In space, no one can hear you scream. In the comfort of your own living room, your dog definitely heard you scream.
Alien turned 40 this year on May 25th. It also got a high school play.
Admittedly, Alien was the last one I saw of the original four Alien movies featuring Ellen Ripley at the time (Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, and Alien: Resurrection). I went to see Alien: Resurrection in theaters with a friend of mine after he convinced me to give the movie a shot. I enjoyed it, and vowed to go back and give the other movies a shot later on. Hindsight being 20/20, I had no idea that Alien: Resurrection was written by Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel (more on this later), as well as writer and director of Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Aliens I caught on television on a random Saturday night later on that week, giving me my second look at Ripley. Now SHE was a hero. She had no problem getting into the faces of marines and telling them to get themselves together when they were in a state of panic. James Cameron, director of the first two Terminator movies, Titanic, and Avatar, directed this I later found out.
But enough about the sequels, and let’s get to the one that started it all. Ridley Scott, whose filmography is too long to list at this point, creates a space movie that is almost insanely small in scale. A small cast of seven (eight if you include the Alien), and many twists throughout if you’re watching it for the first time. In a typical film, obviously the captain would survive, and not be one of the first to die, especially when Tom Skerritt was top billed over Sigourney Weaver. The nature of the alien’s birth itself is a twist, even to the cast as they were filming so that Scott could get natural reactions out of the crew as Kane dies. Even the reveal of Ash as an android actively working against the crew to ensure the alien’s survival for the company comes out of left field.
This is the movie that establishes Ripley for the force that she is. Before there was Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and even Sarah Conner, there was Ellen Ripley. Ripley is the cooler head amongst the crew even in the first movie. When Kane is attacked by the facehugger after finding the eggs, she’s the one having to cite quarantine procedures to the captain, before Science Officer Ash overrides her. She’s also the one to discover the company’s plans for the creature as well as Ash’s part in it, as well as coming up with the escape plan when it’s down to her, Parker, and Lambert. And of course, she takes down the Alien by blowing it out of the airlock. Unfortunately, she had to destroy a couple of million dollars worth of heavy machinery in order to get it done. They can bill her.
My personal favorite with a movie like this is the pacing. Alien is the king (or queen) of the slow burn. The alien itself doesn’t appear until a good hour into the movie with the iconic chestburster scene. Up until that point, you’re just engrossed in the characters themselves, getting to know them, their world, and everything around it. Most horror movies these days just jump right into the hacking and slashing. Alien gives you plenty of time to breathe, and you’re not even sure when you should hold your breath, or for what you’ll be holding it in for.
And the alien itself isn’t the only force of evil in this movie. The company Ripley works for, Weyland-Yutani, is an unseen force that wants the alien for it’s own purposes, and the later films expand on the company’s role. Ripley is later quoted in Aliens saying “I don’t which species is worse, you don’t see them ****ing each other over for a percentage.” Ironically, the message of a company out for its own profits seems over people seems to ring even more true today.
So give this movie a watch. It’s the perfect movie to curl up with a date and eat a bowl of popcorn with. Just try to not spill the popcorn during the scary parts.