It seems as if truly fantastic space-set sci-fi horrors are few and far between these days. Sure, efforts such as Gravity and Interstellar may have won a whole host of plaudits, but those stories in the stars didn’t have the horror-heavy edge that many genre fans have been yearning for. So, with Daniel Espinosa’s Life promising to deliver the goods on that front, does this sci-fi thriller truly chill or is it yet another film to add to the list of duds best left floating off in to deepest, darkest space?
Plot-wise, Life centres on a space station crew who have made the remarkable breakthrough of discovering alien life in the form of a small Martian organism that soon becomes known as Calvin. For a crew headed up by the likes of Rebecca Ferguson, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Ryan Reynolds, what starts as a fascinating discovery soon turns in to a terrifying menace, as what they initially believe to be Calvin’s inquisitive, interactive side soon positions this symbiote-esque being as a vicious, unrelenting presence that is determined to lay waste to the crew trapped up in the stars with him. Even more troubling for the crew, all matter of attempts to neutralize Calvin prove unsuccessful and, if anything, only make the organism stronger as his strength, intelligence and predatory instincts seem to know no bounds. As the space station inches ever-closer to Earth, the race is on to take down the all-intelligent, all-powerful Calvin before the being can get its slimy, tentacled paws on our home planet and cause unknown carnage for all mankind.
In terms of story originality, the majority of Life isn’t anything that original or groundbreaking – but that isn’t to say it isn’t a marvelous, tense viewing experience. Whilst it does indeed feel like a rich sci-fi horror of old, Espinosa’s film and its tight, taut, perfectly balanced script by the Deadpool pair of Rhett Rheese and Paul Wernick gives off a totally fresh, engaging vibe to the action. As the tale progresses, you’ll find yourself noticing nods and winks to movies of yesteryear, but it’s never done in an over-the-top way that feels like nothing more than a dodgy rip-off. Instead, Life proves that there is indeed, err, life in the sci-fi horror subgenre if handled correctly. And boy, is this film handled correctly, proving to be one of the hands-down most terrifying sci-fi pictures to come around in many a year – to such an extent, you’ll feel visibly squeamish at certain points, whilst other moments will have you wanting to scrub yourself down with a good dose of extra strength bleach.
The atmospheric, intricate tension here is masterfully crafted, the performances from all are pitch-perfect for what is called for, and in Calvin we have a movie monster who is one of the most bone-chilling beasties to come along in years. To be blunt and to the point, Life is simply a must-see experience for anyone with even the slightest of fondness for truly terrifying sci-fi. In a subgenre seemingly full of bland, paint-by-numbers efforts in recent decades, Life proves there’s still… well, you know what… in the old sci-fi horror dog yet.
Special Features: Four featurettes / Deleted scenes / Trailers
LIFE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: DANIEL ESPINOSA / SCREENPLAY: RHETT RHEESE, PAUL WERNICK / STARRING: REBECCA FERGUSON, JAKE GYLLENHAAL, RYAN REYNOLDS, HIROYUKI SANADA, ARIYON BAKARE / RELEASE DATE: JULY 31ST