Throwback Review: Alien

Posted: October 25, 2014 in Horror Blog
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I could go on an on with my personal analysis of the film and it’s characters; all of the hidden symbolism, viewing the film with a feminist lens, analysis of the creature itself and it’s stages… but I’m not going to. Because that would just take too long, and I want to try and keep this as short and simple as possible. Because, in the end, not much really needs to be said about Alien as a film- other than it’s perfect.

This movie is a masterpiece of cinema. Period; that is all you need to know about it. If you have NEVER seen Alien I, quite frankly, feel sorry for you. Everything about it is pure genius. The craftsmanship and storytelling alone are near perfection, and then add on top the amazing art direction and stylistic choices made and it just makes for one hell of a movie. A movie that is downright engrossing and terrifying. This is a movie that, even into my late teens, I was watching through hands covering my eyes at parts. And since we just had the 35th anniversary edition released as well as the release of the new game Alien: Isolation, I thought it was a good time to take a look at this movie.

The story follows the crew of the ship Nostromo, a “freighter” space ship. The crew receives an emergency beacon from planet LV-426 (which you don’t find out the name of the planet until the sequel Aliens, which is almost equally as awesome and I will eventually do a review for as well.) The ship lands on the planet and finds a derelict spacecraft of some kind and investigates. But Kane, one of the crew members, returns to Nostromo with something attached to his face. The creature eventually detaches and dies, and Kane seems okay. But he’s not. The “facehugger” put something inside him, and it wants out. And it gets out. The rest of the movie, the remaining crew of the Nostromo fight to stay alive as they are killed off one by one by this xenomorph alien species… this “perfect organism.”

First of the characterization of the Nostromo crew is fantastic. They seem like real people. Their actions make sense and the dialogue is really tight. Sure there is futuristic jargon thrown in, but it’s not superfluous or silly in any way. The characters talk and act realistically, and that is something that rarely happens in horror films. One of the things I applaud this movie for (because it rarely happens in horror films) is having the characters react to death like it really happened. That is something that never occurs in horror, and really bothers me- characters don’t really grieve. At most we have characters that find out a friend has died, they cry for a second, then move on. There is no anger, there is no world crumbling break down, and that is not real. People react to death in real life, and in Alien they react. They grieve, they are shocked, they are scared, they cry, they get angry. The emotions and reactions are exactly how people would react, and in the end making the characters more real makes the film more real for an audience, and subsequently more horrifying.

So let’s talk about a scene for a second…

Yeah. I didn’t want to a put a gif in case there are people reading this that haven’t seen the film. If you HAVEN’T seen the film the dinner scene, after the facehugger dies, is reason enough for you to go out and see this film. It’s shocking. I remember when I saw this for the first time my jaw was hanging open. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. I literally had the same reaction as the rest of the Nostromo crew. My freshman year of college I showed this film to my group of friends (none of which had seen the movie) and when this scene came all of them still had the same reaction. When a film can last the test of time like that, and still after so many years evoke the same kind of response, it’s a testament to how well it was written, acted, and directed. The choices made for that scene were spot on, ballsy, and uncomfortable. The overall concept of the facehugger and alien birth alone is brilliant and original.

The adult creature continues that trend with being a truly horrifying, yet beautiful creature. The late H.R Giger’s art just comes to life in this film. His creature design does it’s job of being a very sensual and at the same time striking fear into the audience. It is a disturbing creature, and I don’t think any of the Alien films since the first have really shown the beauty of them like Alien has. I feel like a few times they have tried, but in the end the sequels have focused more on how animalistic and horrifying the creatures are rather than the beauty of them, and that was half the horror of the original Alien. You knew this creature was bad news, but you couldn’t look away. It was a living train wreck. The only other time in the other films, I feel, that had the same awe as Alien was the reveal of the queen in Aliens. 

Then on top of everything else that is good about this film, there is Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver.) Ellen is one of my favorite, and one of the best (period!) female characters of all time. She proves throughout each of these films, especially in Aliens, but it all started with the first film. Spoilers: She goes from being just another crew member to the “final girl” in the blink of an eye. She endures a hell of a lot of loss and pain in this film and still remains strong enough to go head to head with the beast in the end. She proves early on with her conversation with Brett and Parker that she doesn’t fit that “cookie mold” of what a good girl should be- she is her own person, independent and authoritative. She demands respect, as opposed to Lambert who kind of plays out like the a-typical female character who just breaks down. Ellen stands up when the moment arises, and takes control (or at least tries to) of a horrifying situation.

I honestly have nothing more to say about this movie. It is genuinely horrifying; it still is up there as one of the scariest films I have ever seen.  It isn’t just a well crafted horror film, but a well crafted film in general which, in general, stands the test of time. At 35 years old the film is still effective on delivering the blows and the shocks. It’s a great mixture of suspense, terror, and even a little drama thrown in. The film’s structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.

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