Director – Ridley Scott
Cast – Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto
Release Year – 1979
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Alien is the best example of Hollywood doing things right and putting out an excellent film that will really scare the hell out of you. The theatrical release had it’s fair share of cuts from the film, but Ridley Scott’s “director’s cut” of the film is quintessential of true horror and should be a staple for all horror filmmakers who aim to make a “serious” horror film(for non-serious/fun horror I suggest you look up Peter Jackson or Lloyd Kaufman, haha!).
The plot follows a commercial mining ship named “Nostromo” as it is heading back to Earth from a lengthy expedition. The crew intercepts and SOS signal on a nearby planet and are contractually obligated to investigate the matter. A three man crew sets out from the Nostromo and begins trekking the unknown planet in search of the signal. They locate a huge, strange looking ship with an alien lifeform still in it’s driver’s seat. The life form has been petrified over time and features a strange opening in it’s ribcage, as if something projected out of the lifeform’s body. After searching some more one of the crew members finds some weird pods on the ground and curiously prods one of the pods, forcing it to open up and send an alien creature through the fan’s helmet and onto his face. The crew immediately bring him back onboard at the behest of Ripley(Sigourney Weaver), who believes the person should be quarantined given they have no knowledge of the whereabouts or capabilities of the lifeform on the crewmember’s face. This proves to be a horrible mistake and an alien is now on the loose within the ship’s long and seemingly never-ending levels and compartments and is killing off the crewmembers one by one. The plan is to get off the ship on one of the escape pods and blow up the ship, however this “perfect creature” proves to be a more formidable foe than our characters anticipated…and they are paying with their lives.
Ridley Scott struck gold with this film and gave us not only one of the greatest horror films of all time, but a film that is listed by many as being one of the greatest overall films ever! His direction in this film, which was only his second full length film, is superb and definitely foreshadows his career as being one of Hollywood’s best. Mr. Scott went on to direct Legend, Gladiator, Hannibal, Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men, Kingdom of Heaven, American Gangster, and Body of Lies, pretty impressive for a guy who got his big break doing a horror film eh?
Where Mr. Scott really succeeds is his use of atmosphere in this film. The low lighting and brilliantly designed sets portray the “alone” and “desolate” feelings our characters feel when they realize they have a bloodthirsty alien on the loose and there are nowhere near being saved by anyone. His use of camera angles and wide pans envelop the viewer and keep you on the edge of your sear if not in fear then in complete awe at the use of the film’s special effects and atmosphere. Releasing in theaters in 1979 Alien was delivered to the public during the Star Wars frenzy and provided not only the same amazing visuals but true fear, the opposite emotion most of us feel when watching Star Wars. Is Ridley Scott the Anti-Lucas? Hehe.
The pacing of this film is amazing and once again shows off Ridley Scott’s talent as a director. The first hour of the film moves quite slow as far as plot yet you never really realize it and before you know it that whole hour has gone by, without you ever feeling bored or uninterested. His movement of this film is a big reason behind this film’s epicness given that most films with great plots take quite some time to develop the film and can honestly get boring here or there. I would totally forgive this film if I had boring stages but it honestly does not and never let us off the hook from suspense. From it’s chilly musical score to the faint beating heartbeats you hear to the final monotonous countdown this film sets you up for panic and pandemonium without having to show you much. Ladies and gentlemen…THAT is true horror!
The characters in this film were enjoyable and believable as well. I personally scoffed at the idea of Sigourney Weaver as the lead given her usual lack of emotion but she fills her “Ripley” role perfectly not only in this film but it it’s three sequels as well. However aside from Sigourney Weaver I must say that my favorite character in this film would be the alien itself. Not only is it much hotter than Sigourney Weaver(HAHAHAHA!) but the idea and design of the creature is freakin amazing! Surrealist artist, sculpter, and set designer H. R. Giger designed this infamous creature and even went on to win an Academy Award(and “Oscar” for you numbskulls) for this film under the “Best Achievement for Visual Effects” category. I honestly find this “alien” to be one of the scariest looking creatures in all of horror cinema. It’s thin, sleek looking figure with it’s long tail, elongated head, and infamous mouth inside it’s mouth really scare the crap out of me when I think about ever seeing one of them in real life. The biology of this creature is fascinating as well. The species survives by hatching from an egg, wrapping onto the host’s face, and delivering an embryo into the host via the person’s throat. The embryo develops in the person’s body pretty quickly and when it reaches what I’d say to be “puberty” it rips out of the person’s ventral cavity(the front of your body) and then quickly matures into a full adult, ready to kill. Freakin sweet!
Overall, this is an amazing film that I recommend to all humans and not just horror fans. Aside from being a great horror film, this film is a great film itself and opened the door for true horror to enter the Hollywood scene.