Alien is awesome. It is one of my favorite movies.
I re-watched the movie Alien today. If you like scary movies and by some chance have never seen this movie, go watch it right now. Trust me. From here on in, I am going to be assuming that you’ve seen it, so SPOILER WARNING.
I first saw Alien when I was in 5th grade, so about 10 years old. That is probably too young for this movie. The corner store near us rented video tapes and I remember looking at the box and thinking it looked really cool. I must have annoyed my dad enough that he finally let us rent it. He was pretty strict about not letting us watch R rated movies. I think I may have convinced him for my birthday or something like that. There were some kids in the neighborhood who saw all the horror movies, so I was usually the last one to see anything. At that time, it was the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. I don’t think I have ever been as scared during a movie as I was the first time I watched this. I had nightmares from it for a long time.
It is the perfect horror movie. The plot is pretty simple; the crew of the spaceship Nostromo encounters a mysterious alien life form which then proceeds to kill them one by one. It’s the typical slasher movie setup, but in space. The plot is simple, but the execution is perfect. The characters feel real. Even though they are on a spaceship, they are everyday working people not space heroes like Captain Kirk or Luke Skywalker. Just regular Janes and Joes, trying to do their best to survive an insane situation.
This 1979 movie embraces the “used future” aesthetic popularized by Star Wars a few years earlier. The ship looks worn, broken in. Not the shiny clean future of Star Trek or 2001, but a scungy grungy beat up future. The corridors of the Nostromo look amazing in this movie. Bright living sections, contrasting with the darker corridors, lit by strobe light and light filtering through slats, with steam and smoke adding atmosphere – it looks fantastic. 40 years on, it holds up amazingly well. No green screen here.
The monster itself is a work of genius. Based on designs and artwork by Swiss artist H.R. Giger, I think it is one of the best monsters ever put on film. The first time we encounter the alien, it is a crab-like facehugger, that leaps onto a helmet and latches onto the unfortunate Kane’s (John Hurt’s) face, putting him into a coma. They try to cut it off, it bleeds an acid that is so strong it eats through several decks of the ship. It drops off and dies unexpectedly, and the next thing we know a foot long monstrosity bursts out of Kane’s stomach while the crew is gathered together having a snack. It’s a cliche now, but when I first saw this it blew my mind. The thing scuttles away, and the next time we see it it is a seven foot tall eyeless insectoid humanoid thing that is an unstoppable killing machine. It must work on some kind of subconscious level, because it is repulsive and fascinating to look at. This creature blends in with the background of the ship so well, as soon as it shows up you start looking for it in the background of every scene.
Ripley (Signourney Weaver) is eventually the sole survivor. She blows up the ship, blasts the alien into space and burns it up in an engine, and she at least saves the cat. She is the voice of reason early on (and is ignored), and is brave and strong and clever. Way back in the 70s, it was a big deal for a woman to be the hero in this type of movie, and the character was originally written as a man.
Alien has spawned a franchise. The sequel, Aliens, directed by James Cameron, is the perfect action movie. It’s a big shift in tone from the horror of the first movie, and I may rewatch that one soon, too. The rest of the Alien universe is not quite as strong. There are other weaker sequels, comics, books, toys, video games, and it is now intertwined with the Predator movies as well. There are some decent parts of the Alien universe, but for me the absolute best part is the original movie.
Thanks for reading! Did you like Alien? Let me know in the comments below!