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Movie of the Day – Alien

Posted on the 08 June 2012 by Plotdevice39 @PlotDevices

I can truly say that this is the first movie to absolutely terrify me.  Without a doubt, Alien is the movie that not only put the fear of space into me, but also was part of the one-two punch that got me into science fiction films.  At a young age, Alien astounded and frightened me with the visuals and setting of a lone space crew battling a creature that one knew anything about.  The tagline of the film still to this day gives me the creeps because of what unfolded on screen rang true to their tag, “In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream.”  So with the upcoming Prometheus film debuting tomorrow in theaters, I figured this would be the perfect time to just reflect on the film that gave us a cultural touchstone for science fiction horror films and the iconic Alien.

Movie of the Day – Alien

On the way home from a mission for the Company, 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 (Tom Skerritt) rescue team discovers a bizarre pod field, but things get even stranger when a face-hugging creature bursts out of a pod and attaches itself to Kane (John Hurt). Over the objections of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), science officer Ash (Ian Holm) lets Kane back on the ship. The acid-blooded incubus detaches itself from an apparently recovered Kane, but an alien erupts from Kane’s stomach and escapes. The alien starts stalking the humans, pitting Dallas and his crew (and cat) against a malevolent killing machine that also has a protector in the nefarious Company. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

When I think of Alien, there are two scenes in particular that stick out in my mind.  First would be the image of the Space Jockey.  I have never seen anything like that before in my life and coming upon the discovery of this artifact hit me with the same puzzlement and wonder that befell the crew of the Nostromo.  It sent chills down my spine to see this monstrosity and think “what the hell is it”.  The second image from the film is the chestburster.  Holy Christ.  If you have seen the movie, you know what I am talking about.  I really shouldn’t have to go into detail at how that scene might have soiled your pants.

Alien is the perfect blending of horror, science fiction and bleak storytelling.  It’s rare when you get a film that manages to be dark in tone all the way from start to finish, never once letting the ray of hope that we believe will come for our intrepid heroes.  Through the darkness of space and the confinement that the crew experiences upon the Nostromo, the introduction of the little chestburster scurrying about the ship is enough to make your skin crawl.  Not knowing what it turns in to is the probably the biggest jaw dropper of the film, watching the little guy grow into an emotionless killing machine, a pure hunter that systematically hunts down each member of the crew.  The fully articulate and realistic looking alien is nothing short of amazing.  An achievement in special and practical effects, it is still the lasting image of an era that has all but gone away.  Seeing the details and devotion to creating a xenomorph made the film for me.  It looked menacing and fluid, almost as if it does truly exist in real life.

Movie of the Day – Alien

The other thing that stands out in this film is the casting of the, at the time, unknown female lead Sigourney Weaver as Ripley.  Ripley was and still is, the original bad ass, strong female heroine that was lacking on the big screen and in the more male dominated science fiction space.  While the crew is getting picked off one by one, she scrambles and composes herself under the most dire of circumstances, outsmarting the alien itself.  With the cementing of her character, the subsequent films in the series managed to develop her further, fleshing out her personality and making her the centerpiece of the series.  It was rare enough to see a female lead in science fiction that wasn’t sexualized to a degree and Ripley looked tough and stood out amongst the mostly male cast.

This is perfection in every sense of the word.  Taking the tenants of horror and science fiction films of the past, Ridley Scott seamlessly blended together the slow, agonizing pace of horror films to build of the tension of the film.  Almost stalking the crew of the ship through slow pans and creeping close shots, the atmosphere of the film is heightened with horror elements, but the creature and setting is pure science fiction.  It is chilling and bleak, but has enough bite to scare you when it wants.  The film controls you and your emotions, pulling you along for the ride and showing it wants to show you.  It surprises me to this day that this film still stands the ultimate test of time and it is a testament to the skill of Scott and the actors that inhabited the universe of Alien.  All the lore, mystery and memories of this movie will be showcased once again in theaters with the release of Prometheus and I cannot wait to experience the world once again.

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