In space no one can hear you scream.
Alien is a 1979 sci-fi horror film directed by Ridley Scott, written by Dan O'Bannon, produced by Brandywine Productions, and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It stars Sigourney Weaver and Tom Skerritt. It was nominated for Best Visual Effects and Best Production Design, winning the first. This is the first film in the Alien franchise, although the third chronologically. It was preceded by Alien: Covenant and followed by Aliens. The film has been selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.
"Bones are bent outward. Like he exploded from the inside." -Dallas
While heading back to Earth after a mission in space, the crew of the spaceship Nostromo encounters a seemingly extraterrestrial message. When they pick up an unknown organism on the ship, the alien soon breaks loose from the grasp of the crew, escaping into the darkness of the ship. As the crew panics, the alien begins to pick them off one by one.
Atmosphere / Ridley Scott's Direction / The Alien / Ellen Ripley / Cool Twist on the Horror Genre / Ash / Tension Between the Group / Lackluster Ending / Very, Very Slow Pace / Not Enough of the Alien
Easily the best thing about Alien is the atmosphere and eeriness of the setting. While I don't necessarily think that Alien is very scary, there are some incredibly creepy elements. The atmosphere being one of them. The film starts with these quiet, establishing shots of the ship, and right away, you know something is off. Some of the shots linger just long enough to make you uncomfortable, and that's what the entire movie feels like. It's a very tense setting that's crafted by a great director.
And Ridley Scott really does an amazing job with this movie. Alien kind of acts as an early inspiration for A Quiet Place. There's a lot of scenes that are basically silent until there is a very effective jump scare. You feel the helplessness and desperation that the characters feel as they know that a dangerous creature is stalking them on the ship. It makes for a very unsettling experience that's amplified by Scott's work behind the camera.
I also absolutely love the way that the alien is designed. The first stage that we get is the facehugger, which is absolutely disgusting. This scorpion-crab hybrid makes you squirm with disgust. Even more nauseating is the fact that it squeezes itself around the host's face. Ew.
But then the Xenomorph itself. Wow. Along with Frankenstein's monster, King Kong, and Godzilla, the Alien is one of the most iconic movie monsters put on screen. The tube of a head and the eyeless face are just the beginning of this horrific thing. It's nasty, slimy body and double set of mouths makes for a truly terrifying creature that has made guest appearances in tons of nightmares.
In an age where we are always striving to have new, powerful female characters, people constantly forget about Ripley. I feel like she is sometimes overshadowed by more popular characters like Princess Leia, Hermione Granger, Black Widow, etc. But Ripley is one of the best film characters ever. She is strong, intelligent, and is able to hold her own against this petrifying alien. I thought that this was a great example of a strong, independent female protagonist.
Alien is a cool example of taking normal tropes and clichés from tons of other movies and making them feel unique. If you change Ellen Ripley into Laurie Strode, the Alien into Michael Myers, and the spaceship into Haddonfield, Illinois, Alien suddenly becomes Halloween. This is a normal horror movie, but the setting of space and the vast, dark void the the solar system is makes this movie feel so hopeless and bleak. I love the way that the sci-fi genre and space setting change this normal horror movie into something so different.
I also really liked the character of Ash. Ian Holm's chilling performance and Ash' inherent creepiness add another layer of scariness to the film. I thought that he was a really good addition to the crew of the Nostromo, and made Alien a much more eerie film.
Finally, I absolutely loved the tension amongst the group that was present throughout. Nobody trusts each other, and I thought that that was a really interesting aspect to add into the movie. Whether it's Parker asking for a pay raise or Ash acting incredibly suspicious throughout the duration of the film, it made the film even more bleak and hopeless then it already was.
My least favorite thing about Alien was definitely the ending. There's a big finale with Ripley trying to accomplish a goal and the alien standing in her way, but I don't think that the face-off between Ripley and the alien was satisfying...at all. Both times that Ripley encounters the alien during the finale, it is very anti-climactic. I was very disappointed by the way that Alien wrapped up, and that took a toll on my opinion of the film.
This may be a good thing for some people, but, for me, I like fast-paced movies. Alien takes its sweet time to get going. The alien itself does not show up until an hour into the movie. The first half an hour is a lot of sci-fi jargon, making it fall somewhat flat. It can be hard to follow at times. Once Kane gets facehugged, it does pick up a little bit, and then when the chestbuster scene happens, the film kicks into high gear, but before then, it's not the best.
Lastly, I do wish that the alien was in more of it. While I love the atmosphere and creepiness of the film, the only time that you feel actual danger and a sense of urgency is when you know that the alien is right around the corner. The Xenomorph is only in, like, four scenes. Its presence is much grander than his actual amount of screen time, and that's frustrating.
Analogy and Final Score
Let's say Alien is a baseball game. Like a legacy baseball game, where all of these great, Hall of Fame players get to play on a single team. It's exciting to watch the game with all of them playing against each other. You get to see Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle at bat. But there's only a few hits in the game. The game is at its best when the ball is hit and there's actually action on the field, but the ball isn't hit that often. Still, you get to watch a game where all of these iconic players are playing each other, and that idea in and of itself is cool.
I will go Savory. Age range is 12+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
Fun Factor: 7/10
Directed by Ridley Scott
Rated R for moderate violence and action, frightening themes and images, language, sexual elements
Released on May 25, 1979
1 hour and 57 minutes
Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley
Tom Skerritt as Dallas
Ian Holm as Ash
Yaphet Kotto as Parker
John Hurt as Kane
Veronica Cartwright as Lambert
Harry Dean Stanton as Brett
Bolaji Badejo as The Xenomorph