- Native Title: Alien
[figure 1] Release poster (unknown)
- Primary Language: English
- Format: Colour
- Year of release: 1979
- Director: Ridley Scott
- Budget: est. $11,000,000
- Film Length: 117 minutes
- Production Company: 20th Century Fox
Another of the icons of film history, Alien is a dark exploration into the idea of rape through the classic horror tropes within a period when Science Fiction was in a boom age from the popularity of such franchises as Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars. Alien however is a much darker tale than any of these three and focuses on a used-future setting. It has been critically regarded as one of the scariest and most disturbing films of the late 20th century.
When you look into it, the film is your classic typical horror story of a group of people trying to survive in a haunted house. One of the things that can come into question that Alien gets around via its setting is the question of "why not leave and call for help?" Unlike suburbia-set films the isolated location of deep space beyond the human frontier makes the film's tagline of "in space no one can hear you scream" ring very true: There is no air for the sound to travel but you will also be too far from anyone outside your group to help should you start screaming.
|[figure 2] Its gross, but somehow the key aspects of it being a |
baby are still there. Both creepy and oddly adorable. (Eggert, 2012)
|[figure 3] Perhaps one of the most famous improv scenes in film|
history; The specifics of Lambert's grossed-out and vocal reaction
to the alien was not in the script. But it helps a lot to establish
these characters as people (Nathan, 2009)
Another aversion to classic horror tropes is that the actors listed at the beginning are the ones to die, and Sigourney Weaver, while a film sensation now, did not get a beginning credit. The film stars people like Kotto, John Hurt, Tom Skeritt, Veronica Cartwright, Ian Holm and Harry-Dean Stanton. All of these actors have had careers in film and television all the way back as far as the 50s and were big names of the 70s. Alien was Weaver's breakout gig effectively, as before her career was near negligible compared to the other actors of the film. Yet she becomes the sole survivor of the crew, a position that is most often given to the bigger names on the cast roster in survival films. But at the same time the film still falls into classic tropes of the genre, Jones the Cat is probably responsible for between one third to half of all the scares in the film and Brett's (Stanton) death was though carelessness of wandering around a dimly lit room while there is an alien entity the crew knows nothing about lurking about (although Ash does get in a funny line mentioning to Dallas (Skerrit) that although the facehuggers do bleed acid, he's fairly certain that they don't become zombies. Perhaps something of a jab at the film's overall genre?). And I see definite significance in John Hurt being the one we see waking up first.
What might make this movie stand out more is the background of some of the key members of the crew: "Scott, a recruit from advertising, where instant atmospherics has to be the order of the day, manipulates his audience in a far stronger fashion than he does in The Duelists" (Malcom, 2009) It can be seen in the drama of the Alien first arriving and in the mood of several scenes that are developed though a chilling score and lighting as well as plenty of close-up shots of the cast at tense moments. When it come to designing the alien and the environment it was found in, Scott didn't go to a concept artist. He went to a surrealist, asking H. R. Giger to design the scariest alien thing he could. What came out was something Giger claimed to have actually haunted his nightmares, a creature that was a nightmarish personification of the concept of rape. Giger was obsessed with reproductive imagery, with the alien ship its found in looking like a woman's....unmentionables in certain places. Add to that its very humid and sticky inside the bowels of the ship and you have a very disturbing, unnerving and definitely alien environment for these characters to explore. Bringing home that these aliens that the Nostromo's crew have found are in no way anything like you'd get in your typical afternoon episode of Star Trek.
|[Figure 4] No eyes, no remose, and no clear view of it: Scott|
used all kinds of close-up camera angles to up the mystery
of his space monster. (Cheng, 2014)
Alien has lived up to its reputation as one of the most chilling films of the late 20th century and established the groundwor kfor many future films along with possibly being one of the catalysts (alongside Fritz Lang's Metropolis) for the popularity of the dystopian science fiction film genre.
- Malcom, D., 2009; Derek Malcom's Alien Review from 1979; The Guardian; published 13th October 2009; http://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/oct/13/derek-malcolm-alien-review (last accessed 7th November 2014)
- Nathan, I., 2009; Alien: Anatomy of the Chestburster Scene; Empire Magazine; http://www.empireonline.com/interviews/interview.asp?IID=1095 (last accessed 7th, November 2014)
- Eggert, B., 2012; The Definitives: Alien (1979); Deep Focus Review; published 25th June 2012; http://www.deepfocusreview.com/reviews/alien.asp (last accessed 7th November 2012)
- Anderson, J., unknown; Alien (1979); Combustible Celluloid; http://www.combustiblecelluloid.com/alien.shtml (last accessed 12th November 2014)
- Figure 1; [Alien publicity poster]; Unknown; Sci-Fi Movie Posters; http://buyoldmovieposters.com/alien-movie-poster.jpg (last accessed 7th November 2014)
- Figure 2; [Chestburster close-up]; Eggert, 2012; Deep Focus Review; http://www.deepfocusreview.com/reviews/images/alien.4.jpg (last accessed 7th November 2014)
- Figure 3; [Kane's Death/Chestburster Scene]; Nathan, I., 2009; Empire Magazine; http://www.empireonline.com/images/image_index/original/45280.jpg
- Figure 4; [Kenomorph headshot], Cheng, N., 2014; Nerd Like You http://www.nerdlikeyou.com/halloween-special-top-5-movie-monsters-part-one-cheng/