Joe Schreiber’s novel Star Wars: Red Harvest infused horror elements with the Jedi versus Sith struggle at the center of the Star Wars universe. The result was a gothic sci-fi actioner compelling enough to maybe make you wonder why no one had thought of doing it before. With the paperback on store shelves this week, I thought I’d look back at a few other horror/sci-fi hybrids – successful and otherwise.
Here are four examples of vampires in science fiction from television and movies.
A favorite of my adolescence (ahem), Lifeforce’s vampires are actually body-hopping space aliens that survive by draining the life essence from the living beings around them. This is accomplished via a hypnotic stare that holds their prey in place. The victim’s life energy then transfers to the alien by way of weird blue lightning bolts that arc between them. While the actual appearance of the aliens is quite horrific, the vampire queen wears the form of actress Mathilda May, who does most of the movie fully nude. Hey, I did say I liked this as a teenager, didn’t I? (Note: I couldn’t embed the trailer. It, too, was chock full of nudity. Still, this scene gives you an idea of the film’s creepiness.)
Planet of the Vampires (1965)
While on an expedition into deep space, the starships Argos and Galliot receive a distress message from Aura, an unexplored planet. As the ships descend into the atmosphere, their crews become possessed by homicidal rage. The Galliot, overwhelmed, crashes, but the captain of the Argos manages to retain control of his crew. After landing on the fog-shrouded planet, the men and women learn that the disembodied aliens who inhabit Aura have possessed the bodies of the Galliot’s dead. Paranoia sets in as the aliens to infiltrate the crew’s ranks; part of a plot to escape their dying world. Despite its current status as a bargain bin staple, this low-budget Italian horror film is thought to have influenced Alien (1979) and Pitch Black (2000).
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
Aliens use their spooktastic space rays to resurrect the dead, most notably among them the statuesque TV horror show host Vampira. There’s little to say about this movie that hasn’t been said before: it’s just terrible. Ironically, its poor quality has been enough to grant it an immortality rarely achieved by low-budget horror films. The movie has inspired generations of musicians, artists and entertainers, most of whom have gone on to produce work that far exceeds the quality of the original film. For a reasonably accurate – and genuinely entertaining – look behind the scenes of the movie, watch Tim Burton’s biopic Ed Wood.
Star Trek, “The Man Trap” (Season 1, Episode 5, 1966)
A routine supply-drop to planet M-113 becomes horrific as Kirk and company find themselves facing a shape-shifting, vampiric alien who draws the salt from its victims by way of its sucker-lined fingers. The creature manages to board the Enterprise, and a cat and mouse game ensues as Kirk, Spock and McCoy try to guess who among their crew is really the alien. Star Trek had its share of aliens (some more effectively portrayed than others) but the “Salt Vampire” is the stuff of nightmares: an unforgettable cross between a yeti and a mottled leech.