There aren’t many scary movies on my list, but I couldn’t leave out this classic blend of sci-fi and horror. Ridley Scott’s Alien may have had myriad source materials (The Thing from Another World, Forbidden Planet, etc.), but it’s also terrifyingly original, with an interrupted dinner scene that ranks among the most shocking and memorable ever filmed. With a crew of relatable everymen, Oscar-winning visual effects, and some impressively realized sets for the Nostromo’s interior, Alien also marked the breakthrough success of director Ridley Scott.
When the film was first released, no one expected an alien to pop out of someone’s chest, and no one knew who would survive the frightful encounter, least of all newcomer Sigourney Weaver, who gained much of her fame from this first starring role as Ellen Ripley. The entire film is thick with tension, which slowly builds from the empty corridors at the beginning to the misty alien world on which the crew lands. Once the alien is released upon the unsuspecting humans, almost every scene is suffused with dread that some hideous thing could be around the next corner or camouflaged somewhere in the dark. The ambushes of Brett and Dallas are enough to give anyone nightmare; my VC has seen the film more often than I have, and she was still shaking during those scenes.
Adding to the obvious horror aspects of a hidden monster, many critics also pointed out a sexual subtext that I’d never thought of, namely that the life cycle of the alien tapped into the fear of rape, or more specifically non-consensual reproduction. It was not lost on analysts that it was a man that “gave birth” and that a woman was the hero. This served to frighten men and women alike out of their wits on multiple levels and gave women a remarkably strong example bucking the usually helpless horror archetype.
Though the film is full of language, which, along with the infamous, bloody chest-bursting scene, gained it an R rating, the rest of the movie is actually pretty restrained. Aside from Kane’s, all the other deaths are either off-screen or quickly cut to keep the audience wondering what it was they saw. It’s certainly not for kids, but it’s at least nothing like the outrageous gore fests I steer clear of. I don’t mind being scared, just being grossed-out for the sake of cheap frights.
Though the Alien franchise was run into the ground with Alien: Resurrection and the Alien vs. Predator films, the original remains an icon of both science fiction and horror, a film that countless others have tried to emulate.Best line: (Ripley) “When we throw the switches, how long before the ship blows?” (Parker) “Ten minutes.” (Ripley) “No b***s***?” (Parker) “We ain’t outta here in ten minutes, we won’t need no rocket to fly through space.”
Artistry: 9 Characters/Actors: 9 Entertainment: 9 Visual Effects: 8 Originality: 9 Watchability: 7 Other (language, violence): -2 TOTAL: 49 out of 60
Next: #129 – Regarding Henry
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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