With the upcoming release of The Predator this September, I figure this would be the best time to look back on not just one, but two popular science fiction film franchises. This series of reviews will go over every movie in the Alien and The Predator series as well as the two films crossing them over. Let’s not waste any time and get started on the one that started it all; Ridley Scott’s Alien.
I really did failed to comprehend the craftsmanship behind the scenes that make this movie special on my first two viewings. Right from the start, there’s this sense that something is just not quite right. The ship where most of the movie takes place the Nostromo is a huge worn out industrial-style maze of halls and corridors that’s more befitting for a prison than a place for people to actually live in. There is in-group tension within the crew. And that’s not even mentioning the murderous, cold-blooded elephant in the room.
The titular Alien is one of the scariest monsters in all of fiction. A ruthless killer that has no traits that would be seen as human or civilized. The design reflects this perfectly. It’s form looks humanoid, but lacks any facial traits or anything else that could show it is capable of emotions or intentions. The complete opposite of humanity in every regard that more well-suited for the ship than the people who built it.
What’s even more freighting about this creature is the sexual horror present in both its design and behavior. How the facehugger attached itself around the face of its unfortunate victims and impregnate them. How the Alien kills it prey by opening up it’s mouth and using the second mouth within. And that’s not even mentioning how the Alien interacts with the crew in a few particular sequences when the kill count begins to ramp up. All of it combines to create a monster that psychologically violating in its presentation.
All of the actors deliver fantastic performances. They portray their characters in a subtle, but very realistic way. I’ve felt all of the happiness, fear, anger, and every other emotion you could think of radiating within and outward. How these characters are written is also equally wonderful. Make no mistake, the crew are not a bunch of your standard Hollywood heroes. These are you’re average folk with their own particular strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. I enjoy their company in the film’s more relaxed moments, and share their paranoia and horror when all hell breaks loose.
However, it would be shameful of me to not give praise to the real star of this film. Ridley Scott. An exceptional director with a catalog of fantastic films under his belt. He can get excellent performances out of his cast, and set tone and atmosphere. Making the best use of sound effects and music to ensure that the audience is sucked into the worlds and characters he created. When it comes to his directing efforts, this might be my favorite film from him. I loved everything that he’s doing here. The masterful use of lights, shadows and camera movement that really lends to this undercurrent of uneasiness that runs throughout the film. The living quarters for instance are bright and look comfortable enough, but there is something sterile about it. That’s not even mentioning the terrific use of sound. Ripley running through the ship while the screams of her follow crew-mates are playing in the background for example is stupidly effective in just how spine-chilling it is. Scott really is the reason this film works so much. <i>Alien<i> would have been a completely different film tonally if he wasn’t on that director chair.
You ever had those movies you liked and watched them a few years later to realize how much better it is on repeated viewings? Alien is one of them for me. Time and knowledge has really gave me the ability to appreciate the strength of the talent on and behind the scenes. Alien is an exceptional film with phenomenal direction and excellent performances. And scares. Lots and lots of scares. An all time favorite.
Bring on the sequels!