There are numerous classic storylines associated with sci-fi/horror. Space travel gone horrifically wrong. Monstrous creatures created by the abuse of science. Nightmarish post-apocalyptic landscapes. All of these plot descriptions likely bring to mind iconic sci-fi horror films from the recent past. But the titles below probably aren't the ones that first come to mind when thinking of this hybrid genre. These underrated releases from the 2000s trade in many of the same narrative ideas, but received far less attention upon release. They may have had low box office numbers, negative reviews from critics, or poor word of mouth from audiences.
Whatever the reason, none were as successful as they could have been in their initial release. At best they may have received cult status, while many are still considered outright failures. For one reason or another, each merit reevaluation. Which of these 21st-century films do you believe are worthy of a second chance? Vote up the films you think deserve more love.
- 1389 VOTESPhoto: USA Films
Sci-fi Premise: When a commercial spaceship transporting a dangerous convict named Richard B. Riddick (Vin Diesel) is forced to crash land on an alien planet, the survivors find it is home to predatory creatures that hunt in the dark. Despite the planet’s three suns keeping it in perpetual light, they discover a month-long eclipse will soon bring the alien species out to hunt.
Horror Payoff: The reptilian-looking alien creatures initially have the upper hand on the humans unlucky enough to land on their home planet, able to pick them off with ease in the dark. Regardless of the initial suspicion of Riddick, the survivors must rely on his surgically enhanced eyes to see in the dark and protect them from the threat.
Why It’s Underrated: Pitch Black was actually a sleeper hit, making more than twice its budget and leading to several spin-off sequels centered on the Riddick character. But many critics at the time had a negative response, complaining about its use of “the same tired generic conventions." It may be time for reevaluation.Underrated?
- 2357 VOTESPhoto: New Line Cinema
Sci-fi Premise: The Cell centers on an experimental technology created by scientists for psychologist Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) to enter the mind of coma victims, with the intention of coaxing them back to consciousness.
Horror Payoff: When serial killer Carl Rudolph Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio) is discovered in a comatose state before authorities can question him to find the location of his latest target, the FBI persuades Deane to use her revolutionary methods to enter his mind. Deane discovers a nightmarish landscape in the mind of the psychopath, losing touch with who she is and how to get back to reality.Underrated?
- 3231 VOTESPhoto: Lionsgate Films
Sci-fi Premise: In the year 2019, a decade after a plague caused by an infected bat transformed a majority of the world’s population into vampires, there is a dwindling number of humans remaining. With vampires reliant upon human blood as their food source, Dr. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) works for a pharmaceutical company attempting to develop an artificial blood supply when he stumbles on a possible cure for vampirism.
Horror Payoff: In traditional vampire narratives, the blood-sucking creature must remain hidden in the shadows to survive. Daybreakers revises this formula by making the vampires the majority of the population, which simultaneously makes them less monstrous. The horror in the film comes from the vampires deprived of a blood supply, which transforms them into feral and mutated versions of the monsters.
Why It’s Underrated: Daybreakers more than doubled its budget in ticket sales and had an adequate critical response, but failed to connect with audiences. The film received an average "C" rating from audiences polled by CinemaScore. The middling reception may have been hurt by an oversaturation of vampires in popular culture following the success of the Twilight book series and subsequent big-screen franchise.Underrated?
- 4157 VOTESPhoto: Lions Gate Films
Sci-fi Premise: When Earth’s natural resources are depleted in 2174, an ark-like spaceship is sent into deep space in search of a distant new home planet. Because the journey will take over 100 years, passengers are put into hyper-sleep, and the crew awakens in shifts to keep the craft on course. Engineer Corporal Bower (Ben Foster) and Lieutenant Payton (Dennis Quaid) wake to find much of the crew missing - and the ship in chaos.
Horror Payoff: The film’s title is a fictional slang term for a type of psychosis resulting from deep space travel, which many of the passengers are suffering from after having their hyper-sleep interrupted. The psychosis paired with an enzyme accelerating the evolution of mankind turns the passengers into cannibalistic mutants sensitive to sound.
Why It’s Underrated: With a budget of $33 million, Pandorum only earned $20 million, half of which came from international markets. In addition to being a financial failure, critical reception was largely negative.Underrated?