Director: Ridley Scott
Runtime: 117 minutes
Recently I got around to watching the latest in the Alien franchise, Alien Covenant. Safe to say that movie was a huge disappointment to myself and many fans. However, it did give me the idea to review the Alien franchise. Starting from the very beginning with Alien.
There’s not much I can say about Alien that hasn’t already been said, it’s a sci-fi classic and one of the greatest claustrophobic horrors ever made. It Kickstarted Scott’s career as a director and fundamentally set the groundwork for future sci-fi movies. Alien at its core is a movie about something that’s going bump in the dark, I’ve always compared it to Halloween and the alien to Michael Myers. Both characters lurking in the darkness chasing after someone and killing people along the way. The most obvious comparison Is with The Thing. Both about a team that’s isolated from the world, find an alien, brings it back and slowly gets killed one by one. Both brilliant movies. You can see where Alien gets a lot of its inspiration from, I’ve mentioned The Thing and also the opening shit has always reminded me of another sci-fi classic Star Wars. Both start of in deep space, black screen and a ship slowly emerging onto the screen.
Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is one of the greatest female characters characters in film history, up there with Sarah Connor from Terminator. Most female characters are there to set up some sort of romance that will happen a long the story, not Ripley. She doesn’t even care about her employers orders, as soon as the alien is set free onto the ship the only thing on her mind is to find and kill. All the other characters are cool to, for the most part as we have John Hurt who has one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history with the chest burster.
The greatest thing about Alien is in its pacing. It’s extremely slow and allows silence to drive the story forward, allowing for more subtle scares rather than cheaply put together jump scares. Watching the crew members slowing walking through the small corridors of the ship with only their light as vision and their foot steps as sound. This makes it much more frightening when you hear the crackling of the aliens voice, you know they aren’t alone no matter where they go. This was the biggest issue with Alien Covenant, the film literally had none of this and was complete jump scares except for one well made scene towards the end of the movie. Horror films now are all pay off but no build up, they rely too much on jump scares and not enough building tension for the audience. This is something the recent A Quiet Place did tremendously. Bringing up The Thing once again, the best scenes are when the team are walking down the corridor constantly on edge because they know the alien is lurking somewhere. This is much more frightening than just always showing the alien killing people.
The alien is constantly evolving which is a smart thing when you think about it because it leaves the characters as well as the audience never truly knowing what this creature will look like. It begins as a timid little creature bursting out of a chest, later looks almost like a reptilian and finally we witness the dripping coming from the mouth as it dangles there in all its glory. The alien never truly plays by any rules you never know how it will react or what it’s behaviour will be like. It’s a creature that the characters and the audience have never scene before. By the end of the film Ripley is the only living member of the crew (along with the cat) and this sets up for all the sequals to also have a female lead as at the time it was quite an uncommon thing to see.
Overall, Alien is a movie that’s starts of with an adventure and slowly morphs into a mission. Is the alien smart? Does it have logic? The audience and characters know nothing of this creature and we learn everything along with the characters. This is a brilliant set up as it always leaves the audience guessing. It’s a shame movies like Alien are very rarely seen now, even Scott the man who brought Alien to life has lost his way with the franchise with Prometheus and most recently Covenant. Alien is one of the greatest horrors of all time, it’s claustrophobic atmosphere helps to drive the story along with its no silence attitude. This movie deserves all the recognition that it gets.