Horror set in space
February 6, 2011 1:13 PM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations of horror stories set in space - movies, TV shows/episodes, books, comics, games etc. Bonus points for 'ghost ship'/'haunted house' story constructions.

Primer for the type stories I am looking for: Event Horizon, Alien, Solaris, Jason X, Pandorum, Dead Space (ideally more like the games and comics and not the godawful films), a part of Sunshine etc. The horror can be internal (the existential horror of space) or external (monsters eating your face).

The re-occurring elements are claustrophobia, isolation and distance from help. Similar, non-space related movies I can think of are Cube and Carpenter's The Thing. The horror can be as internal or as external as possible.

Bonus point story construction:

I love the build-up of tense exploration of alien (often literally) places: the alien ship in Aliens, the abandoned colony in Aliens, the ship in Event Horizon, the house on House on Haunted Hill/The Haunting, the abandoned cruise liners in Ghost Ship and Triangle etc. The ultimate reveal does not need to contain aliens, ghosts or anything like that - the sense of atmosphere and place created during the build of the mystery is what I am looking for. This part can take place planetside, as long the majority of the horror takes place in space.

posted by slimepuppy to Media & Arts (43 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Duncan Jones' Moon. The alien aspect is more...internal.
posted by therewolf at 1:15 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Reavers in Firefly/Serenity fit, but the series isn't centered on it.
posted by maryr at 1:23 PM on February 6, 2011

Planet of the Vampires
posted by cazoo at 1:25 PM on February 6, 2011

Hinterlands by William Gibson is one of the creepiest (and best) short stories I've ever read.
posted by you're a kitty! at 1:27 PM on February 6, 2011

Dante 01
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:30 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might like Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space - very creepy and gothic, but more toward the Solaris end of the spectrum rather than the Aliens end. (Though the fact that you've listed two very different types of stories suggests to me that your range of tastes is definitely broad enough to include Revelation Space.)

Reynolds' short story book Galactic North (set in the same universe as RS) might also appeal to you, especially his story "Nightingale."
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 1:38 PM on February 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Blindsight, by Peter Watts, sustains an ominous haunted feel throughout and contains at least one moment that is authentically creepy as fuck. Online here if you don't feel like tracking down a print version. Please take an oportunity available to throw money the way of Peter Watts.

Tehre's a lot of creepy space action in the works of Alastair Reynolds.

I would highly recommend the book version of Solaris, over and above the movies. It's short and very good.

Elizabeth Bear has some great Lovecraftian space opera stories, one of which is in Lovecraft Unbound and the other is available online here (pdf) (yes it's in a pirate anthology)
posted by Artw at 1:40 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

You know, you might want to track down the Dark Horse Aliens comics - in particular Volume 1, which is largely written by Mark Verheiden, who later worked on Battlestar Galactica (I like to think he contributed the good bits and not the bad bits), volume 2 which contains a nice creepy story Hive by Jerry Prosser and Kelley Jones, amd Volume 3 which contains the awesome creepy space station story Labyrinth. They tend to be stories told with a fairly standard set of Aliens elements, but some of them manage to combine in very good ways.
posted by Artw at 1:48 PM on February 6, 2011

Ok I'll try my best .... Alien & Aliens, for your haunted house I'd go with the original Amityville Horror. There was a remake but it was pretty dire. On ps3/xbox - Dead space 2 which has just been released is brilliant.
posted by mark25 at 1:50 PM on February 6, 2011

Found an online copy of Hinterlands here.
posted by you're a kitty! at 1:57 PM on February 6, 2011

Leprechaun 4: In Space

"One small step for man... One giant leap of terror."
posted by brundlefly at 2:00 PM on February 6, 2011

If you're a b-movie fan at all, the bizarre Galaxy of Terror is a mustsee. It seems like it's just going to be an Alien ripoff, but it's...so much more.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:02 PM on February 6, 2011

I love this genre: creepy, subtle, atmospheric horror. Not all of these are set in space, but you'll probably like them:

The Devil's Backbone
The Thaw
Session 9
Pandorum (more sci-fi than horror)
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:05 PM on February 6, 2011

Hellraiser: Bloodline was a surprisingly good B (C?) movie with a horror/sci-fi ending.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:07 PM on February 6, 2011

Have you watched Hellraiser: Bloodline recently? (Directed by the legendary Alan Smithee!)
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:10 PM on February 6, 2011

posted by Faint of Butt at 2:11 PM on February 6, 2011

There's 138 books in LibraryThing tagged with "horror" and "space".

