6. The History of Future Folk (2012)
There may be no more fun sci-fi movie for music lovers–and musicians especially–to watch than The History of Future Folk. A humanoid alien lands on Earth to assess its ability for a hostile takeover by his people, only to fall in love with music, which doesn’t exist on his home planet. He abandons his mission to become a musician, starting a family along the way.
When another of his kind arrives to exterminate and replace him on the mission, he turns his enemy onto the power of music and his new ally also falls under its spell and joins him to play their own brand of extraterrestrial folk music. When their overlords find out that they’ve turned to the human’s side, they send a horde after them to take over the planet while these music-loving aliens figure out how to save their own planet from a comet, while also finding burgeoning success as musicians.
This is a rip-roaring good time from start to finish: on a low budget, the enthusiasm that the actors, writers, scorers, and directors of the film (listed as Future Folk, the duo that began the concept of the alien musical duo) imbue it with with is infectious. It’s witty, silly, and off-kilter the whole way through. Never mind the low budget: this movie’s about the power of music and how it nurtures the soul–even if that soul is from another planet. Hondo!
7. Frequencies (2013)
In an alternate reality, society is governed by frequencies: that is, it was discovered that individual humans emit powerful frequencies that determine their luck (or lack thereof) in life. While people with high frequencies are destined to lead good lives with great material success, they also have fewer feelings, while the low frequency people endure lives of constant disarray that leads them to predestined failure.
When a low-frequency young man falls in love with a high frequency woman, he becomes determined to find a way to raise his frequency so they can be together. He also discovers that by using certain sounds and words, he can control people around him.
This sci-fi flick approaches a high concept and leans into it completely. The plot and characters carry the conceit throughout to create an otherworldly reality that’s convincing, and it has a great conclusion involving music as a way to bring frequencies into balance. Although the world of Frequencies works in mysterious ways, the film finds a great balance between sci-fi and philosophy.
8. The Zero Theorem (2013)
Terry Gilliam is one of the best weird directors in cinema history: from the dystopian masterpiece Brazil to the dark time travel tale of 12 Monkeys, Gilliam has a signature approach to the sci-fi genre which involves giant conspiracies, Orwellian bureaucracies, and an isolated man trying to escape both.The Zero Theorem continues along these lines, as an unbalanced computer programmer named Qohen (Christoph Waltz) is tasked with solving the Zero Theorem, by the giant company for which he works.
As he progresses on the theorem, and between escapes into virtual reality, dreams of black holes, and the ever-encroaching surveillance from his company, his grip on sanity and reality begins to loosen,
Anyone familiar with Gilliam’s bizarre visual style will find this film a refreshing return to form to the labyrinth-like structure of Brazil, while cyberpunk enthusiasts will find the design of The Zero Theorem’s world an interesting take on a possible future. Waltz gives a stellar performance as the unstable Qohen, a role that required him to shave his head and eyebrows off.
A loopy and visually dynamic film, The Zero Theorem will please Gilliam fans who have been waiting for another feature film from this director, whose directorial output has slowed to a crawl in the past decade.
9. Beyond (2014)
When a relationship is in trouble, the last thing anyone needs is yet another stressor, particularly in the form of an apocalyptic asteroid that’s going to wipe out all life on Earth. In Beyond, two people meet at a party and start a relationship, in which both attempting to find meaning in the face of the impending disaster that’s headed towards their planet.
When the woman gets pregnant, their relationship is strained; meanwhile, through a series of flash-forwards, we see the couple struggling to survive and hide from aliens who have come to the planet after the asteroid kills most life on the planet.
As much a romantic drama as a sci-fi film, Beyond is an intriguing Scottish independent film. Although bleak at times, this film works best as a portrait of a relationship under extreme pressure and as a character study of the two leads.
The film’s narrative structure–which oscillates between the present and the future–keeps the tension high and the viewer guessing what will happen next. For a low-budget sci-fi film that keeps the focus on its characters rather than the fantasy, Beyond will appeal to viewers who look for the humanity in their sci-fi films.
10. Time Lapse (2014)
The girlfriend of a painter checks in on her neighbor, who hasn’t paid rent in months, where she finds a mysterious machine aimed at their apartment window that takes pictures of events that will transpire 24 hours in the future.Finding the neighbor’s charred corpse in his storage locker, the girlfriend, her boyfriend, and realizing the potential of the machine, they cover up the neighbor’s death and start using the machine for their own gain. They also gather from notes left by the deceased neighbor that they must make sure the events take place as revealed in the pictures or they may cause a paradox.
What follows is an increasingly complex movie whose plot becomes determined by causal loops created by the photos. It’s a time travel movie without any of the characters travelling through time themselves, and it’s an impressive small film that takes place mostly in one location and between three characters.
With a clever script and solid premise, Time Lapse is reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode–although in keeping with contemporary times, is much darker and more violent than anything Rod Serling ever penned.
Author Bio: Mike Gray is a writer and academic from the Jersey Shore. His work has been featured on Cracked and Funny or Die, and he maintains a humor recap TV and film blog at mikegraymikegray.wordpress.com.