Three Horror Movies That Even a Scientist Could Love

Illustration for article titled Three Horror Movies That Even a Scientist Could Love

As a scientist I have mixed feelings about SF-oriented horror, which tends to show my lab coat-wearing brethren as myopic, obsessive, morally challenged individuals or as humorless skeptics. When Fringe needed a scientist for its team of white hats, the best they could come up with was a former, vaguely repentant mad scientist. Kind of unfair, considering how many plot ideas they've stolen from our journals. But there are a few bio-inspired scary movies out there that I would recommend.Re-Animator This adaption of Lovecraft's short story stars SF-favorite Jeffrey Combs as Dr. Herbert West, a Miskatonic University medical student obsessed with curing death. Classic mad scientist territory. When his radical theories are met with resistance by the dean, he does what every good scientist would do - a series of secret experiments in his basement. After bringing his roomie's girlfriend's dead cat back to some semblance of life, clinical trials begin at the local morgue (with predictably gruesome results). With the exception of one particularly disturbing scene (you'll know it when you see it), the film is gleefully gory. West dispatching a faculty member bent on stealing his work with a shovel to the head is par for the genre. Venomously hissing "plagiarist!" as he swings? Comedy gold. While the dead aren't likely to shamble from their graves anytime soon, advances in resuscitation including therapeutic hypothermia have pushed back the medical point of no return, and recent evidence shows that perhaps much of the damage done to oxygen-starved brain cells is caused more by the sudden reintroduction of oxygen during a medical intervention than its deprivation. Rather than jump start an oxygen-starved brain with pure oxygen, we may instead want to more gently awaken the cells with gradual oxygenation. It'll have to do until West's glowing serum is perfected - "mindless homocidal madness" is one of those side effects that the FDA really frowns upon. Mimic Disease-fighting bioengineered insects that rapidly evolve into human-sized superbugs capable of mimicking humans. What's not to like? Mimickry is a survival mechanismrelatively common in nature. While it's extremely doubtful that such rapid changes could occur, I have to give them points for originality. Alien

Illustration for article titled Three Horror Movies That Even a Scientist Could Love

The life cycle of a xenomorph - egg, facehugger, chestburster, and fully-grown alien warrior - might seem needlessly complex, but there are parasites here on earth that make exploding out of John Hurt's chest look easy by comparison. Clonorchis sinensis, the liver fluke, passes through a snail and a fish before ending up inside one of us. As unpleasant as an egg-implanting facehugger might be, at least it puts you to sleep. When the wasp Ampulex compressa finds its chosen prey, a cockroach, it uses its specially-designed stinger to perform a gruesome bit of brain surgery after an initial sting. The roach ends up with a dose of venom delivered directly into the part of its brain responsible for flight reflex. Once this is done, the roach is as docile as a lamb - the wasp grabs hold of its antenna and guides it home, where the roach gets a fatal wasp larva implantation. Facehuggers may be rather forward, but at least they don't ride you around like a sacrificial pony.

Illustration for article titled Three Horror Movies That Even a Scientist Could Love

If you think that sort of behavior-tweaking couldn't happen in humans, keep in mind that quarter of Americans are infected with Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite capable of making rats think that seeking out cats is a good idea. The parasite wants to get into the cat's stomach and doesn't much care how it gets there. Some research suggests that toxoplasma-infected humans are also affected - men become less intelligent and more withdrawn, while women become more outgoing and promiscuous. It might also explain why Chekhov seemed so mopey after Khan stuck that worm in his ear.

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They did a Call of Cthulhu movie - fantastic stuff. Listened to a lecture about how they made it at a worldcon a few years back. []

In one of my prouder moments, a facial recognition software set told me I resembled H. P. Lovecraft at approx 73%. I was giggly for weeks after. Still am, when I remember.

In otherness... doesn't anyone vote for Dark City? Or The City of Lost Children? Or The Thing? (The original in B&W, thanks.)