In Syfy’s Hunters, Gale Anne Hurd wants to make aliens scary again — and she succeeds

Jeff Pfeiffer

Among her many feature film and television credits, Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead) seems to return time and again to the sci-fi and horror genres, and especially to aliens. Hurd notably collaborated with James Cameron to bring to life the nightmarish alien queen of Aliens (1986), and she thinks it’s time to make aliens scary again. That’s part of her stated goal as an executive producer of Syfy’s new series Hunters. Inspired by Whitley Strieber’s novel Alien Hunter, the series, featuring Julian McMahon (Nip/Tuck), follows a highly classified government organization known as the Exo-Terrorism Unit, which tracks and fights alien terrorists, called hunters.

Nathan Phillips as Flynn, and Britne Oldford as Regan, in Syfy’s “Hunters”

“Something is scary if they’re complex,” Hurd elaborated in an interview following a press conference for Hunters. “Not just because we make them look ugly, or that they have powers.”

Part of the scariness of the aliens in Hunters is that they come in human form, not as the traditional “little green men” or monstrous creatures.

“I think to create something scary, the characters — whether they’re human or alien — have to be three-dimensional. They have to have layers. They have to have complexity. I don’t know that that’s always been the case. A lot of times the alien characters have been, well, they’re evil. They’re monsters. Let’s get to know the monsters.

“We have characters dealing with identity issues. We have hunter characters that identify more with the humans and then question themselves. We have human collaborators with the hunters, and then we have the main characters themselves who, like many people, have preconceived notions of the other, of someone not like us. That there can’t possibly be any good. It’s very easy to just assume that anyone who’s different is going to be evil.”

That sounds like a premise that could relate to prejudices in our real world. Also similar to our reality is how terrorism plays a prominent role in the show’s plotline, making it seemingly easy to compare the fictional hunters to the monsters we read about in the headlines. That sort of allegory is part of what Hurd says keeps her returning to the sci-fi genre.

“Once you’re able to, with good storytelling, suspend disbelief,” Hurd says, “you’re dealing with worlds and situations that you’re unlikely to encounter, but they are a stand-in for the things that we’re dealing with in the world today. I think that even explains the success of The Walking Dead. You always feel as if something cataclysmic is going to happen tomorrow. Well, [here] it’s not going to be a zombie apocalypse, but we’re able to ask, ‘Who would I be in that situation?’”

Hunters airs on Syfy Mondays at 10pm ET beginning April 11.