A quick look through reminded me of Ship of Fools.
posted by zamboni at 2:12 PM on February 6, 2011

Graeme Hague Ghost beyond earth
posted by b33j at 2:17 PM on February 6, 2011

only tangentially related: http://snapjudgment.org/moon-graffiti. Apollo 11 crashes, Neil didn't successfully steer the LEM out of the boulder field or something. Just finished airing on KUOW, like, 180 seconds ago. I found it gripping.
posted by mwhybark at 2:46 PM on February 6, 2011

Greg Bear's "Hull Zero Three". Spaceship/haunted house story. Just what you're looking for.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:46 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

A lot of Ray Bradbury's Martian stories are spooky and tense like that....I don't remember how many (if any) contain actual ghosty elements, but there is definitely tons of creepy abandoned stuff and mystery.

There's a more extensive list of his Martian works on wikipedia, but watch out for spoilers!
posted by sprezzy at 2:50 PM on February 6, 2011

George RR Martin's Nightflyers. The book not the movie, which I recall as being pretty bad.
posted by mwhybark at 2:52 PM on February 6, 2011

Light by M. John Harrison. Parts of it are horrifying and full of alienation. I thought it was amazing.
posted by bleary at 2:57 PM on February 6, 2011

Some episodes of Firefly - not sure which ones off the top of my head - would fit with what you're looking for.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:04 PM on February 6, 2011

Pitch Black, takes place on an uninhabited planet rather than in space per se, but evokes exactly the emotions you are looking for.
posted by bonehead at 3:22 PM on February 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

How are you on anime?

"Divergence Eve", plus "Divergence Eve: Misaki Chronicles", is SF horror. (Those are two halves of a single story.) It's also got a lot of fan service, what with all the women having huge boobs and running around in their underwear, or skin tight pressure suits, or nothing at all, but if you can overlook that (or if you like it) there's a really amazingly good story there. Some parts of it will terrify you.

A few hundred years from now, humanity will discover that there is an opening into a wormhole in the middle of Titan. The wormhole allows access to a young universe which is in its inflation mode, and there are other wormholes elsewhere which can be reached in hours or days. Only one of those others has been explored successfully, and a colony has been built around it with a population of about 10 million. A large part of the job of those in that colony is to fight a war, because something from that other universe is also trying to come through that particular wormhole. They are codenamed "Ghoul", but they look like demons. The Colony is known as "Watcher's Nest".

The story is about 4 girls from earth, pilot cadets, who are sent to Watcher's Nest to join the military there to fight the Ghoul.

The problem is that it's largely a war of attrition, and the humans there are losing it -- and that's where the claustrophobia and feeling of isolation you were talking about comes in.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:23 PM on February 6, 2011

Dan Simmons', The Terror embodies this as well. Set in the Arctic ice, the trapped mariners of Franklin's expedition find something in the ice...
posted by bonehead at 3:31 PM on February 6, 2011

Chris Ware's graphic novel Acme Novelty Library 19 contains a short story called "The Seeing Eye Dogs of Mars" about an isolated colony on Mars (and how it goes wrong. Creepy!).
posted by to recite so charmingly at 3:34 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Old, but creepy: I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
posted by Mchelly at 3:46 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Tenth Doctor story Midnight ticks a lot of your boxes.
posted by permafrost at 3:46 PM on February 6, 2011

If you're into old time radio, you might want to give some episodes of X-Minus One a try. From X-Minus One, I higly recommend No Contact. I can listen to this one over and over and it always gives me chills! Courtesy, First Contact, and Junkyard are all ones that stand out as being particularly spooky. Even some of the ones that seem more tame, like Zero Hour or Mars Is Heaven often have a real element of fear to them. I think this is partly becaue the voice acting is so great and the simple act of you filling in the visuals does a lot to enrich them. Great question btw! We love these kinds of stories too and will be looking some of the suggestions up.
posted by Calzephyr at 4:08 PM on February 6, 2011

