A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
One of the all-time classics that one ‘must see before they die’, “Alien” managed to slip into my category of films that “I’ll get around to seeing”. I got around around to it and I must say that I was impressed. Ridley Scott is one of the most discussed and celebrated directors of the modern age, and apart from “Blade Runner” and “Gladiator”, 1979’s “Alien” is undoubtedly his most associated and definitive picture.
Possessing epitomising iconography of not only the horror genre, but science-fiction as well, “Alien” achieves greatness in almost every aspect. Furthermore, the audience are treated to the greatest heroine and promotional tagline in cinematic history!
I saw “Alien” on Tuesday evening, March 10th, two days after International Women’s Day. The reason I’m mentioning this is because the build up to this particular day was a primary factor in me seeking out “Alien” and appreciating what many consider to be the most heroic and iconic female put to screen; Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley.
Hearing and seeing endless pieces, pictures and quotes from the highly popular character, I had an idea as to what to expect. Needless to say, Ripley holds up against all the recognition and potential over-hyping.
Growing up and learning about films, “Alien” was always a staple for the horror and sci-fi genres. It defined an era and included endless iconic scenes, shots and quotes. The plot line is very simple, but explored to great effect.
En route home, space vessel Nostromo makes a sudden stopover after receiving a distress signal from a mysterious planet. After failing to rescue any humans, the crew begin to return home, only now they’re joined by a deadly and horrific organism that picks the crew off one by one in typical horror film fashion.
“Alien” possesses every horror trope in the book, even some shaky-cam for that matter! But what makes it such a fascinating watch is the cloud of suspense and intrigue generated from the slow pace of it all. There’s an ever-present sense of doom cast upon the characters even after the first frame, but there isn’t anything significant that occurs until much later in the film. To achieve such a goal requires some really clever writing and editing.
It’s something that many horror films have attempted to replicate over the years and haven’t been able to fully accomplish.
Rather than the momentary buildup to a interchangeable jump scare, “Alien” is able to build tension and nervousness from very early on through a number of differing fields and keep that going for an enormous amount of time.
It’s not a very action-packed film as many would suspect, rather, it’s a slow burning thrill ride that never lets go of your attentiveness, not for one moment. What seems insignificant at first, is actually just a clever way of building up to something extravagant towards the explosive climax of the film.
The cast is both diverse and superbly invested in their roles. The balance of race, gender and age is tackled so very well, plus the chemistry between each member is both believable and engaging. Memorable names such as John Hurt and Ian Holm are crucial to the story and offer very mysterious and impressive character arks, particularly Holm. I for one had never seen Hurt like this!
As a member of Gen-Y, my introduction to Ian Holm and John Hurt, like many, came in the form of Bilbo Baggins and Garrick Olivander. It’s fantastic to see examples of their former success from over twenty years ago and fourteen years before I was born!
“Alien” is an example of how horror films got it right back in the day. A primary factor that has been a differentiator of late is the use of practical animatronics instead of CGI. The technology used in “Alien” is so believable and scarily lifelike, it surpasses almost all of the earliest horror CGI put to screen.
Going the extra mile to create various extra terrestrial organisms is a credit to the filmmakers, but also an indicator of the era. From the grotesque “Facehugger” to the renowned Xenomorph, for some, the most fearsome and terrifying antagonistic beast put to screen, “Alien” shines through it’s devotion and chilling realness of the animatronics.
Above all, what “Alien” was able to achieve back in the late ’70’s is nothing short of extraordinary. It’s iconic nature has transcended the eras and spawned not only countless associated content, but a whole new way we look at horror.
It’s nothing drastically unique when it’s deconstructed, but those classic action thrillers from the era are more or less where it all started.
If there’s a film in which a ghastly animalistic beast reigns terror upon the human race, it has most likely been inspired by Ridley Scott’s fantastic 1979 classic!