Alien (1979)

Most movie lovers have been all of a flutter at the latest Prometheus trailers and being too impatient to wait until it hits the cinemas, I had to get my fix by indulging in a weekend of ‘Alien’ and ‘Aliens’. Both brilliant films in their own right, but the edge goes to Ridley Scott’s sci fi horror ‘Alien’ who introduced us to one of the scariest creatures in cinema history; just seeing the title sequence when i was young was enough to scare me.

We all know the story well enough as the opening sequence of the mining ship Nostromo floats sleepily through space as its crew wake from stasis, unknowingly to investigate a mysterious distress call. As a small party is sent to the derelict ship comprising of H.R Geiger’s amazingly designed interior, the inquisitive John Hurt, who just cant stop investigating, ends up incapacitated and carried back to the ship attached to a facehugger. Soon the facehugger drops off and everything is fine and dandy with everyone gathered round the lunch table: que one of the most iconic movie scenes ever, as the alien bursts through poor John’s chest, leaving everyone horrified. Ridley Scott cleverly shot this without the actor’s knowledge that large quantis of blood would also project out of the body and captured truely shocked reactions from the cast.
As the crew is picked off one by one by the merciless alien being, tensions reach tipping point at the shocking revealation crew member Ash is actually a emotionless android ordered to bring the alien back at the expense of the crew. So Ripley steps up to destroy the alien once and for all, but its not so easy.
Early on Ripley seems a minor role. Scott again engineered casting Ripley as, unkown actress at the time, Signourney Weaver against more established actors for the rest of the crew, played by the likes of Tom Skerrit, John Hurt and Ian Holm building the suspense as it becomes apparent no actor is safe in this film.

Ridley Scott’s creation is beautifully envisioned, the whole opening sequence moves serenly like a dream, as if Scott had to squeeze in all the tranquility and beauty of space, before you’re subjected to the planet’s cruel atmosphere and the eerie images of the derelict spacecraft holding its awful secrets inside. Even the scariest aspect of the film, the alien itself was ingeniously designed by Geiger, his disturbing designs created the perfect alien for a sophisticated horror film and Scott’s lighting and editing slowly reveals the alien’s unravelling form bit by bit, until the viewer is awarded with a full, yet brief, appearance at the end. Watching it now, some alien shots are noticable as a man in a suit hidden by shadows, but lets not forget this is a 32 year old film that still looks ahead of its time. I’m also a firm beliver that to create great suspense and deliver true fear, if delivered right, less is more.

All this elevated the movie to a slick and smooth suspenseful horror teaming with special effects created to a budget of $8.4 million. Scott has admitted that the smaller budget pushed creativity in his film. The scene of the derelict spacecraft and alien remains, known as the ’space jockey’ looked like a vast set piece; in reality, only one wall of the alien craft was constructed and the space jockey would be rotated inbetween takes giving the impression of a whole room. Further creativity meant the autopsy of the face hugger used real shellfish for its insides adding to the realism.

For me, Alien is the scariest movie ever, it left a lasting effect on me in the 80s. Creating an absolute perfect monster and Scott’s ability to conceive a stylish, claustrophobic and tense atmosphere has made the Alien legend and franchise hold. As a sci fi film it excelled in creating a relasitic human world clashing against the surreal alien realities from the mind of Geiger. The film holds as a strong sci fi and horror movie; heres hoping Prometheus continues in its footsteps.

2 thoughts on “Alien (1979)”

  1. This is a well-structured review. I especially like your analysis of the casting and also the special effects employed in the film. Speaking of horror movies, have you seen The Exorcist and The Thing? Would love to hear your thoughts on these movies.

  2. Perfect review!!! Certainly a well written movie and directed how many more should be these days. How many movies do we now watch that you know the end story after the first 5 minutes.

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