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To the Moon! And Beyond: When Horror Franchises go to Space

Sci-Fi Horror has a long and rich history. From the Alien films of the 1970s
to more modern offerings such as Sunshine and Life, the final frontier of space
offers an escape into an unknown, terrifying universe. But what happens when
long-established franchises make the leap outside of Earth’s gravity? To answer
this, I watched four of the most established franchises that made it to space.
This is what I discovered regarding each film as they braved the final frontier.

FranchiseMovie NameIMDB RatingYear 
Friday the 13thJason X4.4/102001
HellraiserHellraiser IV: Bloodline5.1/101996
CrittersCritters 44/101997
LeprechaunLeprechaun 4: In Space3.5/101996
The Movies, By the Numbers

Jason X

A Crop of the Poster for the Movie

Acting as the 10th film in the Friday the 13th Saga, Jason X feels very much
like an oddity to the series more than anything else. With a combined Nightmare
on Elm Street/Friday the 13th franchise teased in the previous film, Jason Goes to
Hell, Jason X was a stopgap film conceived by Sean Cunningham. Set as the lattest in the series chronologically, Jason X tells the story of a cryogenically frozen
Jason (Kane Hodder, in his final appearance as the character) and scientist
Rowan LaFontaine (Lexa Doig), who awake in the year 2455. With bad CGI and
a stale human cast, Jason X feels like what it was initially supposed to be: a filler
to reintroduce people to the character after a nine year gap between movies.

Hellraiser IV: Bloodline

The Poster from the Film

Based originally around a group of supernatural beings called Cenobites
that are summoned via a puzzle box, Hellraiser feels like a significantly better
fit for going to space. The execution is haphazard, however, with the main
thrust of the story being a multigenerational telling of the origin of the puzzle
box. The end of the film hilariously mirrors that of A New Hope, with Pinhead
and the Cenobites being blown up in a gigantic puzzle box space station.

Despite Bloodline acting as the last Hellraiser movie chronologically and
original director Clive Barker stepping away from the series as it transitioned to
video, the later Hellraiser films didn’t completely suffer. With the following film
acting as a Jacob’s Ladder-esque psychological thriller and the most recent film’s
exploration of different elements of hell, the series proved to still have surprises
up its sleeve after leaving Earth’s atmosphere. In fact, a new Hellraiser film is
slated to come out this year.

Critters 4

The Original Poster

The best fit out of the four series’ for going to space, the previous Critters
films were known primarily for a strong first film that Roger Ebert praised, a
second film that the director has all but disavowed, and a poorly received third
film that marks actor Leonardo Dicaprio’s film debut. The fourth film acts as
the end of the original series, with the fifth being a 2019 reboot. Unlike its more
goofy predecessor, Critters 4 at parts seems more like an Alien movie than a
continuation of the series, with the same feel of claustrophobia. However, it
still hits some of the comedic notes of its predecessors, with the crew having to
deal with an onboard AI that does the opposite of what it is commanded to do.

Leprechaun 4: In Space

The Theatrical Poster

As part of a series completely familiar with gimmicks, Leprechaun 4 continues the trend. With the previous film set in Vegas, the franchise ups the ante
for the fourth installment, opening with the title character marrying an alien
princess with the intent of killing her to gain power over the kingdom. In a lot
of ways, Leprechaun 4 has some parallels to Moon 44, sharing a primary plot point
of mercenaries attempting to secure mining operations. Goofiness ensues
throughout the movie, from the Leprechaun using lightsabers to his becoming
enlarged to subdue his prey.

Unlike the other franchises, Leprechaun 4 didn’t mark a significant shift in
the tone or direction of the series. Four additional films have been released
since then: the Leprechaun goes to the Hood in two of them, there’s an origin
story, and 2018 saw a well-received direct sequel to the original movie.

Concluding Thoughts on the Final Frontier of Horror
When I went into writing this article, I expected that going to space would
be the death knell of at least one of the series that I looked into. However,
space seems to act as something entirely different. Hellraiser and Leprechaun
were the only standalone franchises that didn’t have a nearly 10-year gap before
their space-going films, but Friday the 13th’s Jason X was shortly followed by a
fan and critical favorite in the franchise crossover Freddy Vs. Jason. Even the
Critters series, with the longest gap between its space film and the soft reboot
in 2019, still had a successful side project between the films—a series that
premiered on the streaming service Shudder called Critters: A New Binge. To
clarify, more than a small step for horror happens when entering space, but
change isn’t necessarily crippling. It can be a giant leap for horrorkind and
inspire the genre to push boundaries and try some unique ideas.

Featured image is a still from Jason X

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