Kryptic Army Mission: May 2021 – Horror in Space

On May 14th, 1973, NASA launched the first United States space station, called Skylab. This was occupied by a series of 3-man crews for about 6 months, before it was left unmanned. By 1979, the station’s orbit was decaying, meaning it would soon fall back to Earth, which it did on the 11th of that month, crashing across the Indian Ocean and western Australia. I actually remember when this happened because my sister was terrified and convinced it was going to hit her house and made her kids sleep in the basement, just in case! Good times.

This was still back in the early days of space exploration, with no end in sight as to what we might accomplish. The stories that we grew up with from Star Trek seemed like it might come true. But then, as horror fans, we had also grew up on all those movies where it showed what else might be out there and very well could happen. And that is what we are going to focus on this month, movies dealing with space and spaceships.

Now pay attention here because this could get a little technical. For your mission, you need to find and watch 2 horror films that at some point during the running time, takes place on a spaceship or space station. It could be something like anything from It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) to Event Horizon (1997) that takes place on a spaceship pretty much the whole film. Or something like Angry Red Planet (1959) where a spaceship is taken to another planet to explore or whatever reasons they are going there. Now of course, there will be that never-ending question if it is horror or sci-fi and to answer that, all you need to make it count is something puts the crew in peril, whether it is a monster, an infection, or just good old-fashion paranoia. Hopefully you will be able to easily find a couple of titles to fit the bill. If you’re not caught up on all the films from the ’50s, now is your chance!

You will have until 11:59pm, on May 31st, to find, watch, and report back about the two films you’ve picked. Good Luck!

16 thoughts on “Kryptic Army Mission: May 2021 – Horror in Space

  1. I know there are a bunch of people out there who like to say that a science fiction movie can’t be horror, but they are WRONG. In fact, there is something inherently horrifying about space. We aren’t meant to be there. There is so much that can go awry with our minds and bodies and life support while we are there. And while we strive to reach out and learn more about other life forms that may exist on other planets, I think we are safe in assuming they won’t have our best interests at heart.

    LEPRECHAUN 4: IN SPACE (1996)

    Space marines save a space princess from a space leprechaun. A space mad scientist tries to use the space princess’ regenerative properties to try to heal himself, but the space leprechaun turns him into a space monster and the space marines need to destroy him.

    You just know what you are getting into with a Leprechaun movie. They are not particularly good, but are full of ridiculous fun. Sets, effects, acting, and scripts are all good enough to carry the story. It just hits the spot.

    SCREAMERS (1995)

    Self-replicating killing machines on a mining planet have evolved with the sole purpose of eradicating human life. The commander of one of the two warring factions on the planet decides to attempt to negotiate peace; in his journey to do so, he finds out just how specialized and tricky the machines–the screamers–have become, and he attempts to return to Earth without bringing any home with him.

    This film has a lot going for it–based on a story by Philip K. Dick, screenplay by Dan O’Bannon, stars Peter Weller–and it is coldly terrifying. It looks good. It sounds good. It was nominated for three Genie Awards (which used to be the awards for excellence in the Canadian film industry). It isn’t in the same league as Total Recall, or Alien, or Robocop, but is a decent, entertaining film nonetheless.

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    • I have actually only seen the first Leprechaun movie when it first came out. Really don’t remember much of it. But I really feel, much like with the Children of the Corn series, that I owe it to myself to sit down with the lot of these series and check them off, for better or for worse. Maybe once the pandemic is finally over, I’ll get some friends (victims) to come over and sit through them with me! That way the pain is evenly distributed!

      I saw Screamers in the theater and really liked most of it. I think it is one of those that could have been an incredible film, but just turned out to be good. Great ideas in there though.

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  2. #1 LIFE (2015?)

    If someone wanted to crap on this film, it would be pretty easy. You just say it’s an ALIEN ripoff with less-than-perfect CG. And that about sums it up. There are some arguably strong points to this one. First, there’s Jake Gyllenhaal as a lead (which I always like) and Ryan Reynolds as his support. And second, it takes place in the present day or very near future aboard the ISS, so it’s space without really venturing into science fiction at all. It’s something that could be real. But, ultimately, it’s still an ALIEN ripoff and it doesn’t even have fun with itself while doing it. I found myself getting bored and losing interest by the halfway point, if not sooner.

