Guest Post: Glenn Rolfe’s Top 8 Alien Movies

boom town

One of the highlights of last month’s HorrorHound Cincinnati was getting to meet people I’d only known from profile pictures and pithy comments on Facebook. Author Glenn Rolfe was one of them. Glenn’s relatively new to the Samhain stable, but it took him no time to throw himself into the community and start making an impression (a positive impression, helping a lot of authors behind the scenes, liaising with Samhain staffers, he’s been a big help to many).

Since HorrorHound is a predominantly film-focused, in spare moments where I wasn’t trying to sell people books, conversation behind the table was often turned to movies.

Glenn will freely admit that he’s not as much of a movie guy as he is a book guy. And I will less-freely admit that I may have had a bit of fun at his expense when he fell out of the conversational loop and couldn’t keep up with nerds like Kristopher Rufty and I.

Flash forward to this week when he asked if I’d be interested in letting him guest here on my blog. I’m fairly easy-going with this kind of thing (I don’t have guests often, I’ve got to like an author’s work and like them on a personal level to let them come shill at my shilling place), so I just said: yeah, write up whatever you want and I’ll throw it up.

The guy who I’d been giving a hard time about not knowing movies wrote a movie post!

And it’s not bad! Not bad at all! I mean, I’d move Alien up to tie with The Thing and I’d certainly throw Mars Attacks!, Contamination, and  Galaxy of Terror on there (Signs out the airlock, for me), but ya know: not my list.

So find that below and enjoy. One last thing, before we get to that, is that Glenn’s here promoting his new novella, Boom Town. I haven’t read it yet (I do have it pre-ordered, though), but I know Rolfe can write and ain’t lying when I say I’m looking forward to what he does in this sub-genre. Book’s out April 7th and you can order it right here. And if you want to find out more about the guy (and punk singer!) you can find his website here.

Glenn, take it away:

8. Predator– Arnold takes on one bad ass body heat readin’ creature from another planet. This one creeped me out when I was a kid. I actually feared for Arnold’s survival.

7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers– Starring Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, and Leonard Nimoy, among others. This one is a classic that had a hand in my Boom Town story. When aliens start wearing humans, it gets pretty damn scary.

6. The 4th Kind- I totally thought this was a real thing. I mean, I knew it was a movie, but I watched it late at night by myself and when I heard the alien speak in Sumerian…the hair stood on the back of my neck. I didn’t want to see another white owl again.

5. Alien– Another classic. My numbers 2-5 could all be tied. I actually never saw this from start to finish until I rented it like three years ago. It’s scary and gross in all the right places. Sigourney Weaver is awesome and I want to watch it again right now.

4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind– I’m sure this one had the effect on people of my generation that the early black and white movies had on kids in the fifties. Close Encounters…really made me want to know about aliens and UFOs. When Richard Dreyfuss is sitting in his truck and everything goes haywire and we see the ships fly by–it’s awesome. His obsession on the screen was absolutely palpable. I think we were all on this journey with him and up on the mountain, too.

3. Signs– M. Night Shyamalan was still riding high off The Sixth Sense (minus a slight dip with
Unbreakable) when Signs came out. The first time I watched it, I knew it would stick with me. There are so many things going on in this movie that I admire. For instance, the tragedy that Graham is dealing with raising two kids after a drunk driver hits and kills his wife. He is a reverend at the time of the accident and gives up on God in the aftermath. I love the scene where Graham and his brother are chasing the alien around the house thinking it’s the troublesome skull brothers. Another aspect that really resonates with me is his children: “Daddy there’s a monster outside my window, can I have a glass of water?” and the section when Graham is in the field and the sheriff says “what’s wrong?” and he replies, “I can’t hear my children.” I love the scene when he goes to the drunk driver’s house and finds the alien in the closet. I like the invasion, and the alien’s coming, and the family gathering to have their last meal. Pretty much all of it works for me…except for maybe the aliens just retreating, but I love the rest of the film so much I let that go.

2. Fire in the Sky– The true story of the abduction of Travis Walton. This is the best abduction movie. Period. Travis is abducted when he and his tree chopping co-workers see a red light spread out in the woods before them on their way home. When they see the source of the light, they stop dead in their tracks. Travis gets out, ignores his co-workers’ demands for him to get back in the truck, and gets hit by a beam of light from the ship in the sky. The police think one of the co-workers killed Travis, until Travis calls Mike (the foreman and Travis’s best friend) from a payphone. Travis is back, but he’s not the same. Traumatized and paranoid, Travis struggles to deal with the flashbacks haunting him, while at the same time trying to get back to his normal life. It’s in these flashbacks that we see the hell these beings put him through. These are some of the creepiest scenes I’ve ever watched. To this day, I flinch and squirm at the images on the screen: the goop they stick in his mouth and the instruments they use on his throat and his eyes. Then, there’s the weird casing they use to hold him in place. It’s a horrifying experience that perfectly, if uncomfortably, transfers off the screen to the viewer. I had nightmares after seeing this movie for the first time. Creepy. Awesome. And a word to the wise: If you see a large spacecraft overhead, DO.NOT. GET. OUT. OF. THE.VEHICLE!

