Written by: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, and Olga Dihovichnaya
Horror knows no bounds. In the history of this great genre, fans have been treated to fright films that have brought the scares from the deepest oceans, the greenest valleys, the driest deserts, the coldest tundras, and the darkest parts of space.
Science fiction horror. Now there’s an interesting subgenre. Horror from the starry skies. Carnage from the cosmos. Space is indeed a fascinating setting for a horror movie. Even more so due to the fact that, even with our technological efforts and advancements throughout the years, we have barely scratched the surface of what exists beyond the stars. The questions that have plagued us for centuries, are we alone in the universe? Is there life on other planets?
The idea of life beyond the stars is truly fascinating. But there’s one question we don’t seem to ask that often. If there is life beyond the stars, would they be friendly? Would they have light illuminating from their chests and a love for Reese’s Pieces? Or would they be some chest bursting, acid bleeding killing machines?
Life makes you wonder, if there is life on other planets, would we really want to know?
Life tells the tale of the crew members of Pilgrim 7 and their scientific research aboard the international space station. Research involving a sample from Mars and proof of life, past or present, on the red planet.
After a long and quite rocky return through the cosmos for the exploratory capsule, the crew finally get their long-awaited sample. And the research begins via biologist Hugh Derry (Bakare). From the sample, Derry discovers an amoeba. And, after further testing, it responds. It moves. It’s alive. Proof of life beyond earth is discovered. Needless to say, the crew is overcome with joy at the amazing discovery.
Back home on earth, Time Square to be exact. The news media has been covering the research and the new discovery on the space station. A large group of school children are gathered to do a Q&A with the crew. You know, to get answers to what it’s like up there. Innocent questions like, what’s that?, how do you shit up there?, you now the kinds of questions kids ask.
It’s during this Q&A where the little fellow underneath the microscope gets its name, the children announce that, after a contest was held by different schools to name the living creature, the new discoveries name shall be ‘Calvin’. Nice little name for a nice little life form. Just one problem, a few actually. Calvin isn’t that little anymore. He’s growing. Growing limbs and resembling some kind of gelatinous jellyfish-octopus hybrid, a Jellypus if you will. It’s discovered Calvin is quite impressive in that he’s made up of what can only be described as muscle and brain with sharp senses of touch and apparently sight as well. So yeah, Calvin isn’t a little life form anymore. Oh, and about that nice thing? Not so much. As the crew is about discover firsthand.
Okay, first things first. Best to address the facehugger in the room. This isn’t Alien. Although the plots have a lot of striking similarities. Viewers will be quick to compare this movie to Alien, and understandably so. But let’s be real, there’s not a lot one can do with a killer alien meets spacecraft and crew storyline without comparisons to Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic.
One has to approach with a clear mind and fresh eyes if Life is to get any kind of fair shake. That being said, Life is pretty good. Solid performances all around from the talented cast of characters who are in for the fight of their lives aboard the space station. The sets and visual effects are some of the best. Making it very easy to believe we are onboard a space station with the crew. Locked inside with the dangerous life form on the loose. There’s a feeling of claustrophobia present throughout that only adds to the anxiety and the horror.
The threatening creature is an interesting antagonist, it latches on to its victims and it’s all over. The idea that this thing is roaming around the station and could latch on any moment is some scary shit. Add to that the fact that it is an intelligent life form and is fighting for survival just as the crew is. As it grows bigger, it grows smarter, and by the end it’s not only a battle of strength, but a battle of wits. Calvin wants to live just as bad as the crew does.
Life has suspense, drama, action, scares, a great ending, and looks incredible on the big screen. Which is where it should be seen if you are at all interested and curious to see it.
The only trouble I see Life facing is its longevity down the line, once the theatrical run is over.
With great sci-fi horror films like Alien, The Thing, Event Horizon, and Pitch Black already out there, it’s hard to imagine someone saying “I wanna get my sci-fi horror on, put in Life!” It’s predecessors set the bar pretty high. It’s not one you’ll be eager to re-watch much. It’s more of a been there, done that, what else can I watch?, kind of movie. It’s the Fruit Stripe gum of sci-fi horror movies. It’s tasty at first, but loses its flavor rather quickly. I just don’t see it as a “go to” watch months from now, let alone years. Especially when there are those other choices to watch out there when craving kick ass sci-fi horror. It boils down to this. The problem is, Alien exists. And these two movies are pretty damn similar. Given the choice between watching a Xenomorph or a Jellypus, the Xenomorph is going to win every single time. It just is.
But that’s not to say Life should be missed or dismissed altogether. It does provide a good time at the movies, which is what going to the movies is all about, is it not?
As of this writeup, Life is still out in theaters. If you’re wondering whether or not to see it, I say go for it. This one was made for the big screen, it really does look amazing. To wait till this one reaches streaming and DVD/Blu-Ray would be a disservice to yourself. Watching on a smaller screen just wouldn’t have the same impact.
My suggestion to you, go see Life while it’s still on the big screen. That’s where you’ll want to see it and get the most out of your movie watching experience. This movie in particular. Practically requires it. So hurry, while the clock is still ticking, and the Fruit Stripe is still fresh.