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    • I remember liking this one. Yes, there is zero originality, but I think they did a nice job showing just what could happen with an alien organism is introduced to a human’s system.

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  3. I plunged into deep space deeper than I anticipated this month. Took me five movies to get back down to earth…

    LAST EXIT TO EARTH (1996)

    In the year 2500, women have to travel back in time to find fertile men. They do find a few on a space ship. Unfortunately, the space ship is also infiltrated by a very bad guy with a mean virus. I’m convinced – when this movie came out – it was both misunderstood and ahead of its time. It’s a (feminist) science fiction flick, with a wink and a punch, written and directed by women and executive-produced by Roger Corman. You don’t get to see that every day, do you?

    ASSIGNMENT: OUTER SPACE (1960)

    A journalist receives an assignment to cover a space mission. Up there, things go wrong. Aside from him getting bullied a lot by his fellow “real” astronauts, some space station called Alpha 2 also got abandoned and is now headed towards an orbit around earth. Once that happens, the surface of our planet will be reduced to a boiling puddle of mud. How exactly this may work, one can only guess. Director Antonio Margheriti’s first feature film. Luckily, he did make better ones after this.

    STARFLIGHT ONE (1983)

    A disaster movie set in space, on a plane that wasn’t supposed to end up adrift in space in the first place. Everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. Crew and passengers in constant peril! Will they ever get back to earth, let alone land in one piece? With Lee Majors at the steering wheel and his lucky hat on his head, anything is possible! With SFX by John Dykstra!

    VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET (1965)

    Astronauts are off to explore Venus, I believe. Strange, goofy, entertaining, messy, with some charming SFX. I have a strong feeling that the original 1962 Russian film this was based on (and ripped from), might be a much better film altogether (as the neat ending may already indicate).

    DEATH ON SATURN’S MOON (2000)

    Quite a peculiar affair, and a real snoozer. An agent is sent to Titan to investigate the disappearance of a scientist. Only two other scientists are still on the moon base. A whole lot of mystery with hardly any answers. Will they all go mad eventually? What is that windy entity, raging outside? Was it created by the scientists? Or is some outer alien force slowly infiltrating? I’m still clueless about it.

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    • Damn Gert … I think you came up with five movies that I don’t think I’ve seen! Maybe Voyage, but could be wrong. Plus, there was a movie with Lee Majors in the ’80s, I can’t see me missing it, but don’t remember a thing about it. But you have gone way above and beyond for this mission! Well done!

      I think…

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  4. Movie #1-Lifeforce (1985) I have been in a big mood for 80’s movies lately. I picked this one at random. It’s kind of funny, halfway through watching it I said to myself, “Who the hell directed this?” Looked it up and made total sense. Tobe Hooper. I really enjoyed this movie. It was fun and over the top. Everyone in it gave a great performance and the special effects were really cool. This was a nice surprise that I didn’t know existed. I loved all of the funny quotes in the movie too. Erich came home from work at the end of the movie and he just goes,”What the hell are you watching?” Haha! I just replied with you gotta check this one out.

    Movie #2-Creature (1985) This was another random pick. I wanted to keep the 80’s trend going. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as Lifeforce. To be honest, I fell asleep the first time I tried to watch it, but I wanted to finish it. I finally got through it last night, and the end was worth it. I’m glad I stuck with it. The creature looked really cool and the gore was well done.

    Dishonerable mention: Movie #3-Leprechaun 4: In Space. I don’t want to talk about it.

    Also, I’m sorry about dropping the ball last month. I watched Village of the Damned and all of the It’s Alive movies. I just forgot to write about them. I’m glad I finally got to see these! I liked all of them.

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    • Thanks for the report, Ashley, and to remind me I need to get off my butt and get my movies checked off!

      Lifeforce is a bit of a mess with a lot of problems during production, but damn if it is a fun movie. I can still remember being in the theater seeing it and jumping when that first corpse opened it’s eyes!

