There is no denying the impact that Alien has had not just on horror but all cinema in general. Released in 1979, the science-fiction horror had such an impact that to this day many have tried to ape just what makes it such an excellent watch & failed.
So, what does make it so good? What is it about Alien that we all love so much & how does it hold up nearly 40 years later?
The movie opens in space where we see the huge commercial mining ship, the Nostromo slowly making its way back to Earth. The crew are woken up from stasis by the ship’s computer (Mother) after it detects a transmission from the unknown planet, LV426.
The crew, Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Executive Officer Kane (John Hurt), Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Navigator Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), Science Officer Ash (Ian Holm) and two Engineers, Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) are company bound to investigate the transmission. They land on the planet where three members of the crew go off to find where the transmission is coming from.
Dallas, Kane and Lambert discover an abandoned alien ship & all manner of other-worldly sights inside. Meanwhile Ripley, unhappy with Ash’s lack of action regarding the signal, deciphers part of it & realises it is a warning to stay away.
Unfortunately, she is too late as Kane has discovered a chamber with hundreds of egg-like pods. He does what all characters do in the Alien franchise & sticks his face into it. Something then jumps out & attaches itself to his face.
Say hello to the very first face-hugger of the Alien franchise.
Dallas & Lambert carry Kane back to the ship but Ripley refuses to let them back in because of quarantine procedures. However, Ash ignores her & lets them in anyway. Once in, they put Kane in the medical bay where they try & study the spider-like creature that is attached to his face.
This thing has some pretty impressive defence mechanisms. An attempt to pry it off sees it tighten its grip around Kane’s neck cutting off his oxygen supply & when cutting in to it they discover it has acid for blood. There appears to be no way to get it off.
That is until it detaches by itself & dies. Kane is seemingly fine other than some memory loss. The crew take off from the planet to continue their trip back to Earth but decide to have a final dinner before going back into stasis. Here is where it all goes wrong…well, more wrong.
In what is considered to be one the finest scenes in horror, Kane begins to choke & convulse. The rest of the crew try to restrain him but are stunned as his chest bursts open & an alien creature erupts out of him. Naturally they are shocked, allowing the alien to escape.
When they get their heads together they realise they have to find it & kill it. I mean it’s just a small looking alien, right? Not anymore. Having shed its skin & grown to full size, the alien is a deadly killing machine. One that threatens the life of everyone on board.
That in itself is a tension filled & exciting story but subplots regarding the true nature of Ash & the role that company has turns Alien into one of the finest horror movies ever made. Filled with stunning locations, tension filled scenes, amazing effects, outstanding acting & a monster that is one of the most terrifying ever created.
It’s no easy task to get the sense of scale & emptiness of space but Alien nails it. The crew feel alone in the vastness that surrounds them. This is helped by just how the Nostromo feels alien-like itself & futuristic even in modern times.
The mystery surrounding LV426 & the derelict alien craft adds layers to the creature itself. You’ll want to know more but it doesn’t detract from what we do see. The wonder that the crew feels is felt by us as viewers too.
As is the terror. Later movies in the franchise would diminish the threat of the alien. Here we are reminded of just how deadly it can be. The crew aren’t marines, they don’t have guns & the Nostromo is a huge ship with all manner of hiding places & vents. The latter is used to create one of the tensest scenes in the entire film. HR Giger’s creation is a sight to behold, so alien like but also so sleek & well designed. The perfect organism.
Most of this wouldn’t matter if the cast weren’t up to scratch. Thankfully, Alien has brilliant performances all round. Believable in their roles, each has well defined characteristics that make them stand out as individuals. Special mention has to be given to both Ian Holm as the secretive Ash & Sigourney Weaver as Ripley. The star of the franchise, this is where the badass heroine, the badass alien ass-kicker was born. She is outstanding.
A a movie that barely puts a foot wrong. An absolute classic & no matter how shoddy the sequels/prequels get it still holds up incredibly well.