The 1950s were a significant decade for the genres of science-fiction and horror, and the two were often blended together in creative ways. The sci-fi horror of this time was largely dominated by creature features that often revolved around mutated animals or alien entities that would wreak havoc. Tarantula, The Giant Leeches, and The Blob are some significant examples in this regard.
Films like The Fly and The Thing From Another World eventually led to significant remakes and reboots that revolutionized commercial sci-fi. While most of these films might look goofy in present-day-standards, their reliance on practical effects and atmospheric terror is worth-noting, providing audiences scares that might stun audiences even today.
To put it simply, Them is a film about irradiated ants that gain bloodlust and colossal physique. The film is regarded as a cult hit for ushering in an era of ‘big bug’ and ‘nuclear monster’ films.
While the prospect of killer ants is scary in itself, the creepiest scene has to be the monster attack sequence aboard a ship. As a queen ant hatches her brood aboard a freighter, her forces go on to attack and slaughter the crew. The violence, combined with the ant’s screeching cries, helped in achieving a haunting effect.
To replicate the surface of Mars, The Angry Red Planet made use of the Cine-Magic technique of film processing. In layperson terms, Cine-Magic involves combining hand-drawn illustrations with live-action footage.
The technique proved to be effective for several terrifying visuals. When the astronauts initially explore the seemingly harmless ecosystem at Mars, they seem to chance upon a rock-like structure that turns out to be an ant’s pincer. As the Martian ants terrorize the crew, viewers get a closer glimpse into the creatures’ body structure. The razor-sharp fangs and spiked limbs are too realistic to behold, and the red screen filter adds to the chaos.
The titular body-snatchers in this 1956 classic refer to the physical copies of people created by alien pods, as a part of a typical invasion plan. As emotionless duplicates of missing citizens prop up in a sleepy California town, the townsfolk fall into mass hysteria.
Some of the protagonists end up discovering the cause in a greenhouse when they find eerie plant-like spores that develop into larger parasitic pods, eventually snatching the body of a human host. The pods might not be at par with the other conventional monsters of 1950s Hollywood, but the gooey, frothy visual style is enough to fill humans with dread.