"Prometheus" is mostly being sold as a sci-fi movie where the characters run into something horrible. Having seen the film, I can confirm that the ship's crew does, in fact, run into an array of horrors. While it begins as a quest for the origins of mankind's existence, it pretty much ends as a straight-up monster movie. As such, it falls in line with other space horrors films like the ones listed below.
Mario Bava is most famous for his innovations in the giallo and slasher genres, but his lone venture into space resulted in this cool flick that involves a crew of explorers stumbling upon something sinister on an uncharted planet. Sounds kind of like "Alien," right?
Screenwriter Dan O'Bannon and director Ridley Scott claimed to have not seen the film back when "Alien" was released, but it seems like whoever designed some of the costumes for "Prometheus" might have checked it out; the new film borrows the design of the space suits here.
It should be noted that the title here is misleading, and was no doubt cooked up by American International Pictures to drum up interest on the drive-in circuit. In reality, "Planet of the Vampires" is a pod movie that's just been transported to space -- a more natural habitat, if you will.
Ridley Scott's classic is a masterpiece and certainly the definitive word on "space horror." It's often been referred to as a haunted house movie in space, which is accurate. However, it's also a bit of a slasher film, albeit one that's more polished and graceful than most films in that genre. Plus, it also has a huge, monstrous alien instead of a guy in a hockey mask, and no one can escape since the characters are stuck in the middle of space.
For all its shocks and horrors (it's impossible to un-see the chest-bursting scene), though, "Alien" is remarkably understated and suspenseful. It's a clinic in restraint and storytelling; there isn't an inch of fat on the film, but it feels like you've lived in this world for years once you've seen it. You will also want to be familiar with it before seeing "Prometheus," for obvious reasons.
Once "Alien" was a success, everyone set out to ape it, including the Italians (turnabout is fair play, I guess, since Bava helped kick the whole thing off). Luigi Cozzi's "Contamination" set out to do exactly one thing: one-up the chest-bursting sequence in "Alien." If you judge "Contamination" on the sheer amount of blood and guts that get splattered around, it succeeds -- bodies literally explode, and the effects are magnificently gory.
Unfortunately, that's the only thing "Contamination" has going for it, save for a rather cool animatronic extraterrestrial that finally shows up right toward the end. The film might not be as hazardous as the title suggests, but you'd be well to quarantine yourself from it unless you really like to see prosthetic work that turns actors into piñatas.
The British had to get in on this "Alien" business too, and they got some financial assistance from Sir Run Run Shaw. The problem is that the Shaw Brothers head honcho didn't provide enough funds.
This low-rent knock-off similarly latches onto the schlock and violence of Scott's film. "Inseminoid" particularly keys in on the sexual undertones in "Alien," pushing it to the trashy extreme by having Judy Geeson get raped by an alien life form. This turns her into a murderous queen bee, and she ends up turning on her crew by mostly impaling them to death.
The effects are good, but the film was seemingly written to only be a showcase for those effects. It should come as no surprise that half of the screenwriting tandem (Nick Maley) actually was the effects guy.
There was no way B-movie mogul Roger Corman was going to sit out this whole "Alien" wave. The guy made about a dozen rip-offs so "Jaws," so it should come as no surprise that he developed a couple of knock-offs here. One of them was "Galaxy of Terror."
If "Alien" was the elegant, refined "Halloween," then "Galaxy of Terror" is its "Friday the 13th": a cheap, derivative cash-in that trades in suspense for gore. Loads of gore, actually -- faces are melted, limbs are severed, and more.
It's almost charming how insistent the movie is on copying "Alien," right down to a twist that reveals that a crew member isn't what they seem, only this movie telegraphs it about halfway through by practically hanging a fluorescent light over the character that reads "suspicious." This is good, dumb fun, and probably one of the better rip-offs, so take that how you will.
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