Life is a movie filled with references to Peter Gabriel and Re-Animator (1985) of all things and minimal on jump scares. Oh yeah. and it’s actually quite terrifying…but stupid at the same time.
Life taps into one of humanity’s deepest fears. Extra-terrestrial life capable of destroying all of humanity as we know it. The little monster’s name is Calvin, and for a single-celled organism he’s quite intelligent. Even a little…too intelligent for my tastes. A little suspension of disbelief is needed when you see the things Calvin can do and how the plot is forced along by what happens.
A major inspiration for life is definitely Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). But the movie does differentiate itself enough to not just be a cheap ripoff of that film. The International Space Station that the astronauts are on is beautifully designed and was very interesting to just look at in awe, the same way the Nostromo was just as incredible to look at (okay that’s the last Alien comparison, I promise).
As far as how the suspense builds, Life uses only one jump-scare in the whole movie and the rest of the suspense feels earned until it is given thought to what is exactly happening. You feel on edge throughout most of the movie wanting to know what the creature is doing. But then, after the movie is over, you think about the plot and you realize how stupid and contrived it is, then it’s horror elements slowly begin falling apart from there. However, if there is a another factor that helps this film be scary is the R rating that the movie has. Gore is abundant in many parts of the movie, and watching seeing blood all over the place in zero gravity is not really like anything else I can explain.
The characters were all decent, but nothing special of any kind. Jake Gyllenhaal just had a very by-the-numbers performance that sadly wasn’t anything special, which would be ok for anyone else but the expectations for Gyllenhaal are so high that it is a shame. The rest of the astronauts were just as forgettable.
So if you like horror and sci-fi and movies like Alien and Event Horizon (1997) I think that Life is well worth the price of admission. It doesn’t try to reinvent the genre and is really just here to entertain. I mean, it’s not like we expected to get something on the level of Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972) right?
AUTHORS NOTE: The ending to this movie is probably the thing that has polarized people the most. You kind of see the ending coming at least three minutes before the reveal.