5 Terrifying pieces of non-horror sci-fi and fantasy
It’s almost Halloween so I’m compiling a list of the 5 scariest non-horror films that I’ve come across on my travels. Halloween (or All Hallows Eve as it was once known in the “black and white times”) means a frolicking fall of festive family-friendly fun time for kids. But for the adults it serves as being what amounts to a 2nd Pride Parade.
For those who don’t know what those events are exactly, one of them sees thousands of boisterous and jubilant gourd-cradlers taking to the streets dressed head to toe in the campest costumes you’ll find off the Target rack, and the other is Halloween!
LET’S DO THIS THING!
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
This first entry is a fantasy with a modern slant. Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer starts out as an ordinary story in an ordinary place: suburban America. At least I think it’s ordinary. I’ve never been there myself. Surgeon Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) lives with his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and two children Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and Bob (Sunny Suljic) in an idyllic gated community sliced straight out of American Home Magazine (Is that even a thing?). Over the course of the film, it seems like the family live fairly normal lives, they each go to their respective places of work; they discuss their days over late night dinners at home. They watch TV and play sports. However, as we spend more time with the family the whole gang start to come across as a bit…odd. They speak to each other, not like family, but like business associates. They never end sentences with prepositions and they are complimentary to each other to the point of it sounding forced and robotic. And then Steven meets Martin (Barry Koeghan), the son of a patient he accidentally kills on the operating table. Martin, clearly an outsider quickly makes the eccentricities of the Murphy’s, by comparison, appear relatively mundane. Martin, now a child missing a father, lives in the care ofd his mother, who herself is suffering as a grieving widow struggling with severe PTSD. Seeking recompense, Martin makes a deal with Steven (and this deal is completely one-sided.): Since Steven took the life of Martin’s father (accidentally), Martin instructs Steven to kill a member of his own family. If he doesn’t comply then Martin, through means unexplained in the film, will inflict a slow-burning revenge upon the household (Shakespeare-style, Baby!) that will lead to Steven’s family losing control of their bodies and their minds. So yeah, despite the film not technically being a horror film, the haunting premise and unanswered questions leave the viewer with a sense of dread that only grows into a full on feeling of terror that lasts long after the closing credits. The story is inspired by a Euripidean tragedy so that should tell you everything you need to know before going in.
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
As a dark, cold and unforgiving vaccume void of invisible mathematics, unfathomable alien mysteries and uninhabitable chaos, Stanley Kubrick was not known for making light-hearted romps. Space is dramatically known as “The Final Frontier”. Humans have dreamed of exploring its unknowable depths since we first learned that the black sheet above out heads was not a globe-covering blanket knitted from cosmic cashmere. No, space exists as both nothing and everything, a question and an answer all in one. So naturally, taking the lovecraftian horror that space is known to fill people with in the hands of the director of the Shining, things were going to get weeeeeeeird. Based on an idea shared by the screenwriters, Kubrick himself and renowned author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke, 2001 follows a pair of astronauts, Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) as they venture through the vastness of space to try and unravel the mystery of the Monolith, an enigmatic alien object found on Earth’s Moon. They attempt to do this while also avoiding the forensic threat of their ship’s malfunctioning computer system, which/who has suddenly become hostile in the wake of the Monolith’s discovery. The film is academic yet puzzling, playing to the strengths of both Kubrick and the film’s original scribe: Arthur C. Clarke. When the film is not showcasing the grandeur of its pre-digital visual effects, 2001 feels like a science-fiction film made in a laboratory with its sterile visual palette and a transcendent yet uncomfortable soundtrack. With its attention focussed on telling a story in all of its details without giving much thought to expediency, the story still comes across as controlled and compelling, even by today’s standards. Douglas Rain steals the show as the soft-spoken and unemotional HAL-9000 computer system. He delivers his lines in a chilling monotone that easily fills the viewer with an abstract horror whenever he breaks the long silences. Once you start watching, you are in the film’s world, not the other way around, and you’d better pay attention because if you miss anything, it has no desire to repeat itself for your convenience (that is, unless you have a remote control to rewind)
Brutal violence? Check. Grotesque body horror? Check. The looming threat of humanity’s self-destruction? Check? Creepy psychic children with old people faces? Check and mate. Akira stands as both a landmark in both science-fiction and horror fiction as it explores what both makes and unmakes a human being.