      Creature is a fun one, mainly because of a cool creature and Klaus Kinski!

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  5. Movie 1: Ghosts of Mars

    Jeez. I don’t know what it was about John Carpenter in the 90’s… See, I actually liked, “Escape From L.A.” It felt like a fun gaffe on his original, not so unlike TCM2: just having a bit of fun with the original material. But, I think the thing that bugged me the most about his later films was the same peeve I had with later Romero films. And that was (seemingly) no time spent on which type of film he was shooting it on. Like either they made it look modern to make it look modern or they just went with whatever film was in the camera. And that 90s, glossy film was just so fresh and lifeless that it resembled either every other film that came out at that time, a cheap Skinamax flick, or network dramas. I hated how everything looked the same. So, much so that I feel it took away any ability to suspend the disbelief. Henceforth making a lot of concepts look laughable at best. No matter how good the subject matter. That being said, the movie did fall short in some acting areas. The effects were not bad, and I believe the concept would have been more palpable had it been shot on a properly selected celluloid. I mean these antagonists were basically “Reavers” from “Firefly” with a different origin story (looking directly at Joss Whedon with squints.) So, the idea was cool. It just felt hokey. And Ice Cube was basically wearing Snake Plissken’s same out fit but with red in the camo of his trousers.

    Movie 2: Lifeforce

    Tobe Hooper. I dunno. I mean, after the success of “Poltergeist” it felt like everything he was doing had to be a big budget, lots of over the top effects, and huge sets. They all just looked like overproduced films. The sets still looked like sets and sound stages no matter how many buildings were using controlled pyrotechnics or how many people he had scattered about the screen. Honestly; the concept became a bit easier swallow knowing it had been based on a novel called, “Space Vampires.” And I kind of wish he had used that title. It was a pretty large scale epic, but all of the impressive effects felt too crammed in. Too tightly shot. I actually will probably watch this again in the future as it was enjoyable. I think the only reason I’m over analyzing the feature is because it’s visuals reminded me too much of Hooper’s “Invaders From Mars.” and I just can’t forgive that movie. Sometimes (especially with Tobe Hooper) less is more.

    P.S. It is with my deepest apologies for not reporting my mission last month. I had watched the first 2 “It’s Alive” features to complete the mission. Yet, due to scheduling conflict; was unable to report.

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    • While I was not a fan of Escape from L.A., I do agree that Carpenter’s films of that era were not the best. I liked the look of the creatures of Ghosts but not much more I could say in a positive light.

      I do really enjoy Lifeforce, even though it is kind of a mess. As I mentioned in my comment to Ashley’s report, this film had a lot of production issues which might have been the reason for it being as it is. But I still do like it.

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  6. Once again, coming in near the end, but I got my two movies in!

    #1 – Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965) – This would be perfect for Turkey Day. All dubbing, WTH plot, and a robot! It would even better with a bunch of friends!

    # 2 Breach (2020) – not sure why I picked this one other than it was on Amazon and I knew it would fit the bill for the mission. Though wish I would have looked a little harder. Bruce Willis is pretty much walking through his role here and not the best one at that. Can’t really recommend this one at all.

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    • I totally need to go back and revisit Voyage as it’s been a while. Surprised you hadn’t seen it before since it’s one of those Corman flicks that shows up on all the public domain box sets.

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  7. I’m even more down to the wire, but here I am! Both of these take place for the most part on solid ground (the first on Earth, the second on Mars), but they both had the requisite spaceship time, so they count!!!

    #1
    BEYOND SKYLINE (2017)
    d. O’Donnell, Liam (USA)

    I saw the first 45 minutes of this back in 2017 at Cinepocalypse and I remember being both annoyed (that they would choose a flick that literally no one was excited about for their closing night film) and underwhelmed (by the ho-hum, by-the-numbers alien invasion playbook approach) that I decided to head home early. (In my defense, it had been a long week and it was snowing – if anyone remembers, the first Cinepocalypse took place in November.)

