When I was a kid, my father had one of the earlier VHS players. You know, the kind with the door that popped up, you put the tape in, pressed the door back down, and then watched whatever tape you loaded. Those things were about a foot tall and weighed a ton. The very first movie he bought way back in either 1980, or 1981 was Alien. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it. The actual Alien never scared me but I’ve always marveled at the sleek, and unique look of it.
The magnificent alien design comes from the twisted mind of one H. R. Giger, which lead to an Academy Award win. The design and look of Mr. Giger’s aliens have been expanded upon in other mediums such as video games, comics, and books. Tim Lebbon recently penned Alien: Out of the Shadows, published by Titan books. It’s a solid read if you’re looking for something new set in the Alien universe.
The first film centers around a mining vessel, the Nostromo, which is awakened prematurely on their voyage home. Apparently they’ve stumbled upon an unknown distress call from an unknown vessel, on an uncharted planet. After landing, our crew sends a small team down to investigate. One curious crew member finds a chamber full of what appear to be eggs and decides to go and touch one. Something comes out of it and attaches to his face. They call those little buggers “face huggers.”
The face hugger gestates and falls off after it does its business. I don’t want to spoil the film for those of you who haven’t seen it. Cain gets up and is all smiles and happy to be alive. To celebrate, the crew decide to have dinner before going back to sleep and finishing the rest of the trip back home. During dinner something happens to Cain and the alien threat is loose.
What I love about this film is the tension. The alien blends in with the wires and tubing of the spacecraft. It camouflages itself and goes on the hunt. This alien is an apex predator which adapts to its surroundings and different situations. It lives to spread its vile seed across the universe like some kind of universal parasite, or cockroach. Did I mention they have acid for blood? Steer clear if you wound it because if you don’t, you’ll melt like the wicked witch under a bucked of water in the Wizard of Oz.
As crew members start dropping, the question becomes how can the remaining survivors defeat a being that is more advanced than them in every way?
Isolation also plays a key role in this film. The crew of the Nostromo is cut off from Earth and left to fend for themselves. Not only that, but aboard the ship there are only so many places to run from the alien intruder.
This was a brilliant film which used constant tension to fuel scare after scare. The way the director, Ridley Scott, used subtle techniques like lighting and tighter shots to further the tension really added to the overall look and feel of the film. Released in 1979, Alien is still one of the best Sci-Fi/Horror films ever made and stands the test of time. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you do. If you’ve already seen it, see it again. Yes, it’s that good.
For anyone interested in the forthcoming video game, Alien: Isolation, here’s a behind the scenes look presented by Gamespot. It seems like the developers went back and channeled the original film for this game. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
You can find out more about Alien: Isolation by visiting the official site here: http://www.alienisolation.com/en_us/