1. The Thing– The ultimate in alien terror! What other movie could top the list? John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece is terrifying, suspenseful, and outright gory in just the right spots. The classic special effects in this movie are amazing. There’s something much more real, much more organic about effects done without CGI. I wish more modern, bug budget films would go back to the art of special effects. It seems everyone has watched this movie and has their favorite scenes. I’m particularly fond of the kennel scene, the part when they discover the weird two-faced, frozen man at the Norwegian camp, the scene where Kurt Russell’s character has the rest of the guys tied to chairs as one-by-one he checks their blood (the suspense!), and of course the nasty scene when the doc tries to use the defibrillator only to have it end HORRIBLY. The Thing’s secret is really the psychological horror that’s happening. No one can be trusted. People are acting strange, but in a fucked up situation like this, who the hell wouldn’t be? Combine the great screenplay, the terrific acting, and just the overall look of the film and this movie has everything you could ever want in a Horror/Sci-Fi film. Unless you’re looking for a hot chick alien thing…then I guess you can rent Species. The Thing is the best.

There you go. My top 8 favorite alien flicks. I hope you’ll all check out my new Horror/Sci-Fi novella, Boom Town, from Samhain Publishing when it comes out this Tuesday, April 7, 2015.

And thanks to my friend, Adam, for having me on his blog!

Cheers!
-Glenn

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12 thoughts on “Guest Post: Glenn Rolfe’s Top 8 Alien Movies

  1. That’s a solid list, Glenn. As you so kindly requested on the Book of Faces, here are five of my favorites that may not be as quintessential but deserve a shout-out just the same.

    5. Predator 2 – That’s right, I said it. It may seem controversial, but I’ve always dug the sequel more than the original. I remember this actually scaring me back in day, though the effect wasn’t the same when I re-watched it a few years ago. Maybe it was the magic of childhood, or an alien wreaking havoc in a big city, or even the way Danny Glover effortlessly dropped F bombs but this one always stuck with me. Plus my VHS copy comes in a clamshell case. How’s that for a silver lining?

    4. Without Warning – Thanks to the fine folks at Scream Factory, this gem is now available on Blu-ray. I know the alien design may seem cheesy by many standards today, but this thing actually still manages to give me chills. There’s something about the blue skin and elongated head that honestly creeps me out. And the cannibalistic discs the creature uses to knock down his prey? Bad. Ass. Another scary element in this flick is a young David Caruso in short shorts, but that’s another discussion entirely.

    3. Almost Human – I’m talking the 2013 film directed by Joe Begos and not the Fox television series. I can’t vouch for the latter but I can certainly recommend the former. Nowadays, a lot of horror movies get stamped with the “throwback” seal. More often than not, that term doesn’t apply but here it most certainly does. Set in the 80’s, this is an unabashed tribute to films like The Thing and Terminator and countless others. It wears its influences on its sleeve but it manages to come up with its own take on the genre. Also, the effects are all practical, which I dig very much. The disc comes with some excellent extras and I implore everyone to check it out.

    2. Event Horizon – I’m not even sure this one counts as an alien film. Sure, it takes places on a space ship that’s deep in space but there aren’t any aliens per se. But there are several creepy moments and great special effects and a plot that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. This movie is polarizing because of that latter point. Apparently, there exists a director’s cut on a single VHS tape somewhere that contains more blood and guts and a less contrived plot. But honestly, I have no issues with the version that was released. I saw it when I was a young lad and it stuck with me. I’ve always been creeped out by things that don’t make much sense (ie, most of The Tenant and the opening scene of Begotten) and there are plenty of these moments in Event Horizon, as in most of the second half of the film. Sensical or nonsensical, this one has a special place in my heart.

    1. The Blob – I’m talking the 1988 remake here. Directed by Chuck Russell and co-written by himself and Frank Darabont, this gorefest never fails to make me smile. Don’t get me wrong, I love the original but this version spoke to a younger Pat with its almost constant practical effects and ooey gooey death scenes that the original couldn’t compete with. I’m still kicking myself for not picking up the Twilight Time special edition Blu-ray of this one (which has skyrocketed in price) but such is life. I re-watched this last year and though a few scenes near the end don’t quite hold up in terms of the effects, this one will always have a space on my shelf.

    There you have it. Those are my five for better or worse. Thanks again to Glenn for asking some of his fellow authors to leave their favorites. Now I’m off to pre-order Boom Town and Mercy House.

  2. That’s a solid list, Glenn. As you so kindly requested on the Book of Faces, here are five of my favorites that may not be as quintessential but deserve a shout-out just the same.

    5. Predator 2 – That’s right, I said it. It may seem controversial, but I’ve always dug the sequel more than the original. I remember this actually scaring me back in day, though the effect wasn’t the same when I re-watched it a few years ago. Maybe it was the magic of childhood, or an alien wreaking havoc in a big city, or even the way Danny Glover effortlessly dropped F bombs but this one always stuck with me. Plus my VHS copy comes in a clamshell case. How’s that for a silver lining?

