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Top 10 “Aw Crap” Scenarios in Sci-Fi/Horror

We go to the movies for any number of reasons, but one of the best is to see characters get screwed. Sometimes literally and sometimes metaphorically. If you're in a romantic comedy, typically it's both. However, there's something special about the genre of sci fi, in which the "aw crap" moments are fueled by a force that seems unstoppable; in some cases otherworldly. We don't know its weaknesses, all we know is it's gunning for the characters and they are so screwed. It is in that spirit that Apollo 18 opens this Friday and we look back at some of our favorite films where the scenarios seemed all too dire.

10.) Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Okay, don't hate. Again, not the best film quality-wise on this list. Although not wildly deserving of its predecessors, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines has to be given some style points on the "dire scenario" scale. Yes, the concept is a rinse and repeat of the first two (Kill the Connors!), but we have to give some props in that, despite the heroes' best efforts, Judgment Day happens. Hell, they spent the entire second film fighting to prevent it and then they go and blow the world up by film three (and were almost zen about it). Never mind you have the skin-tight leather T-X on your heels, killing as many Resistance officers as it can get its flamethrower on, or that you have the Governator as a wingman. The world gets nuked to hell. That's a pretty strong "aw hell" moment and certainly not the emotionally satisfying (really?) ending you were hoping for.

9.) 2001: A Space Odyssey

We made the damn things, but there's no denying: intelligent machines just don't care for humans. Such is the case with HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, only shown as a single, glowing red eye throughout the Discovery One spaceship. HAL's role and symbolism in "2001" is a different kind of "aw crap" scenario in that the crew is wildly dependent on its role in not only keeping the ship running, but keeping them alive. When HAL began to feel threatened, it took steps to remove the threat from "the mission." And when the damn thing controls the ship, how many options does one have? Rule of thumb astronauts: if you are stuck in space on a ship with a questionable AI (that can read lips), do not start throwing around the idea of deactivating said computer. It's afraid.


8.) The Omega Man

Sometimes the worst scenario is not the result of aliens or machines, but humanity. Case in point: The Omega Man, a (campy) '70s adaptation of the I Am Legend novel starring Charlton "I'm the NRA" Heston. After China and the Soviet Union kill off most of the population from biological warfare, the remaining members of society have been altered into a cult "Family" of mutants who seek to abolish technology (you should see their hair). Heston plays the (supposed) last living human on the planet and spends his days hunting the Family and nights searching for a cure in his fortified apartment. It doesn't get more dire when you are the last man standing in a global genocide. To add cultish mutants who want you dead into the mix doesn't make it any easier for you to get up in the morning. If you made it through the night.

7.) Moon

 Speaking of HAL...GERTY might just be the bastard's son — with a better sense of humor and a little more heart. Moon is a different kind of doom scenario, focusing on Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), a man stationed on the moon. Sam has spent nearly three years at a harvesting site alone, with only the station's A.I. GERTY (brilliantly voiced by Kevin Spacey) to help him pass the time. Near the end of his run, he suffers hallucinations, learns that GERTY is taking orders from Earth (that go against Sam's plans) and uncovers secrets that his company does not want getting out. When you have no backup, no means of communication and go through what can be described as an unusual identity crisis, you're not having a good day. Unlike other entries on this list, Moon is far more subdued, but is still a great example of how screwed we can be.

6.) War of the Worlds

You know it. I know it. Your Mom knows it. You see those ships on the horizon and you exclaim the following: "Aw...shit." Say what you want about this version (and plenty can be said), you cannot deny that humanity gets its ass fairly well handed to it in more than one way. In a world run by electronics (Bad move, doesn't anyone watch sci-fi flicks?), what's the first thing in our defenses to go? Anything that can get knocked out by an EMP. Including cars, apparently. So you can't get out of dodge fast, those ships are a few stories tall, entire rivers are being flooded with dead bodies and all of your neighbors will trample you if you don't haul ass? Yes, this script (and ending) is laughable, but it doesn't take away from the fact that, were it not for the common cold, humanity would be all kinds of dead by the end of this film.

