Let’s Talk About COSMIC HORROR
I’m having some fun today and diving into deep-space spooky territory. I’m going to talk a little bit about cosmic horror.
What Is Cosmic Horror?
Cosmic horror is a sub-genre of horror. This genre was made popular by H.P. Lovecraft and THE CALL OF CTHULU, which many consider a cornerstone of cosmic horror. This genre’s most common underlying theme is that we humans are insignificant in the Universe. From there, all manner of disturbing things can be told.
However, Lovecraftian horror is not the only style of cosmic horror. So I’m going to talk about cosmic horror in film, some of which might be obvious and some more subtle.
I can’t talk about cosmic horror and not mention ALIEN, Ridley Scott’s 1979 monster-in-the-void movie that spawned multiple sequels and crossovers, video games, books, and all manner of other tie-ins. Before all that commercialization, however, ALIEN took the haunted house trope of horror and jettisoned it into deep space.
If you’ve seen it, you know the story: blue-collar workers out in deep space pick up a distress call and follow Company orders to investigate the source on a wild, windswept planet. They find an immense skeleton of something that possesses an explosive trauma wound from the chest. One crew member (Kane) slips into a chamber, discovering countless eggs, and one opens up, hurtling a “facehugger” onto his helmet, which burns through and deposits an egg in his esophagus without his realizing it. Ripley, another crew member, attempts to dissuade entry for Kane and is rebuffed. The creature gestates and eventually bursts forth as a new form, which escapes onto the huge freighter ship and begins picking off each crew member after growing rapidly in size.
What makes it cosmic horror? Well, it’s out in the cosmos, and it’s horror. So this is a neat and tidy example that we not only are NOT alone, but we might become prey out there. There’s a reason this film spawned so many imitations: it’s pure distillate cosmic horror mixed with science fiction, the creature effects (designed inimitably by H. R. Giger) were top-notch, and the acting was phenomenal.