror movie since it came out. It was the first time a movie of the sci-fi genre was turned into a horror movie and the music and lighting were created so well. The movie is about the fear of the unknown and having to face that unknown. “Alien plays a lot more on the feeling of the unknown. You’re on a space station shut down for unknown reasons and you are being hunted down by this crazy alien that you have no prior knowledge of,” Jordan said.

Alien should be considered a horror movie because the overall atmosphere and build-up of the movie are good enough to be considered a horror movie, despite the existence of extraterrestrial creatures. “It should be both horror and sci-fi, there shouldn’t be a box put around it. It was a great movie because it combined both genres for the first time,” junior Daniel Golabi said.

Sci-fi movies that contain aspects of horror in them are considered horror by the general audience. Some sci-fi movies convey a sense of horror more than other horror movies do. The 1982 movie, The Thing, for example, is one of them. “John Carpenter’s The Thing is a really good sci-fi horror with a good plot and amazing characters that are better than today’s protagonists,“ Golabi said.

Everyone is fearful of different things so it is the intention of the producer that lets us know that it is meant to be a horror film.”

— Wesley Hang

Horror movies tend to have lighting and music that fits the theme well, as well as a wonderful build-up of tension and suspense. “Everyone is fearful of different things so it is the intention of the producer that lets us know that it is meant to be a horror film,” junior Wesley Hang said.

Of course, there are also qualities of certain movies that exclude them from being horror movies. To be a horror movie, the atmosphere and the antagonist have to be able to scare the viewer. The suspense has to scare the viewer and put them on edge. “I probably value sound and music design the most, it has to have the atmosphere, if I can’t feel like I’m in the moment I can’t get scared,” Jordan said.