Alien (1979)

February 22, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

Like a knife gradually inching closer to the tender skin in the cover of the dark, this space horror film masterfully utilizes the art of the slow burn. Ridley Scott makes all the right moves to deliver a classic horror: isolated place for the mayhem, a beautifully crafted monster, creepy atmosphere, and an amazing performance from the lead: Sigourney Weaver.

A lone spaceship, the Nostromo, lingers in space until a distress call riles up the crew, causing them to lend a helping hand. There, they discover the infamous, leathery egg, holding the “perfect organism” within. Kane gets the first face-to-face with the spider-like creature, and the rest is history.

Scott’s Alien is a masterpiece not for it’s story; the story is a straight forward slasher flick. The way he weaves this familiar story is what sets it apart from the rest. First, the alien is handled in a way that makes it everywhere and everything. The audience never settles down with what the alien looks like because it’s always evolving, taking away our comfort of what we expect to pop out around the corner. In addition, the alien isn’t exactly prancing around in well-lit areas, as it is intelligent enough to blend in with it’s surroundings. This fits well with the minimalist direction of Scott, as the threat of what we don’t see or can’t fathom slowly eats away at our comfort. Every empty hallway, faint sound or dark area consumes the audience. When the creature finally rears its vicious head, the impact is greater because of the build up, and also because the creature is ultimately a fleshed out concoction of our number one primal fear: the unknown.

Dallas, Ash, Parker and the rest of the crew are all adequate in their roles, as they project a consistent sense of urgency, but Sigourney Weaver as Ripley is hands down the main event. Ripley, as a character, is forever significant to the world of cinema because she helped to de-genderize the heroic role formerly assigned to males only. A natural leader, and an intelligent step or 30 ahead of what females usually do in horror flicks (scream, run and fail), Ripley is clearly a beautiful bad-ass. Besides the alien, there is also a human evil that leads the crew to their fate. The audience may then realize that the alien isn’t necessarily “evil” itself, but rather attempting to survive just like the crew.

So what worked? Nearly everything. Experience Alien for the first time or the 30th time. Either way, you’ll be saving your money and time by skipping out on the weekly horror re-make (Let Me In excluded).

Potential Drawbacks:

Nothing really feels dated besides the obvious hairstyles and the ages of the actors, but there are special effects that do look slightly bruised. The alien sliding across the dinner table may take one out of the scene, and there are a couple of shots where the alien moves awkwardly. Other than that, I don’t see anything else wasting words on. Those spoiled by CGI might want to though.

Film Recommendations:

The Thing
Event Horizon

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