    4. Without Warning – Thanks to the fine folks at Scream Factory, this gem is now available on Blu-ray. I know the alien design may seem cheesy by many standards today, but this thing actually still manages to give me chills. There’s something about the blue skin and elongated head that honestly creeps me out. And the cannibalistic discs the creature uses to knock down his prey? Bad. Ass. Another scary element in this flick is a young David Caruso in short shorts, but that’s another discussion entirely.

    3. Almost Human – I’m talking about the 2013 film directed by Joe Begos and not the Fox television series. I can’t vouch for the latter but I can certainly recommend the former. Nowadays, a lot of horror movies get stamped with the “throwback” seal. More often than not, that term doesn’t apply but here it most certainly does. Set in the 80’s, this is an unabashed tribute to films like The Thing and Terminator and countless others. It wears its influences on its sleeve but it manages to come up with its own take on the genre. Also, the effects are all practical, which I dig very much. The disc comes with some excellent extras and I implore everyone to check it out.

    2. Event Horizon – I’m not even sure this one counts as an alien film. Sure, it takes places on a space ship that’s deep in space but there aren’t any aliens per se. But there are several creepy moments and great special effects and a plot that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. This movie is polarizing because of that latter point. Apparently, there exists a director’s cut on a single VHS tape somewhere that contains more blood and guts and a less contrived plot. But honestly, I have no issues with the version that was released. I saw it when I was a young lad and it stuck with me. I’ve always been creeped out by things that don’t make much sense (ie, most of The Tenant and the opening scene of Begotten) and there are plenty of these moments in Event Horizon, as in most of the second half of the film. Sensical or nonsensical, this one has a special place in my heart.

    1. The Blob – I’m talking the 1988 remake here. Directed by Chuck Russell and co-written by himself and Frank Darabont, this gorefest never fails to make me smile. Don’t get me wrong, I love the original but this version spoke to a younger Pat with its almost constant practical effects and ooey gooey death scenes that the original couldn’t compete with. I’m still kicking myself for not picking up the Twilight Time special edition Blu-ray of this one (which has skyrocketed in price) but such is life. I re-watched this last year and though a few scenes near the end don’t quite hold up in terms of the effects, this one will always have a space on my shelf.

    There you have it. Those are my five for better or worse. Thanks again to Glenn for asking some of his fellow authors to mention their favorites. Now to pre-order Boom Town and Mercy House.

  3. Nice list. I’d probably replace The Fourth Kind with The Andromeda Strain (the original), Signs with Aliens and Planet of the Apes needs to get in there somewhere. 😉

  4. My daughter and I used to see a movie every Saturday when she was in middle and high school, and we both love horror movies. We saw a LOT of horror movies. Movie watching with a geeky teenage girl in mind, my list would be a bit different.

    (7) 2001: A Space Odyssey
    (6, 5) Alien/Aliens (they should be considered a set)
    (4) Amityville Horror (the original)
    (3) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the original)
    (2) The Exorcist
    (1) The Ring

    By the way, Darkness Falls, a movie about an evil tooth fairy, really sucks. My daughter’s friends all thought it was terrifying, but we laughed all the way through it.

  5. I narrowed this list down to five films, which means there were some difficult cuts to be made. I took out Close Encounters of the Third Kind, because I wanted to include flicks that only feature aliens with malevolent intentions. Otherwise, that Spielberg classic would have topped the list. Honorable mentions to the first two Predator films, Invasion of the Body Snatchers ’78, The Blob ’88, Slither, and Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

    5. Night of the Creeps (1986) – This fun B-movie romp still fills me with childlike joy every time I watch it. Thrill me!

    4. They Live (1988) – I remember seeing They Live in theaters when I was a kid. Even then the subversive themes hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s an underrated Carpenter gem with a message that still resonates today. Plus you get a kick-ass, five minute brawl/wrestling match in an alley between Roddy Piper and Keith David. Put on the glasses!

    3. The Thing (1982) – Perhaps Carpenter’s finest film, although my vote for that title goes to Halloween. The Thing is a perfect blend of suspense, action, and thrills, with amazing practical effects that still hold up.

    2. Alien (1979) – In space, no one can hear you scream. And scream you will, because Alien is a straight up horror flick. The Xenomorph is a perfect killing machine, lurking within the dark bowels of the Nostromo, silently stalking its prey. The creature is almost always cloaked in shadows and the bleak score flawlessly complements the building tension. Sigourney Weaver is perfectly cast as the resourceful heroine Ripley. One of the best horror films ever made.

    1. War of the Worlds (2005) – WOTW is Spielberg’s best popcorn flick since Jurassic Park, but there is a post-9/11 darkness and paranoia here usually absent from your average big-budget blockbuster. I view this movie as the dark companion to Close Encounters, as if Spielberg had needed to wait for the appropriate time to unleash this monster. This movie kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time.

  6. Solid list, Glenn. When we had you on Monster Men, I told you to check out Communion. Real trippy. I took my daughter to see the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers in an old theater. So good. I like it better than the remakes, though the one with Sutherland is superb.

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