Review: Alien (1979)

Alien is a great film. Why am I talking about it now? Well, until recently (about 2 1/2 weeks ago), I’d never watched the entirety of Alien, beginning to end, and when I did, my (can I say friend?), emmakwall, suggested via Twitter that I review it. And I will!

Alien is a 1979 sci-fi/horror film directed by Ridley Scott, written by Dan O’Bannon, and starring Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Tom Skerrit, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm, and Yaphet Kotto as the crew of the USCSS Nostromo, and Xenomorph as the Xenomorph. Nah, I’m just kidding, Xenomorphs aren’t real! But Predators are. Not really. Fooled you! Hopefully, I actually didn’t fool you. If I did, please get a psychologist or something.

Probably not this guy, though.

Alien is an incredibly atmospheric and creepy film, assisted by the incredible designs of H.R. Giger, who created the Xenomorph literally out of his own nightmares. Like, the design, not the suit. As in, he designed this:

Out of his own nightmares. I’m glad I don’t have nightmares like that. At least, not without assistance from this film. *Shudder*

Ridley Scott’s direction is fantastic, building suspense perfectly, starting off with simple human interactions, and morphing into a claustrophobic nightmare as the Xenomorph begins to pick the crew off one by one. But we’ll talk about that beastie later.

Right now, it’s time to talk about the crew. And if they’re not some of the best characters ever in a horror film, I don’t know who are. The captain and trustworthy (yet vulnerable) leader, Dallas. The mysterious and methodical science officer, Ash. The sympathetic sacrificial lamb, Kane. The greedy Brett and Parker, who are out in space for one thing, and one thing only: money, and will not be content unless they receive what they believe to be their fair share. Our protagonist (and one of the best in cinematic history, I might add), Ripley, who doesn’t receive more focus than the rest of the crew until they’re dead (spoiler alert?), surprisingly. Also, Lambert. She exists. I really don’t know anything about her, though.

Each of these characters (except for Lambert, of course) is well-enough fleshed out for it to feel like a tragedy when their inevitable death happens. The crew aren’t just cardboard cut-outs or terrible people for a Michael Myers/Jason Voorhes character to slash down for the sake of the kill. They feel like real, tangible people whose deaths are a sad thing, people who feel as real and authentic as you or me. Except for Lambert, of course.

And the Xenomorph is no slouch, either. It’s one of the greatest monsters in the history of film, a terrifying and violating creature that kills effectively and is nearly impossible to kill, a creature always born out of a parasitic relationship that could accurately be described as a sort of intergalactic…rape. That was an awkward sentence to type out. But it’s true. There’s an air of mystery about the creature (in fact, the word “Xenomorph” is not even mentioned in the first film), and I truly wish that I could’ve experienced the film without already knowing about the creature and its life-cycle. I won’t mention the disturbing life-cycle for anyone who has yet to see it and doesn’t already know about it (but how can you be on the Internet and not already know?), but trust me, it’s pretty terrifying.

The atmosphere is increased by amazing futuristic, yet industrial spaceship designs, a la Star Wars. It’s a future that is actually believable as a progression from the world we live in today. In fact, the Nostromo is financed independently by Weyland-Yutani, a corporation, and U.S. space missions recently became open to corporations. The Nostromo’s mission is nothing military or exploration-wise, either. It’s just a mining ship, nothing more, nothing less. It’s carrying 20 million tons of raw ore and tows a refinery along with it. And that explains its massive size. Seriously, the Nostromo is gigantic.

Now, isn’t that one of the best spaceships ever designed?

The atmosphere and subdued soundtrack contribute to a claustrophobic and terrifying film once the plot kicks off and the Xenomorph starts kicking. This film is scary, especially for a 36-year-old movie! And, on that point, the film holds up exceptionally well, and hardly shows its age. Usually, age is adverse to sci-fi films, as well as horror films, but the effects still hold up pretty well, and the tension is still well done. The creature design and costuming is done fantastically, and the world is a plausible, yet terrifying one. I’d be lying if I said that Alien received any less than an A+.

a plus grade

What did you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.See ya!

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