February 26, 2024

Eclipse Festival

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The 8 best movies like Dead Space

Dead Space, the sci-fi horror video game franchise starring the ever-suffering engineer Isaac Clarke, has risen from the dead with a new remake of the 2008 original for modern consoles courtesy of Montreal-based developer EA Motive — and it’s really good! Whether this is your first time descending into the Necromorph-laden bowels of the USG Ishimura, an avid Dead Space fan eager to spot what Motive have changed in this new version, or you just want to know who the heck this dude in a sci-fi diving suit doing the shoot dance in Fortnite is, the 2023 remake of Dead Space is solid on nearly all fronts.

The success of this new Dead Space game got us thinking about horror maestro (and “Grandpa Horror”) John Carpenter’s long-held desire to produce a live-action adaptation of the series. Then we got to thinking where such a film would fit among the best videogame film adaptations created so far, and then that got us thinking about what are the best sci-fi horror movies to watch for fans of Dead Space both new and old — y’know, besides the obvious ones like Event Horizon and the Alien series, ‘cus you’ve likely already seen those!

An hour here and there of trawling IMDb later, and you’ve got this list: The most Dead Space-like movies to watch if you’re looking for something else to chase the exhilarating horror and fun of playing through the new remake.


Dark Star

Three men in matching uniforms sit back to back against one another in a cramped spaceship cockpit.

Image: Jack H. Harris Enterprises/VCI Entertainment

What it is: Before there was Alien, there was Dark Star, a kooky space comedy envisioned by eventual-Alien-writer Dan O’Bannon and then-unknown director John Carpenter as an offbeat alternative to 2001: A Space Odyssey. There are few comedies that would fit this list, but this is one of them.

Why it’s like Dead Space: Fans of Dead Space or Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror movie will see instant similarities in Dark Star’s imagined future, where blue-collar spaceship workers futz about interstellar space. But Carpenter’s movie, first cobbled together as a student film then finalized as a feature for about $60,000, is a big goof, complete with slacker space cadets pranking each other aboard the Dark Star scout ship, a bowling ball alien sidekick, a talking bomb (the Hal 9000 replacement), and ahead-of-the-time special effects being put to use for comic mayhem. On the wavelength of Dr. Strangelove or National Lampoon more than any straight-faced sci-fi horror flick, Dark Star’s far-out space peril remains cult-y and off-the-radar. But there’s a reason Quentin Tarantino recently revered it as “a classic.” —Matt Patches

Where to watch: Dark Star is available to stream for free on Plex and with ads on Pluto TV, Tubi, and Roku.

Pandorum

A ghoulish mutated human with visibly mutilated facial features and metal spikes protruding from their flesh baring their teeth at something out of frame.

Image: Overture Films/Anchor Bay Entertainment

What it is: Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster star in Christian Alvart’s 2009 sci-fi horror drama as Lieutenant Payton and Corporal Bower, two interplanetary naval officers and crew members of the spaceship Elysium who awake from hypersleep after eight years aboard and discover that the rest of the ship’s crew have gone missing. If that weren’t enough, a group of cannibalistic monsters are now stalking them across the ship as they race to find answers.

Why it’s like Dead Space: In a recent interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, Glen Schofield — the director of 2022’s The Callisto Protocol and the original 2008 Dead Space — directly cited Alvart’s film among his favorite sci-fi horror movies and a prominent influence on his approach to horror in games. “I love movies like Alien, The Thing and Pandorum. And then [Event Horizon] and Alien Versus Predator. There’s not a lot of them, but I liked them all.” —Toussaint Egan

Where to watch it: Pandorum is available to stream on Starz and ford digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.

Sunshine

A man (Cillian Murphy) standing on the interior bridge of a spaceship bracing to be engulfed by a wall of flames.

Image: Fox Searchlight Pictures

What it is: Director Danny Boyle (28 Days Later) and writer Alex Garland (Annihilation) released the sci-fi psychological thriller Sunshine in theaters just one year before Dead Space, and the film and game have some clear parallels. The movie follows an international crew of astronauts who embark on a mission to reignite Earth’s sun with a massive nuclear bomb — only to encounter the missing, derelict ship that attempted a similar feat seven years earlier. A deadly, mission-altering accident isn’t the only terror the crew of the Icarus II has to face, and everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.

Why it’s like Dead Space: Sunshine has it all: a derelict ship; quasi-religious fundamentalists succumbing to space madness; flashes of grisly body horror; incredibly dramatic lighting; zero-G space walks; a lavish hydroponics lab; and a star-studded cast led by Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Rose Byrne, Benedict Wong, and Mark Strong. OK, that last bit has nothing to do with Dead Space, but what a lineup! — Michael McWhertor

Where to watch it: Sunshine is available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Vudu.

Ghosts of Mars

A long-haired warrior with pale skin dressed in armor and holding a swords stands in front of a horde of zombie-like soldiers.

