Saturday, 21 October 2017

31 Days of Horror: Alien (1979)

Welcome back to Wondra's World and 31 Days of Classic Horror. Today, we're going to be discussing Alien (1979). If you live in a cave and somehow haven't heard of/seen Alien, it's about the crew of a commercial salvage ship that are awoke early from cryostasis because of a strange signal that they investigate with, of course, disastrous consequences.

Although Jay and I agree that Aliens is the best film in the series, Alien is here because it did it first. It was groundbreaking and cemented the franchise firmly in the horror genre.

Let's see what Jay thinks...

'Alien' was one of the first videos my father ever rented when I was a kid. We watched Alien together as a family. I was bored for the first half. It was kind of slow until the alien makes an appearance. That chestburster scene is still one of the most iconic scenes in sci-fi horror, just look at 'Spaceballs'.

The beginning of the film is very interesting, for me. It's such an eerie start, with the silent ship and that sudden, shrill, computerised whine. It creates tension effortlessly and doesn't rush. I can see how you might see that as slow, though.

Well, it is beautifully filmed and very creative. 

It really is. The use of wide shots create vastness. This is a film that captures the bleakness of space.  There's a slight blue-grey tinge that makes it feel cold, which builds that feeling of space.

You mentioned before that the sequel is the better film but it's more sci-fi action than a sci-fi horror, which is why it's not here. This was Ridley Scott's first real break-through movie. Funny how Sigourney Weaver was the unknown when this came out. It launched her into super-stardom. 

'Alien' really has a helluva cast. Everyone one has had a stellar career since being part of this one. I love that Veronica Cartwright, from 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers', is in 'Alien'. It's a really nice touch. 

You can't argue with how awesome Ripley is. And a strong, female hero, which is important. I'll tell ya, I didn't like Ian Holm's Ash, though! He's so suspicious, from the beginning. By the time he opens the shuttle doors, you have a serious mistrust of him. It's an interesting commentary on human/computer interactions.

The thing that I love about 'Alien' is that you're stuck in a tin can, a million miles from home, without any real weapons and this thing that's a super-hunter is after you. The Xenomorph isn't just a hunter, it's an intelligent hunter. You're fucked. 

Not to mention it's one cool alien. It's sleek and ribbed and just so freaking cyber-goth that it hurts. I love that it doesn't have eyes that you can see. Makes it more sinister somehow.

It helps hat you only see flashes of the Xenomorph until the end.

True. There's a good combination of POV camera-work, where you're moving along with the characters and listening to their breathing and really there. But, at the same time. You get images from their helmets broadcast back to the Nostromo that are grainy and disjointed. When you see those images, so scattered and confusing, you know what they must have been feeling.

You mentioned before about being stuck in 'a tin can' in space. The Nostromo is effective in that way. Lots of sci-fi is so white and sterile but the Nostromo feels like a dingy old ship (with the exception of the medical labs.) Like a place where work happens. It keeps the film from ageing because it's an industrial salvage ship. You'd expect it to be old and out-of-date.

'Alien' really kicks off when the facehugger attaches to Hurt - that's where it changes from a sci-fi movie to sci-fi horror. It becomes such an atmospheric, nerve-wracking film. My favourite part, though, features the Nostromo, kind of. It's right after Ripley's blown up the Nostromo. she doesn't realise the Alien is in the shuttle with her. What a great jump. Now, she's in an even smaller tin can with the bloody thing.

There really are some terrific jumps in Alien. My favourite is when you first get a glimpse of the facehugger. When the egg opens and you see the thing inside pulsing, you almost want to lean in closer to see. Then, it launches at his face. Great jump.

You can't argue with how well-made Alien is. The noises are either creeping through the background or in-your-face cacophony. Or, worse. There's this long stretch where it goes really quiet. That always gets me. There's also brilliant use of light and steam and shadow, like their helmet lights against the dark mist of the planetoid.

'Alien' is still so very still relevant. I can't think of a horror film set in a space craft before this. You know, I watched it two nights ago and it hasn't aged at all. Superb film. There's gotta be something there; it spawned three sequels and two prequels.

And we're still talking about it, almost forty years later. What do you think of Alien, dear readers? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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