The movie 'silent runnings' from early/mid seventies? I don't think it's been remade. Saw this maybe too young. Was creeped out by looking at stars for a long time after. An almost ghost ship.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 5:02 PM on February 6, 2011

The PC Video Game System Shock 2 fits the bill very well. It was released in 1999, so the graphics are a it dated, but the music and atmosphere more than makes up for it. No need to play the original either.
posted by Fiat124 at 5:04 PM on February 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Silent Running" was far more "tree huggers in space" than anything horror-related. The palpable sense of isolation (Bruce Dern's character is the only human on-screen for most of the film) evokes hopelessness rather than horror. It was a good movie (directed by Doug Trumbull, who did s/f for "2001: A Space Odyssey, with music by Peter Schickle, who brought the world P.D.Q. Bach), and made impressionable high school sophomores like me fall in love with cute robots years before "Star Wars."
posted by lhauser at 6:21 PM on February 6, 2011

Nthing Blindsight. I finished reading it a month ago and it's still haunting me.
posted by dragonplayer at 6:42 PM on February 6, 2011

Still traumatized by the infamous Dragon's Domain episode of the otherwise semi-cheesy Space: 1999. Derelict spacecraft? Check. Horrifying space monster? Oh, double-check. (Although I watched part of it on YouTube a couple of years ago and I have to admit that creature was more terrifying when I was 12 years old.)
posted by Midnight Creeper at 6:53 PM on February 6, 2011

Dark City maybe? Screamers (1995) and Ghosts of Mars are set on planets, but otherwise sort of fit your criteria. Alien Cargo. Trapped in Space. Supernova (2000). Some episodes of Farscape.
posted by gudrun at 9:53 PM on February 6, 2011

posted by ninebelow at 3:26 AM on February 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd third Alistair Reynolds, there is a real gothic sensibility to the spaceships in his Relevation Space series, particularly the eponymous first volume. More specifically, his novella Diamond Dogs features a small group exploring a giant, enigmatic alien death trap. This is inspired by Algis Budrys's classic novel Rogue Moon.
posted by ninebelow at 3:34 AM on February 7, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions so far! If anyone can remember specific episodes of shows like Farscape/other TV shows I haven't listed below, I would appreciate it.

The ones I have seen/read already:
  • Moon
  • Firefly/Serenity
  • Everything William Gibson
  • The Aliens comics - arguably the best things to happen to that franchise post-Aliens
  • Dead Space cross-media everything
  • Sunshine
  • Devil's Backbone/Amityville Horror good haunted house movies, but needs more vacuum of space
  • Pandorum
  • Sphere
  • Pitch Black
  • I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
  • - both short story and game
  • System Shock and its sequel (the latter is actually my favourite game of all time and I'm embarrassed I forgot to mention it)
  • Dark City
  • Silent Running
  • Ghosts of Mars (ew, ew, ew)
  • Supernova
A few other tonally similar examples I remembered:
  • Mass Effect - parts of the games especially the Collectors, not the books so much
  • Outland - for the overall sense of place and tension and even though it takes place planetside
  • Cowboy Bebop - the 'Alien' episode and some of the 'adrift without food/fuel' storylines
I have enough reading and viewing material to freak me out for months to come! Thanks!
posted by slimepuppy at 5:26 AM on February 7, 2011

JG Ballard didn't exactly write horror stories, but he wrote quite a few space sci fi stories that were existentially disturbing. You might enjoy some of his stuff.

There's also a film called Eden Log that I recommend with caveats. The film takes a big turn part of the way through, and what follows was extremely frustrating to me and a big let-down. The first half of the film, though, is maybe the best sci-fi horror I've ever seen. The production design and cinematography are incredible. Your description of what you're looking for matches it perfectly.
posted by heatvision at 8:27 AM on February 7, 2011

With Farscape, the very first episode actually fits some of your criteria (plus you need it to set up the show anyway). The episode "Crackers Don't Matter" would be the one that comes to mind.
posted by gudrun at 4:32 PM on February 7, 2011

The Second Kind of Loneliness by George R. R. Martin definitely fits the bill. In fact, he's done a number of horror/scifi hybrid short stories.
posted by Logic Sheep at 8:18 PM on February 10, 2011

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