Image: Screen Gems/Sony Pictures Releasing

What it is: All of John Carpenter’s movies have delightful B-movie flare. But arguably none have more than Ghosts of Mars, a pseudo-Western on Mars with an all-star cast (including Ice Cube, Pam Grier, and Jason Statham). When a freight train on a mission to pick up a prisoner (named Desolation Williams and played by Ice Cube) returns with only one survivor (Natasha Henstridge), she is interrogated about the series of events, unfolding through a series of interweaving flashbacks.

Why it’s like Dead Space: The Martian atmosphere is extremely spooky (and the red tones of the planet’s surface are gorgeous), especially in the back half of the movie, which I will leave intentionally vague so as not to spoil anything. John Carpenter is famously a fan of the Dead Space franchise and has said to anyone who will listen that he wants to make a movie adaptation. Ghosts of Mars makes it easy to see why he’s so attracted to it. —Pete Volk

Where to watch: Ghosts of Mars is available for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.

Solaris

A man in a leather coat with graying black hair (Donatas Banionis) holds a young woman with a bloody lip and noise draped in a light blue towel.

Image: The Criterion Channel

What it is: Based on Stanisław Lem’s 1961 novel of the same title, Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 psychological sci-fi horror drama centers on Kris Kelvin, a psychologist who is sent to a space station orbiting a mysterious exoplanet after the crew of the station have ceased communication with Earth. When he arrives, Kris is plagued with the same strange hallucinations and visions that are afflicting the rest of the station, forcing him to confront memories and revelations about himself and his loved one he had long since left buried.

Why it’s like Dead Space: In terms of the cerebral horror of it, and the fact that a literal planet messes with people’s minds later in the original Dead Space trilogy, Tarkovsky’s 1972 sci-fi opus feels like a natural companion to Dead Space’s brand of existential terror. It’s not particularly gory or bloody, but if you’re looking for a film that will — much like the psychologically corrosive signal emanating from the Marker buried in the strata of Aegis VII’s surface — sink its hooks into your mind and not let go, Solaris is the perfect choice. —TE

Where to watch it: Solaris is available to stream on Criterion Channel and HBO Max and for free with ads on Freevee via Prime Video and for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.

The Fly

Jeff Goldbum as Seth Brundle in The Fly, already partially transformed.

Image: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

What it is: David Cronenberg’s remake of the Kurt Neumann’s 1958 sci-fi horror film stars Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle, an eccentric scientist who believes he has created the first functional teleporter capable of transporting inorganic and organic matter safely across vast distances. However, following an accident that occurs while inside his prototype, Brundle’s DNA is fused with that of housefly — causing his body to undergo a bizarre and horrifying metamorphosis that endangers the lives of him and his loved ones. Jeez, and Gregor Samsa thought he had it bad!

Why it’s like Dead Space: While not set in or around space, Brundle’s transformation into a terrifying, sex-crazed human-fly mutant hybrid is probably the closest cinematic parallel to the ghoulish transformation of the Necromorphs in Dead Space, apart from those seen in either Event Horizon or the Alien series. You can’t spell “body horror” without David Cronenberg. Well, err, technically you absolutely can, but any conversation on the topic of body horror without mentioning Cronenberg is moot from the jump! —TE

Where to watch it: The Fly is available to stream on HBO Max and for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Vudu.

Underwater

Norah (Stewart) and the Captain (Cassel) sit in their diving suits, looking contemplative, in Underwater

Photo: Alan Markfield/20th Century Fox

What it is: An underrated Kristen Stewart-led sci-fi thriller about a group of deep sea drillers who uncover some horrifying things at the bottom of the ocean.

Why it’s like Dead Space: It doesn’t take place in space, but what is the ocean if not “space, but water?” OK, maybe that doesn’t exactly scan, but Underwater’s eldritch horror leans into some of the very same ideas, images, and scares that many space horror franchises (including Dead Space) love as well. —PV

Where to watch: Underwater is available to stream on Hulu, or for digital rental or purchase on Amazon, Google Play, and Vudu.

Dead Space: Downfall

An animated man in a brown uniform screaming as he is assailed by mutated zombie-like creatures.

Image: Film Roman/Anchor Bay Entertainment

What it is: An animated prequel to 2008’s Dead Space, the film follows the crew of the USG Ishimura as they attempt to survive the psychological epidemic and subsequent onslaught of the so-called “Necromorphs” following the recovery of the mysterious alien artifact known as the “Marker” on the planet Aegis VII. The film was produced by Film Roman, a Starz Media subsidiary known for their previous work on animated sitcoms like King of the Hill and films like 1992’s Tom & Jerry, and directed by Chuck Patton, known for his work on the 1997 animated series Todd McFarlane’s Spawn.

Why it’s like Dead Space: It’s literally the canonical prequel to the events of Dead Space! If that weren’t enough, as if it wasn’t already apparent, Dead Space: Downfall is gory as all hell. This was intentional on Patton’s part, who wanted to distinguish the film apart from the studio’s previous work as the goriest feature film had ever produced. On top of that, the production team was provided the 3D assets for the game’s environments and characters as references for the film’s animation, particularly the transformations of the Necromorphs themselves. —TE

Where to watch it: Dead Space: Downfall is available to stream for free on Plex and with ads on Freevee via Prime Video, Vudu, YouTube, Tubi, and Roku, for digital rental and purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu.