It’s No One Can Hear You Scream month here at Nightmare on Film Street, meaning we’re celebrating the finest terrors outer space has to offer. And as terrifying as the idea of an alien invasion can be, we an even scarier concept is that… they’re already here. With that in mind, we threw together a little list called They Walk Among Us: 10 Aliens Hiding on Earth. They’re some of the scariest things on this planet besides, well, us, so read on and find out which Outer Space Imposter made the cut!
10. The Thing from Another World (The Thing)
Well what did you expect for our first entry on this list? The titular villain of the quintessential “hidden alien” movie, The Thing (from Another World, if you’re nasty) has been written about, mimicked, and generally adored since the release of the 1987 film of the same name. Though this iteration of the character was technically preceded by the 1951 film with almost the same title, it’s the John Carpenter version that most horror fans look as the definition of the beast. Of course, that may all change when the Blumhouse-produced remake of the film comes out.
Haha no, it won’t.
9. The Bounty Hunter (The X-Files)
A consistent thorn in the sides of Agents Mulder and Scully, the alien-in-disguise Bounty Hunter was pretty much a perfect villain for Network TV. Not only was he barely killable, he was in fact a mold upon which other aliens could model their appearance. It’s a hell of a lot easer to keep producing different alien bad guys using only one actor, and the Bounty Hunter also made it easier to put alien gore on TV. That’s because for all the times the Bounty Hunter got shot, he would only ooze greenish-blue, acidic blood. As the old TV producer adage about blood goes: “Make it red, your show is dead. Make it green, it’s fine for teens!”
8. The Hidden (The Hidden)
Starring Twin Peaks heartthrob Kyle McLaughlin, The Hidden stands out on this list for not ever really showing us the villainous alien. In this film, the alien being takes over people’s bodies through a disease-like transference, causing the possessee to do violent, out-of-character things. It’s a fun combination of a whodunit and sci-fi horror premise, and McLaughlin starring as an FBI agent is sure to attract your interest as a Twin Peaks fan. And I’m assuming that, because you have eyes and a human soul, you’re a Twin Peaks fan.
7. The Martian (‘Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up,’ The Twilight Zone)
Rod Serling presents a story of a group of passengers on a broken-down bus. The passengers arrive at a diner, only to be confronted by two state troopers investigating a call about a UFO. That’s when everyone realizes: there were five passengers on the bus, but six claiming to be passengers at the diner. ‘Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up’ is your typical Twilight Zone fare, introducing a science-fiction element into an everyday setting to see the quick escalation of human drama, but this episode doesn’t exactly end how you might expect. You could even say there’s more to it than meets… the eye.
(People who have seen the episode are just in stitches about that joke. Really!)
6. Zim (Invader Zim)
Probably the least “secret” of the secret aliens on this list is Zim, would-be conqueror of earth and patron saint of Hot Topic kids. Zim’s disguise is comically pathetic, only hiding his bright purple eyes and antenna from his human neighbors. Those humans, though, are completely oblivious to Zim‘s true identity, refusing to heed the advice of Zim‘s rival and classmate Dib. Of course, these people are depicted as overly stupid to make the comedy of the series work. Humans would never really be so stupid as to ignore such an obvious threat! Anyway, didn’t you love those 60 degree days this February?
5. Pod People (Invasion of the Body Snatchers)
“It’s an allegory for communism!” says your freshman year film professor. And they’re right, this film was almost certainly influenced by Cold War fears of an “other” living undetected in American society. (Although that could be said of a large number of alien stories from the fifties and, we’re pretty sure, all of Rand Paul’s fanfiction. Don’t Google it!) Still, the concept of an alien race that can create a perfect doppelgänger to replace you is scary for any moment in history. In fact, it may be even more scary in an age when we put so much of ourselves into an online identity, an identity that can be stolen and used for nefarious purposes. Or, you know, advertising.
4. Maggie Simpson (‘Treehouse of Horror IX,’ The Simpsons)
Set in the non-canonical nightmares of Springfield’s yearly Halloween special, the story Starship Poopers sees infant Maggie undergoing strange bodily changes. Her first tooth turns out to be a fang, her legs fall off, and she grows green tentacles. As it turns out, Maggie has always been half-alien, the product of a one-night stand Marge had with the outer-space visitor Kang. The alien demands his daughter so, because this episode was made in the 90s, the Simpsons take their case to the Jerry Springer Show. Happily, the story ends with the aliens relinquishing Maggie, the Simpson family back together, and Springer himself dead.
3. Unnamed Aliens (They Live)
“Obey. Consume. Conform. Sleep.” That’s the message of the aliens in the second John Carpenter film on this list, They Live. And, I’m not going to lie, it doesn’t sound that bad? It’s basically what I do every day, so it’s hard for me to picture why this is scary. Like, does “conform” mean exercise?
However, I do know that these aliens are pretty bad because 1.) Rowdy Roddy Piper doesn’t like them an 2.) they’ve got a wicked scary visual design. Thanks to the efforts of makeup artists Francisco X. Perez and Michael Mills, their bulging eyes bluely skeletal faces are a touchstone of horror make-up effects. Plus, they’re the perfect thing to photoshop onto a politician you don’t like, you statement maker you.
2. Thomas Jerome Newton (The Man Who Fell to Earth)
Look, David Bowie probably was an alien. A brilliant, brave, and beautiful Starman whose presence on this planet we simply did not deserve. However, Bowie also played an alien in Nicolas Roeg’s existential sci-fi drama The Man Who Fell to Earth. Going by the human name Thomas Jerome Newton, Bowie’s character is from a distant planet where water has all but disappeared. His purpose on Earth is to take back some of ours, but the temptations of living on such a pleasure-rich world begin to take a toll on him. Fans of David Bowie should consider this film a must-watch, but so should anyone interested in alien horror. In The Man Who Fell to Earth, the concept of alien horror is flipped: we’re not scared about what an extraterrestrial will do to our world, we’re scared about what our world is doing to him.
1. Frank N. Furter (Rocky Horror Picture Show)
Our final alien isn’t so much “hidden” as he is “the most visually interesting character in musical history.” He doesn’t “walk among us” as much as he does “sashay.” But still, for so many horror fans over the years, there’s not a more beloved extraterrestrial than Frank N. Furter. Frank‘s hedonistic philosophy and Frankensteinian brilliance make him an icon in cult cinema circles, due mostly to the lustfully extravagant performance of Tim Curry. And though there are several aliens on this list older than Frank N. Furter, none of them have had the cinematic staying power he has. With midnight showings of the film taking place since the film debuted in 1975, Rocky Horror Picture Show is technically the longest theatrical run of a film in cinema history, and all these years later, is still a delicious treat.
Though, sadly, the Meatloaf has spoiled.
Who’s your favorite alien currently hiding on our own planet Earth? What are their intentions? How do you think they managed to convince us they were the human creator of Facebook? Let us know by giving us a shout on our Twitter, Instagram, or (oh shit) Facebook page! For more space-based horror, plus all the best in horror movie reviews and interviews, keep lurking at Nightmare on Film Street.