Annihilation was released in 2018 to middling reviews and modest box office receipts for its 40 million dollar budget.
Though not a classic sci-fi flick by any stretch, the movie did join a rather elite club of movies that succeeding in depicting an alien threat as exactly that, ‘alien’.
Not many movies with aliens go to much effort to ensure that the aliens are more than scary behemoths who happen to be technologically superior to us.
It’s a tiring way to treat aliens and end up as CGI monstrosities with plasma weaponry.
A quick list of creepy, alien-ish films like Annihilation
What was the movie Annihilation about?
Annihilation starred Natalie Portman as the biologist Lena, who is tasked with a secret operation to investigate the ‘Shimmer’.
The Shimmer is a zone that surrounded the site of a meteor impact 3 years before the events of the movie. Needless to say, this mysterious zone does not function the way it used to pre-impact.
A special forces unit, including Lena’s soldier boyfriend Kane, was sent in first to help understand what and why was causing this zone of anomalies.
Unsurprisingly the first team does not fare well and no one returns from the zone, but Lena’s boyfriend appears a year later at their home.
This aberrant event leads to Lena and a team of fellow scientists to take up exploration of the Shimmer.
Though the movie is ridden with cliched storytelling elements, the visuals and the concept of the Shimmer are quite spectacular and makes the movie worth watching.
It’s got a reasonably good mix of psychological and sci-fi elements. And of course, as previously mentioned, it unsettled the viewers with a threat they were unable to wrap their heads around.
Though disappointing overall, the movie Annihilation can be a bridge to superior movies that revel in the act of subjecting the viewers to an alien phenomenon.
Movies like Annihilation to creep and enthrall you
No list of truly alien threats will be complete or valid without the presence of John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Taking place in the sunny climes of the Antarctic, an American expedition finds out that an alien parasite has the nasty habit of killing and taking on the exact physical appearance of its victim.
In the howling, blizzard-like conditions of the Antarctic, this poses a mild threat to the scientific herd of potential human hosts.
Combined with the truly terrifying prop-work from John Carpenter, this concept and location take the viewers to a whole new level of paranoia and claustrophobia.
An organism that can perfectly ape the organs of the creature it assimilates, with the sandbox of a small scientific settlement in the isolation of Antarctica to wreak havoc in, and all in its own time, makes for the perfect expression of the alien-terror genre.
The movie also spawned a cult-classic of a movie poster, as it terrified the relatively desensitized movie-going audience of the 80s.
There was also a 2011 remake of this classic, that did next to nothing to add to the original’s experience, so don’t bother with that crap.
So confession time, I have not watched an Andrei Tarkovsky movie that I would say I understand. But in the context of this list, that makes the 1979 movie The Stalker the perfect addition.
In fact, Annihilation is very heavily influenced by the Russian genius’s (I’m told) movie about a ‘Zone’ in a post-apocalyptic future that contains a ‘Room’ which grants the ‘wishes’ of anyone able to make it as far.
Any adventure wouldn’t be much fun without sufficient obstacles, and the Zone offers it by means of physical and grueling psychological challenges for anyone ambitious enough to step into it.
The titular Stalkers are a group of people that are proficient at navigating the other-worldly phenomena that fill the Zone.
Like any Tarkovsky movie, the plot is nothing more than a setting in which to examine the human psyche.
Anyone patient enough to sit through its 160-minute (Tarkovsky doesn’t do CGI monsters and witty one-liners to combat ADHD) will experience one of cinema’s finest takes on the human condition.
Scarlett Johansson is a massive superstar and stars in many box-office hits. But every now and then she pops up in little gems of cinema like the recent Marriage Story or Jojo Rabbit or Her or Lost in Translation.
One of her lesser-known gems is the alien movie Under the Skin.
The movie is a weird loop of an alien creature who takes on the form of a beautiful woman who seduces unsuspecting Scottish men to her alternate dimension/lair, where they get sucked into a pond of black goo.
I guess this is somehow useful to the woman and her 4 biker companions (horsemen?).
The plot progresses when the alien seductress takes on human emotions and sentiments the longer she spends on the road.
It’s a slow, weird, gorgeous movie that somehow makes sense but not in a way that can be distilled into a 20-word summary.
The 1997 movie starring Jodie Foster took a swing at how the first contact between the human race and a peaceful alien entity might go.
The movie was based on a book written by Carl Sagan, the man behind the original run of the Cosmos series. So presumably, many of the concepts are more feasible than your Independence Days and Battlefield LAs.
Jodie Foster stars as a scientist who has spent much of her life obsessed with the idea of making contact with an alien species, an idea she inherited from her late father.
The movie features the excitement and the anxiety that would follow the possibility of making contact with an alien species.
The possibility becomes a practical project and then an actual expedition that is executed with mind-bending visuals (not-quite 2001, but pretty great in its own right).
It also features the most beautiful way an alien species could/would choose to communicate with us.
While Contact focused more on the scientific feasibility of traveling far enough to communicate with an alien race, Arrival focuses on the logistics of actual communication issues once the aliens take the trouble to travel all the way to Earth.
The movie stars Amy Adams as a linguist who is tasked with forming a system of communication with our tentacled visitors.
The movie combines basic sci-fi, cooperation between the world nations, world peace (lol), and the role the alien language plays in all this.
Like any good sci-fi movie, its triumph is in bringing through human emotions in a situation, even if the situation is sitting down to learn the language used by interstellar flight-enabled seven-armed tentacle people.
What do you get when a master filmmaker combines the human need to understand where we came from and where we’re headed with spell-binding visuals, and unforgettable music?
The answer is the 1968 epic, 2001 – A Space Odyssey.
Stanley Kubrick gave cinema fans of all future generations a feast for the senses with a movie that started with a potential explanation of how our ape-ancestors may have evolved to become top of the food chain on planet earth, and how the same phenomenon may lead to the next leap in our evolution.
The movie starts with our ape ancestors being driven away from a water-hole by their physically superior ape cousins.
Then our merry band of ape-men comes across a large black monolith that seems to inspire one of the ape-men to pick up the bone and become the first use of a tool in human history.
Our ape-fathers and mothers then proceed to use the bone-wrenches to beat the crap out of the rival ape-gang and presumably proceed to evolve into us.
Fast-forward to a distant future where humans space-travel casually and they encounter the monolith for a second time.
The movie will not win awards for pacing but has some of the most epic visuals ever put to film.
Watching the interiors of the spaceships human travel in during the future is a treat by itself. The polish in the set design beggars belief.
Then there are all-time great scenes peppered throughout the plodding 160 minutes of cinematic greatness.
Also, there’s HAL, the onboard-AI of a spacecraft with the creepiest personality imaginable. HAL would be the standard for all future AI-characters in film and is yet to be overtaken in awesomeness.
As a side note, Carl Sagan was consulted during the making of this movie too.
I hope to add more entries to this list whenever I recognize or remember another movie that challenges our mind with something that can be considered truly alien and not another CGI armored tank-like gorilla-reptile with laser guns and grey spaceships.