Alien Movie Review (Ridley Scott Special)
Alien is a thrilling and terrifying sci-fi adventure in space. Featuring lonely and isolated places in the universe, where no one will hear you scream. This is the movie that started Ridley Scott’s career.
Genre: Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Sir Ian Holm, Tom Skerritt, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartwright, John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton & Bolaji Badejo.
Run Time: 117 min.
US Release: 25 May 1979
UK Release: 06 September 1979
German Release: 25 October 1979
Welcome to the first entry in my series of reviews for Ridley Scott sci-fi films, that will lead up to The Martian, being released this year on October 8th in Germany. Alien is Scott's first sci-fi movie, and at that one of my favourite horror-thrillers ever filmed. Although nearly 40 years old, it still manages to hold up to today’s standards and creeps out its audience.
Originally gathering a lot of mixed and negative reviews, Alien is nowadays seen as one of the greatest science fiction films ever produced and swayed a lot of critics from their original opinion. My first encounter with this sci-fi horror shocker was in my young teenage years; it scared me to the core and gave me nightmares for days. I am a great film of this film and it is one of my favourite films ever made.
— WARNING, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! —
The Nostromo, a commercial deep space towing vessel, is on its way back to earth. When the computer picks an SOS signal the seven-member crew are awoken from hyper sleep and ordered to follow the distress call. The crew figure out the signal is sent from a dead planet and they decide to decent on the planet and follow the signal.
The team finds a crashed extraterrestrial ship and explore the inner corridors, finding a biological alien entity similar to an egg. The egg hatches and a spider like creature (“facehugger”) attaches itself on one of the crew members.
As the rest of the party try and save their partner from possible death, Captain Dallas and second in command Ripley have a heated discussion about the dangers of bringing an alien entity onboard the ship. The facehugger soon dies, having served its purpose, and a second parasitic alien burst through the chest of the infected crew member. The alien matures after hours and starts killing the crew one by one.
The plot develops slowly but the suspense is always present, ever since the first scene at the beginning that shows us an empty spaceship. It takes its time to build up, an aspect taken from Spielberg’s Jaws. Once the terror unleashes it is most horrifying and disturbing, setting the area in a claustrophobic setting no one is able to escape.
The idea of an unknown life form attacking in a constraint area in space is fantastic. The script written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, is inspired by a lot of other sci-fi and horror plots. It was mainly inspired though by The Thing from Another World, which was also about a team in an isolated space who discover an alien, bring it in and are killed one by one as it haunts the corridors.
Another positive feature this film has is that there is no clear protagonist, until a little bit before the third act. Sir Ian Holm’s portrayal of the android Ash was fantastic, especially when his protocol is activated to protect the a live alien specimen at all costs (even at the expense of the crew's life). Sigourney Weaver did a brilliant job as Ripley, a strong and independent woman put on a rough spot and doing an uneasy job.
The cinematography in Alien, is one of the finest in cinema. The angles and camera positions used during the alien infiltration give a very claustrophobic atmosphere. While open spaced angles in big rooms are used during the introduction of the crew and group meetings. When together, the camera focuses on the group as a whole.
The use of practical effects and the amount of screen time used for the planets and space helped keep this late 70’s horror sci-fi’s look fresh. You can tell the film is from an older decade, but it still looks good. The only thing that is truly dated are the computers. The alien costume still looks scary and Ash’s decapitating scene looks incredibly real.
The only effects I found disappointing was the scene with Ash, after his decapitation, when Ripley turns his head back on and there is a clear cut between a prosthetic head and Sir Ian Holm in mask.
Verdict: Alien is one of the greatest horror science-fiction stories told on the big screen. It builds its suspense slowly, using trickery such as the silence of space, or the emptiness of corridors. This is, after Star Wars, my favourite film playing in space and I give it a 10 out of 10.
What did you think of Alien? Did you like the premise of slowly build horror, or are you a fan of the modern take of horror? Next month I will be reviewing Blade Runner - The Final Cut version.
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