5.) The Thing

It's an alien ... but it's you. Or at least, it could be you. But it's going to kill and assimilate you because, damnit, that's what it does and it does it well. For the uninitiated, The Thing takes place in Antarctica and focuses on a group of scientists and crew being hunted by an alien that can mimic lifeforms on a cellular level. When they realize the creature can look like any one of them is when the real hell starts, paranoia playing a big role in some deaths. No matter how many times the Thing is killed, it seems to have already moved on to another form. Imagine being stuck in a room and you knew somebody in there could sprout a mouth out of their stomach and eat you. Would you kill? It's dark, it's brassy and it's why we love to watch these protagonists(?) squirm.

4.) The Blair Witch Project

Okay, they might not have seen it coming, but you can't say those kids weren't asking for it. You set out to make a documentary on a local legend (legends come form somewhere!) called the Blair Witch? You might want to brace for some shit to get real. Can't say they were not warned by the locals of ritualistic killings, strange mists and sounds coming from the woods and people disappearing. Perhaps the worst part of the whole situation (aside from being stalked by supernatural forces) is the fact that once they get their asses into the woods, they cannot get out. No matter what direction they go, everything seems to lead them to the abandoned house mentioned in the stories. The fear of the scenario builds on the unknown as much of the scares come from what is not seen but heard. Distant noises at nights, snapping twigs and screams in the dark all wrap up for a result that said filmmakers are not getting out of this alive. My question has always been: Who the hell went and found their footage (and got out alive)?

3.) The Matrix

Never mind the Terminators: the machines of The Matrix already have you beat. In fact, they beat humanity's ass so long ago, we don't even know what year it is! And they've had you, your parents and grandparents locked up in the Matrix for a long time. In this film, you don't even wander into a bad situation — you're already there. If you can get out (red pill, remember that!), and are crazy enough to go back in, watch ... your ... ass. Hugo Weaving will come and beat the living hell out of you. He's stronger, faster and wears his sunglasses at night. You don't frak with that kind of crazy — unless you're Keanu Reeves. Subsequent films would neuter the gravitas the Machines/Agents held in the first film, but you cannot deny that, the first time around, if you saw an Agent, you do one thing: run your ass off.

2.) Invasion of the Body Snatchers

If The Thing is paranoia at its raw and disgusting level, Invasion of the Body Snatchers presents the same paranoia with a more refined touch. Like the Antarctic alien, at the core of "Snatchers" is a race of pod people that are capable of mimicking human beings near flawlessly. Not only can they replicate another human's form, but they can also absorb their memories. The drawback is that they are incapable of expressing emotion. In order to produce replicants, the pod people take humans, put them in pods and when the replicant has formed, the original is disintegrated. Damn. For a race that doesn't do emotions, that's dark. You can't be more in trouble than when a race of creatures is systematically wiping out the human race, and you do not know who around you can be trusted or even how to stop the invasion. Best advice is to tell a lot of bad jokes. It might blow your cover, but you'll know who your enemies are.

1.) Alien/Aliens

The "Alien" franchise takes the cake in "aw crap" moments, namely the first two entries. The first entry was classic horror and nothing ever got better for our unfortunate crew. Whether it's an unfortunate end to a crew dinner, the captain getting ripped apart in a vent, an android gone rogue or blowing the ship up to discover the alien has followed you into your tiny-ass escape pod, Alien doesn't have a bright spot in its dark and ominous tale. Aliens ,decidedly more action-oriented, still had plenty of "aw hell" moments, with the single alien being upped to a hive of them and the penetration of a space colony by Facehuggers, all of which is capped by a massive, pissed-off Queen. Naturally, almost nobody got out alive, save Ripley (if you don't know who that is, shame on you) and a kid (who kills a kid?), but not before being faced with two films worth of a long pause followed by a very deep, internal "...crap."


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