Film Review - Alien



Release Date - 1979
Director - Ridley Scott
Genre -  Sci-Fi, Thriller, Horror.

"In space, no one can hear you scream." Ridley Scott's sci-fi horror classic, but not the most original of horror films, being a typical creature killing off people one by one, Roger Ebert somewhat agrees in his review "At its most fundamental level, "Alien" is a movie about things that can jump out of the dark and kill you." (Ebert, 2003) Also mentioning how it may remind people of The Thing (1951) which was also about a team in an isolated outpost who discover a long-dormant alien, bring it inside, and are picked off one by one.

On the way home from a mission the Nostromo's crew is woken up from hibernation by the ship's Mother computer to answer a distress signal from a nearby planet. Capt. Dallas's rescue team soon goes down to the unfamiliar planet and not only discovers a crashed ship but a bizarre pod field, After, one of the crew is attacked by a face-hugging creature that bursts out of a pod and attaches itself to the crew member (Fig.2). The crew then return to the ship and somewhat plead to be let back in despite quarantine procedures, Over the objections of Ripley, science officer Ash lets Kane back on the ship. After some time the acid-blooded incubus detaches itself from an apparently recovered Kane, but  very soon after an alien erupts from Kane's stomach/ chest and escapes (Fig.3). The alien starts to quickly grow and starts stalking the humans (and cat). 

Face hugger and Kane

Alien making its first appearance 

Alien is still considered a well-regarded classic and one of the best films of its kind, not to mention a hugely popular franchise. Alien came out at a perfect time when both horror films and science fiction films were experiencing something of a renaissance, becoming more than just cheesy slasher films and turning into gritty and realistic features, with the ever improving technology with special effects science fiction films were creating more convincing special effects. Since Alien is the first of its kind it's a little more modest, presenting itself differently, more slow paced, Roger Ebert again in his review touches upon this "One of the great strengths of "Alien" is its pacing. It takes its time. It waits. It allows silences (the majestic opening shots are underscored by Jerry Goldsmith with scarcely audible, far-off metallic chatterings)." (Ebert, 2003) but this actually proves to work to its advantage allowing the film to build tension and let you get a grasp on the characters. 

The characters we can actually get to know them just by how they interact with each other, there isn't any tedious home or sob stories and no one gets out pictures of family. We start to truly see what they are like when they start handling the alien situation and things become more tense as they discuss how to kill it. A lot of the actors lines were improvised which really addeds to the authenticity of everything.

The alien itself is one of the most iconic aliens ever put on film, the design of the alien was heavily based on the artwork of H. R. Giger. Wisely they kept it in the dark or shadows for most of the time so when you finally do get a glimpse of it pays off, Roger Ebert add to this "Alien" uses a tricky device to keep the alien fresh throughout the movie: It evolves the nature and appearance of the creature, so we never know quite what it looks like or what it can do." And for its time is very creepy. All of the effects in the film are great and for a film that is over 30 years old they still hold up today, all the art and set decoration is outstanding  from the creepy corridors of the Nostromo to the crashed alien ship which the crew explores, the only thing that didn't hold up so well is the effects of ash, the robot, when his head gets ripped off then placed on the table for answers, going from a dummy head to an actors head the worst way possible (Fig.4). 

Ash, unconvincing dummy to actor head.

Towards the end of the film though there are some moments where it is very clear that the alien is just a guy in a suit, other than that through out the film it is still very convincing. It's a visually stunning film that rightfully deserves its place among classic influential films.

Bibliography -

Ebert, Roger. (2003) 'Alien (1979)'
In: http://www.rogerebert.com 27.03.97 [Online]
At: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-alien-1979 (Accessed on the 28.10.14)

Illustration List - 

Figure 1. Alien (1979) - Minimalist Poster by Stormy94 (2014) From: Alien. Directed by: Ridley Scott [Film Poster] United States / United Kingdom: Brandywine Productions.
At: http://th06.deviantart.net/fs70/PRE/f/2013/247/2/e/alien_by_stormy94-d6l1x9u.png

Figure 2. 1:1 Face hugger (1997) From: Alien. Directed by: Ridley Scott [Film Still] 
United States / United Kingdom: Brandywine Productions.
At: http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&ved=0CAUQjBw&url=http%3A%2F%2F3.bp.blogspot.com%2F_wU-65bFxOZU%2FTBFtrDVD29I%2FAAAAAAAAAVQ%2FuTFsAh4EGNA%2Fs1600%2Falien-facehugger.jpg&ei=o_lPVNXZB5PqaNmYgfAP&psig=AFQjCNEX6dMjAqb9CIcx1N00hI6p207NlA&ust=1414613795209103

Figure 3. 50th SPOILERS: The War Doctor goes through a brutal regeneration From: Alien. Directed by: Ridley Scott [Film Still] 
United States / United Kingdom: Brandywine Productions.
At: http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s--PDOw08_W--/1977yl8aw7t55gif.gif

Figure 4. alien-1979-02_601x256 | Girl Meets Freak From: Alien. Directed by: Ridley Scott 
[Film Still] United States / United Kingdom: Brandywine Productions.
At: http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&ved=0CAUQjBw4Hg&url=http%3A%2F%2Fgirlmeetsfreak.files.wordpress.com%2F2012%2F10%2Falien-1979-02_601x256.jpeg&ei=EvlPVKPVE5ftaprEgSA&psig=AFQjCNEGS4SFINEIVCMec-mVtJSH3CzNqA&ust=1414613650442902

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