The year is 2019 and the Tokyo Olympic Games have been suspended due to an ongoing pandemic. Now, am I talking about a movie or real life?
Anyway, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira is set in a fictionalized city of Neo-Tokyo after the city and its surviving residents are dragged back onto their feet following a nuclear war (ish). We follow Kaneda (Mitsuo Iwata), the leader of a streetwise gang of teenage street bikers as he and the rest of his crew investigate the disappearance of close friend Tetsuo (Nozomu Sasaki) and the appearance of a rebellious young woman called Kei (Mami Koyama), who seeks to set the world on a path towards a brighter future by any means necessary. On their journey they come face to face with the horrors of war, politics, the lack of control over one’s own life and the monstrous results of illegal human experimentation. Akira is evidently a film of significant historical value, not just as an iconic piece of Japanese hand drawn animation, but as a time capsule of the world as it was back when it was produced, and how not much has changed over the course of 34 years…? Christ, it’s been that long?
I need a drink.
The Whole F*****g thing.
This latest entry in the Star Wars series follows the titular Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), as he… Ok, this series only has 7 episodes available to watch so far at the time of publication but the story of Star Wars: Andor has been built on the terrifying foundation…that even in a galaxy far, far away, the modern horror of the untrustworthy, selfish corporate middle-man can still be found worming their way around the everyday workplace. Star Wars: Andor, creator by Michael Clayton and Bourne Ultimatum screenwriter Tony Gilroy, takes place in a refreshingly run-of-the-mill security company, a familiar office space in which “blue collar workers” clock in and clock out day to day in exchange for the minimum-wage credits they need to barely get by on a planet ruled over by the fascistic Galactic Empire. Star wars is a franchise built on wonder and magic and out-there science and to see such a setting dragged down to the most human of environments is positively horrifying.
I have worked for companies like Preox-Morlana, I have worked for mediocre, futureless yes-people like Syril Karn and Sgt. Linus Mosk, and I have also went to war against the armed forces of an intergalactic empire. Ok, that last part is a lie but after the first two aren’t I entitled to a little escapism between shifts?
A hearty congratuwelldone to our own M.J. Kuhn on the exciting cover reveal for the highly anticipated sequel to her debut fantasy novel: Among Thieves. Here is the sequel: Thick as Thieves on full display in all of its green glory.
Blurb and cover below:
official Blurb and details:
M. J. Kuhn returns to the gritty world of heists, magic, and deception in this high-stakes fantasy follow-up to internationally bestselling Among Thieves, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and V.E. Schwab.
Ryia Cautella, a.k.a. the Butcher of Carrowick, and her motley crew have succeeded in the ultimate heist…with the most dire possible consequences. A terrifyingly powerful tool has fallen into the hands of Callum Clem, the criminal leader of the Saints, who was already one of the most dangerous men alive. With the newfound ability to force magic-wielding Adepts to his will, he is unstoppable.
With their group scattered throughout the five kingdoms of Thamorr—and not all on the same side of the fight—things seem hopeless. But can Ryia get the gang back together for one last job? Or will chess-worthy power plays and shifting loyalties change Thamorr as they know it?
Release date: July 25th, 2023
Publisher: Gallery/Saga Press
Length: 320 pages
Article writer’s note: (320 pages is the optimum length for a book to be. This is why it’s called Thick as Thieves and not Thicc as Thieves :P)
HAPPY HALLOWEEN, FART KNOCKERS!
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