|Directed by:||Ridley Scott|
|Written by:||Dan O'Bannon|
|Cast:||Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton|
Unforgettable. Ridley Scott’s imagination comes to nearly full bloom with the unique set design (thank you Micael Seymour), and the stroke of genius involved in hiring H.R. Giger to provide the look of the alien creature(s). When you have the claustrophic, completely immersive surroundings of the Nostromo encapsulating every inch of the screen, and the frightening creature creation that can only come from the mind of H.R. Giger… and then mix in a lot of great actors who work well onscreen together, a killer score by Jerry Goldsmith, an oft-used but seldom (if ever) surpassed story concept, then throw it all together in space – a place that you cannot escape – you can’t help but be completely enthralled by the chemistry that will explode from such a concoction!
Well, maybe not explode; it’s more like a slow burn. You can’t get it off. It eats at you from the inside out, and it’s not until the movie’s finally over that you can remove your tense grip on the armchair and take a deep sigh of relief.
This is a movie that gains pace and tension very slowly. It likes to torture the audience, and keep them guessing at what’s going to happen next. There are very few ‘startle’ scares, which are the cheapest excuse for making the audience jump. Most of the terror lies in whatever might be crouching silently beyond the safety of the light, or what you might not be able to see lurking just outside the frame of a closely zoomed face.
A great example is when Brett (Stanton) goes looking for the cat, Jonesy. He ends up in a room that has dangling chains, quietly clanking together making their tiny jingling sounds. Add further tension with the cats’ meow echoing in the large space, and water drops falling from the ceiling, landing onto Brett’s billfold. What is there to worry about?
Then, we have the main attraction; the alien. I don’t want to spoil it in case you haven’t already seen it, but we don’t see much of him, which helps add to the fear factor when watching it. What’s even more exciting is that the more that is revealed of him, the more attractive he becomes. He holds up well effects-wise even today. He’s not perfect, especially near the end, but he’s more than effective enough to be considered one of the most beautiful special effects creatures ever to have been put on film. See him, fear him… admire him in all his slimy, double-mouthed acid-blood-spewing glory!
There are things about Alien that didn’t work for me. My main complaint is that stupid cat Jonesy. I hate it! What’s even worse is when someone needs to go back to retrieve it, when we know that situations are getting worse by the second! Don’t do this to us! This is not a good reason to make the character have to run back into trouble! There was also the inevitable ‘so frightened they're frozen to the point of inaction’ character that just pissed me off. This person is just STANDING THERE not doing JACK SHIT while the world around them is turning to hell! MOVE, or something! PLEASE!
But these are more minor gripes when you consider this movie as a whole. It is not just another run-of-the-mill horror/sci-fi story. This movie manages to grap you by the balls within the first half hour, and it barely relieves the tension enough for you to take another breath!
If you haven’t seen Alien yet, then it’s about time you got away from the computer screen and go rent a double feature of Alien and Aliens for the same night. It will totally rock your world!
Tidbit: 'Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard' is a book by Joseph Conrad. Isn't it funny that the ship in Alien is named "Nostromo"? Isn't it even funnier that in Aliens the name of the ship is "Sulaco", the silver mine in South America's (imagined) Costaguana that Nostromo goes to in the book? I think that's kinda funny.