    Since I’m not the kind of person who likes to leave things unwatched and incomplete, I decided to give it another shot and, well, it’s still pretty much by-the-numbers alien-invasion stuff, but it’s a polished enough production with some CG “sweetened” practical monsters and passable action, mostly in the form of seeing the stars of The Raid, Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, duking it out with hand-to-claw with the big beasties. Frank Grillo does his standard tough guy thing and there are a lot of blue lights and stuff. It’s a serviceable time-waster and I don’t think anyone will be sorry that they watched it with enough pizza and/or popcorn on hand.

    #2
    THE LAST DAYS ON MARS (2013)
    d. Robinson, Ruairi (UK/Ireland)

    By contrast, this was a film I barely remember hearing about, since it boasts no real “stars” (Liev Schreiber, Olivia Williams, and Elias Koteas are the headliners) and doesn’t seem to have generated a lot of critical love from those who even noticed it had shown up in theaters. However, upon encountering it firsthand, I was genuinely surprised that I hadn’t heard anyone talk about it since I found it quite entertaining and atmospheric even if the synopsis still boils down to “Zombies on Mars.”

    Schreiber and his crew are in the final hours of their exploratory mission on the Red Planet and are just getting ready to head for home when one of their number goes out to check one final outpost reading which seems to have revealed a bacterial presence. In other words, Life. Unfortunately, the bacteria has a field day with the human biosystem and basically transforms anyone it encounters into a raving background player from 28 Days Later. Again, nothing revolutionary here, but expertly delivered on both sides of the camera, with terrific production design and solid performances from all involved. There are also a few deliberately unanswered questions that will probably frustrate a certain percentage of viewers, but I found it a ballsy and brave choice to keep things ambiguous. Bottom line, I think it’s well worth checking out.

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  8. May’s mission was a great opportunity to check out some classic SF films I remember reading about in one of those 70s era movie reference books I was so fortunate to discover at my local library as a kid.
    The first choice was 1962’s JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET, directed by Sidney Pink, probably best known for the previous year’s REPTILICUS. To synopsize, a five man crew of astronauts embark on the first ever exploration of Uranus, only to find on arrival that it’s a lot like Earth, right down to the gorgeous Dutch girls and windmills. Turns out there’s an alien presence involved, one that is both accommodating and insidious in its manipulation of this group of horny, lonely spacemen. Things on Uranus may not be exactly what they seem.
    JOURNEY is a mind-bender of a film, a precursor to the psychedelic/psychological head trip movies that would arrive later in the decade. Sadly, JOURNEY suffers for its trendsetting. The effects are barely adequate, with a gray color palette and only one bright moment of stop-motion animation. If JOURNEY would’ve remained in development for another year or two, it would’ve benefitted greatly from blossoming psychedelic effects work and sixties pop culture sensibilities. As it is, JOURNEY plays like a Mad Men era fella trying to get down with a groovy, happening chick. Stiff in delivery. Leaden in pacing. Small in budget. It’s a film hobbled on the launch pad. But what it promises of things and trends to come, gives it some minor importance in the development of Psychological Horror and worthy of attention.

    My second and third choice (it’s really two films using the same stock footage) is/are VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET (1965) and VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREThe second attempt at using the same Russian film footage, PREHISTORIC WOMEN, spices things up with the addition of pin-up queen Mamie Van Doren and a flock of mermaids. Directed and narrated by future Oscan winner Peter Bogdanovich, the film plays as a flashback to the events of PREHISTORIC PLANET reminiscent of THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART II. Jettisoning the previous versions wraparound story, Bogdanovich adds shots of Mamie and her mermaids cavorting around Venusian beaches while worshipping Ptera, a vaguely Lovecraftian pterodactyl in the hopes it will deter these Earthling interlopers. The Russian footage is better represented this time around in the streaming version available on Amazon Prime, with brighter contrast and detail. Gear heads will greatly appreciate this. Is it a horror movie? Not really. Nothing really happens during its runtime. But it’s easy to see its influence in later SF/horror films such as ALIEN. Probably not appointment viewing by any means, but worth it for the spacesuits, flying car and Robot John, the astronauts’ right hand workerbot.

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