The Most Underrated Sci-Fi Horror Movies Of The 2010s

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Vote up the sci-fi horror movies that slipped too far under the radar.

Horror movies tend to tell us something about ourselves. About what we're afraid of - or what we're afraid of being afraid of. Science fiction tells us something about ourselves, too. About how we imagine our future, and about what we think about the way we live now. When the two mix together, they often produce some of the headiest concoctions of their respective decades, with the best sci-fi horror movies of the 1980s, the 1990s, and the 2000s all showing us a snapshot of a moment in our recent history, and the fears that recent history held about the future.

The 2010s are, obviously, more recent still. But perhaps that's all the more reason to look back at some of the forgotten gems of that decade, to see what we were afraid of and how that fear affected our ideas of a not-so-distant future (and, at times, a not-too-distant past) that we'll be living in before we know it.

  • 1
    14 VOTES

    Two years before his 2020 hit, The Invisible Man, Leigh Whannell - co-creator of Saw and Insidious, to name a few - had already dabbled in sci-fi horror with his "one part The Six Million Dollar Man, one part Death Wish revenge fantasy" film, Upgrade. While that's certainly one logline for this bonkers combo of sci-fi, action, and horror, our take is that it's actually probably a better Venom movie than the Venom movie, as Logan Marshall-Green plays a mechanic who, after an attack that leaves him as a quadriplegic, is "upgraded" with an experimental new computer chip that not only allows him to walk again but that can speak inside his mind and even take over the use of his body.

    The often bravura set-pieces that showcase our lead using this new chip - and vice versa - prefigured some of the more impressive stuff that Whannell would do a few years later in Invisible Man and make the film a blast to sit through.

    14 votes

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  • 2
    6 VOTES
    High Life
    Photo: A24

    The first English-language film by acclaimed French director Claire Denis, High Life is told in a chronologically disjointed fashion and follows a group of condemned prisoners who are sent on a mission to explore novel ways to extract energy from the environs of a black hole. The film utilized actual astrophysicists as advisors, but it's really in the decaying relationships of the characters that the horror comes to the fore.

    Juliette Binoche plays a sadistic scientist who uses the other prisoners like guinea pigs while Robert Pattinson and Mia Goth, among others, fill out the rest of the cast. As the prisoners' interactions begin to grow worse and worse, the body count begins to climb, though this is more a feel-bad movie than a gory slasher. While it was released by indie darling studio A24, it seems that High Life didn't garner quite as much acclaim as some of that shingle's bigger hits, and so not as many people have seen this unusual science fiction shocker.

    6 votes
  • 3
    24 VOTES

    Adapted from a novel by Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation can perhaps most easily be summed up as a modern riff on H. P. Lovecraft's classic short story "The Colour Out of Space." After a meteor crashes to Earth somewhere along the coast of the southern United States, the entire area around the impact site becomes known as "the Shimmer," affected by some sort of distortion effect caused, presumably, by the meteor, which seems to be literally capable of rewriting DNA.

    After a Green Beret team disappears inside and only one returns - prompting more questions than answers - a new team is put together to explore the effects of the meteor, encountering strange mutations and perhaps even some questions about their own identities - and even the very nature of the self. Alex Garland directed the 2018 film, which veers between stark, visceral horror and heady questions of science and philosophy with surprising ease.

    24 votes

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  • 4
    18 VOTES

    The early part of the 2010s saw a spate of flicks about disastrous space missions, and one that flew under the radar for many was this found-footage horror film that posited a secret 18th Apollo mission that landed on the moon and found some not-so-friendly lifeforms there. Set in 1974, the film takes the form of fictitious footage recovered from the (equally fictitious) moon mission, which encounters spider-like alien creatures that camouflage themselves perfectly as inert rocks.

    While it didn't exactly receive rave reviews at the time, a found footage space movie is still enough of a novelty, even today, that such a weird premise probably deserves at least a second look or two - and that ending stinger is worth waiting for.

    18 votes

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  • Adapted from M. R. Carey's acclaimed novel of the same name, The Girl With All the Gifts may have appeared as little more than yet another in a vast sea of similar zombie movies. It takes a very different look, however, at not only the nature of zombies but the central conflicts that these kinds of pictures explore. Melanie (Sennia Nanua, in her feature film debut) is a second-generation "hungry," fast zombie created by a fungal infection. Unlike the other hungries, who seem largely mindless, Melanie and the other second-generation children can speak, think, and reason, though they still crave human flesh.

    Educated as part of an army experiment, Melanie escapes when the lab that has been her home is overrun, along with a handful of soldiers and her teacher. While The Girl with All the Gifts was almost universally praised, it remained under the radar for many, washed away beneath a sea of other zombie pictures that have come out in the last few decades.

    18 votes
  • Is it kind of a spoiler to call 10 Cloverfield Lane a sci-fi horror movie? Sure, but also this flick, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman, has been out for half a decade now, so if the fact that it's about aliens comes out of left field for you, well, you probably only have yourself to blame. Of course, you couldn't prove it by the film itself, at least not for most of its runtime.

    Winstead plays a woman who survives a car crash and awakens to find herself held prisoner in an underground bunker. Her captor, played by Goodman, claims that she's there for her own good, as the surface has been decimated by some unknown attack, though his more sinister motives eventually come to the fore. Of course, when Winstead's character finally reaches the surface, she finds that the "attack" part, at least, wasn't a put-on - in the film's particularly wild final act.

    25 votes

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