5. Demon Seed (1977)
Donald Cammell is most notorious for co-writing and co-directing “Performance” (1970) with Nicolas Roeg. While the movie is considered to be among the best of its time (and sometimes of all time) in British cinema, his following works went largely unnoticed. As for “Demon Seed,” it appears on favorite film lists of contemporary directors like Edgar Wright, but who knows for what reason; it’s still a largely unknown but very cool genre flick from the late ‘70s .
Based on a novel of the same title by Dean Koontz, “Demon Seed” is about “Proteus,” a super computer, designed by scientist Alex Harris, in order to help him with his research. Yet, Proteus is so smart he soon develops its own will. He especially gets obsessed with Alex’s wife (Julie Christie).
Proteus is effectively voiced by actor Robert Vaughn, who uses it so expertly, as he can be cold and threatening at times; yet when it’s with Susan, the voice changes in a different direction. Speaking of Susan, the movie’s true star is Julie Christie, who gives yet another standout performance. Stylish, involving, and more intelligent than you expected it to be, “Demon Seed” has a lot of elements that would make sci-fi horror fans feel satisfied.
4. The Arrival (1996)
The astronomer Zane Zaminsky and his colleague Calvin receive a signal from space that they can quickly identify as extraterrestrial and they record it. When Zaminsky reports his discovery to his supervisor Phil Gordian, he gets fired. The writer of “The Fugitive” David Thewlis’ filmography is full of underrated sci-fi gems. No, they’re no masterpieces, but they’re a lot of fun. So is this one.
It’s nowhere close to Denis Villeneuve’s beautiful sci-fi of the same name, but “The Arrival,” despite the B-movie low budget effects that ruin the film a bit, is an intriguing, suspenseful, and kind of science fiction with suspense, horror, and thriller elements.
This is a movie that is rich in ideas and has a very compelling narrative where no minute is wasted. Even potentially silly elements are handled really well. Featuring Charlie Sheen in one of his last effective dramatic lead roles before he turned into a punchline, “The Arrival” is a hidden gem and a very involving film, especially if you’re a fan of the genre.
3. Quatermass and the Pit (1967)
A spaceship is found in the London Underground. The pilot is dead. Apparently, it is a Martian, whose species has initiated millions of years ago, around the development of man, in order to later be able to maintain a slave race. Professor Quatermass is certain that there is still danger from this ship today – and he’s right! The British television science-fiction series of the same name was transmitted live by BBC Television in December 1958 and January 1959.
It was the third and last of the BBC’s ”Quatermass” serials. Also featured in the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes list compiled by the British Film Institute in 2000, “Quatermass and the Pit“ is not only a surprisingly exciting story, but the film is a technical standout . Powerful colors, beautiful sharpness, and a lot of Lovecraft influence is all over here. As for its story, it’s an unusual film that takes very unpredictable turns.
While not a very popular film these days, especially outside of its country (by the way, London is a terrific setting for the story), the movie had a notable influence on genre filmmaking, ranging from Joe Dante to John Carpenter – it sure had left its mark. Even if it’s a film made decades ago, it still feels fresh. Anthony Hinds wanted to do a fourth film, but efforts that went in that direction were unsuccessful.
2. The Fury (1978)
Stylish, entertaining, suspenseful, and compelling, “The Fury” has many elements that made Brian De Palma the iconic filmmaker he is. Yet the film being not on the level of his much superior thrillers at the time like “Blow Out,” “Carrie” and “Sisters” was probably the reason why “The Fury” got overlooked by many and is not discussed more.
Based on a novel by John Farris, the film starts with Peter’s (Kirk Douglas) son Robin (who has a rare gift) being kidnapped by a double-crossing Psychic Department head (John Cassavetes). Months later in Chicago, high school student Gillian Bellaver discovers her psychic powers, including telekinesis and extra-sensory perception, and then the story goes on.
It’s even rare case where De Palma had to put in an action scene – a car chase scene, which he didn’t want to do at the first place because according to him, Friedkin did it the best in “The French Connection,” but he still pulled it off. With an impressive score by John Williams and excellent sequences that allow De Palma to show some of his trademark talents, including the expert slow-motion use as in the amusement park sequence, “The Fury” is a forgotten, underrated, and pure De Palma gem to enjoy.
1. The Hidden (1987)
Hidden gem, indeed. Nowadays a cult film, “The Hidden” didn’t get the love it deserves back when it was released. “The Hidden” is a combination of scary science fiction and L.A. car chase action movie, with plenty of violence and some humour. First of all, the film has a clever idea.
Even though the aliens coming to cause problems in the world is an old story, this time they got some original ideas to build up the premise. And even though it’s a film with a lot of things happening, the film doesn’t necessarily go over-the-top in its tone, and instead prefers a subtle approach that works surprisingly well.
There are some interesting subtle things hidden in the film as well; for example, the body count is pretty high here, and the movie actually visually shows the body count. For example, five killings happen in the first killing scene, and then the camera shows it took place on Fifth Street. And this is kind of awesome.
The only disappointing part is probably the ending, which really could have been better, but since the rest of the film is so much fun, it’s easy to forget its flaws. It’s also hard to compare it to anything because several elements may remind you of different films, but on a whole, “The Hidden” is a unique and distinctive film, and also one of the most original sci-fis that came out from the late ‘80s.
Honorable Mentions: Brainscan (1994) – a little hidden gem with black humour by the man who later wrote “Se7en”. Body Snatchers (1993) – original and 1978 treatment of the story gets a lot of acclaim but Abel Ferrara’s unique treatment often gets overlooked. Deep Rising (1998) – cheesy but entertaining monster flick.