Cyberpunk, as an intersection of man and machine, can take abstract forms, digging deep to force nightmares to the surface. Some from the west, a few gems from Japan–there are just a handful of cyberpunk horror movies and only a few in this list. Think you have what it takes to not look away?
Two years after its premiere in 1977, Star Wars was still the formula for sci-fi set in space everyone wanted to emulate. We even got Battlestar Galactica a year later as a result. No one could imagine that in the summer of 1979 Alien would turn outer space into the place where “no one can hear your scream.”
The rumblings in the belly of the Nostromo, as the apex predator that is a xenomorph clawed its way through terrified humans set off a franchise that has drenched fans in a cold sweat for more than 39 years, but none of its installments are as frightening as the first.
You can get Alien here.
Beyond the Black Rainbow
The Arboria Institute prides itself on its use of pharmacology and spirituality to bring lost souls into the New Age, but this organization is a front for a satanic and highly scientific research facility, watched by creatures of other dimensions, designed for an imprisoned a test subject of immense power.
You can get Beyond the Black Rainbow here.
Imagine being a paranoid programmer locked in an apartment building, then imagine being trapped in an even more elaborate prison controlled by unknown forces wanting ownership of your mind but no one else can sense it. Paranoid yet? Taking some key nods from Serial Experiments Lain and extrapolating them into a darker, narrowly focused setting you can get a glimpse of what the world might be like when actual conspiracies take shape and give life to nightmares.
You can get Paranoia 1.0 here.
David Cronenberg, another master of body horror, explored human experimentation and the consequence of corporate malfeasance in his “future shock” movie Scanners. Sounds like typical cyberpunk fare at first, all this talk of government contractors creating human weapons, but the violent twisting of the human form elevates this to one of the most hard-to-watch body horror movies ever released.
You can get Scanners here.
Shigeru Izumiya has the honor of making the first cyberpunk movie in history way back in 1986, and, his contribution to the genre, Death Powder, gave many of the famous tropes life in a guerrilla-shot horror movie that pits scientists against their creations.
Death Powder is difficult to find, but there is a version available on YouTube.
Shozin Fukui is known for his work in Japan’s cyberpunk underground and keeping a dying style of filmmaking alive in Rubber’s Lover, something of a sequel to his other cult movie 964 Pinnochio. In keeping with his style, Fukui’s Rubber’s Lover dives into a world beneath Tokyo, where the city’s forgotten are subjected to cruel experiments that reach horrific ends.
You can get Rubber’s Lover here.
Your troubles are over, your arduous journey at an end; you’ve been granted citizenship to this glorious society. Or, it was glorious at one point. The Eden Log promised a home to people from all nations, but this technological kingdom has been overrun by mutations that were victims of this borderless project, and the few survivors that remain hide in this hive of a city, hoping to climb towards the surface. But nature they expect may no longer be a friend to man.
You can get Eden Log here.
Tetsuo: The Iron Man
Shinya Tsukamoto perhaps more than any other Japanese filmmaker in the ’80s and ’90s captured true fear from machines, and Tetsuo: The Iron Man is still seen as one of the defining works of the genre. After a “Metal Fetishist” infects a man with her machine sickness, it spreads among a small group of people, leading to a metamorphosis that forsakes the flesh for metal in a violently disturbing movie that shocks in every frame.
You can get Testsuo: The Iron Man here.
Another Cronenberg body horror masterpiece, Videodrome brought the once-upon-a-time urban legend of snuff films to UHF TV. But unknown to the viewers of Videodrome, they are recipients of seductive subliminal messaging that plagues the mind and corrupts the flesh.
You can get Videodrome here.
Got your own cyberpunk horror favorites? Let us know in the comments below.
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