A few months before the release of Alien: Covenant (Ridley Scott's latest entry into the long-running sci-fi franchise), comes Life: another creepy space-set horror thriller in which a group of astronauts are forced to face a thoroughly unpleasant monster.
While some reviews for this movie might not go much further than mentioning how derivative it is since it is essentially a mix of Alien, The Thing and Gravity, one could argue that what it lacks in originality it makes up for in sheer terror and, in fact, surpasses some of the aforementioned films in some ways. Life may seem like a B-movie but it is so well made that dismissing it as just that would be unfair. The way in which the inside of the space station is shot really makes you buy the setting with its zero gravity and tight compartments as we follow the crew members floating through the station convincingly, something that Gravity didn't quite capture. The reasonable running time actually means the tension is heightened as there isn't a second to rest once the central threat is loose. Life also doesn't sugar-coat anything and you can expect some frankly brutal deaths throughout.
Then there's the alien (aka Calvin): a cross between an octopus, a butterfly and a creepy-crawly, this isn't exactly the design you'd expect and yet it's far scarier than Ridley Scott's space creature. Its small size makes Calvin even more dangerous since it could literally be on you and you wouldn't know it, its texture and movements are genuinely repulsive plus the fact it's basically indestructible and can breathe in space is an added layer of fear the doomed crew has to face. Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and the rest of the cast do a good job giving believably low-key, emotional performances. This is a relentless, nail-biting, often gross sci-fi horror film the likes of which we rarely see get made successfully these days and it's a refreshingly effective and unpredictable take on a familiar template.
Don't be discouraged by Life's unapologetically Alien-like plot: this is a good old fashioned horror film guaranteed to make your skin crawl thanks to an off-putting alien, a claustrophobic atmosphere and just the right amount of gore. If Alien: Covenant is half as spooky as this movie, I'll be happy.
Life is good.