Sunday, June 5, 2016

Alien Review

At the time of its release, it was confusing. Today, it's a classic. I'm kicking off a series of six reviews of one of my favorite franchises of all time with the one that started it all. Alien. Being such an old movie, this review will contain spoilers. So click if you're okay with that, and to see my thoughts on 'Jaws in Space.'

Our story starts with the crew of the Nostromo on their way back to earth. But when they receive a distress call from a nearby, uncharted planet, they land to investigate, only to find out it was actually a warning. And when an egg hatches and the creature inside latches itself onto one of the crew members, all hell breaks loose. And the crew is hunted one by one by a creature that they simply can't kill.

Let's talk a little about that premise. At its core, it's really not all that original. It's your basic horror formula of a creature hunting down people one by one in a place they can't escape from. But everything else about Alien is completely original. The Alien itself, the idea of a horror film in space, the way it's filmed, even having a female lead. It's all extremely creative and original and part of the reason I love this franchise so much.

Before we go any further, let me get the one thing I don't like about this film out of the way. While it's extremely well paced, it can be quite slow toward the beginning. Some argue that the slow build is necessary, and while that may very well be true, I think it could have been more interesting in  some places. The pacing itself is actually quite impressive. Starting out at a near standstill and slowly building to a breakneck pace towards the end. But when we're just getting shots of equipment and a really slow five minute landing sequence... it brings me a little closer to hitting the fast forward button. But enough of that. Let's move on to what's awesome.

First of all... the Alien. It's probably my favorite horror creature ever. Partly because it has an
awesome and terrifying aesthetic, as well as being extremely creative. The idea of it is so foreign and weird... and yet somehow completely natural. You can buy that this is a monstrosity that nature could somehow develop, and all of these things go toward the reason I have Alien figures all over my room. I just love it.

Next, let's talk about Ridley Scott's direction in this film. It's simply unbelievable. It's very well paced, as I said, and he also creates a palpable sense of fear and dread throughout. It's an uncomfortable film to sit through. Even when nothing's really happening. The aesthetic of the film in general is also fantastic. It's incredibly different from really anything else we'd seen in sci-fi up to this point and I love the uniqueness of that. It's also very different in its filming. It's almost filmed like a documentary, in a way. Sometimes the camera is slightly out of focus, or the camera will linger on someone's face while someone else it talking. Other times you can't even hear what someone else is saying because they're just barely too far away. Or someone else is talking over them. It all makes you feel like you're actually on that ship with them, and makes the film all the more visceral and terrifying.

The performances are also top notch. Every single person brings their A-game. Their reactions feel real, their line delivery is very authentic, and the way the cast acts with their faces and not necessarily their voices often is really impressive. Much of this is from how much Scott kept hidden from the cast until the actual shoot. For example, the chestburster scene, which is still one of the scariest scenes of all time, was a complete surprise to the cast, who had no idea what was about to happen, and the scene was shot on one take. Often the reactions feel real because, frankly, they are.

Much of why the performances were so incredible comes from the fact that they were given a phenomenal script to work with. Dan O'Bannon penned an incredibly realistic script that just feels true. Like this is exactly what would happen under these circumstances. There's actually not a lot of dialogue in the movie, really. Especially towards the end. But when people do speak, you hold on to every word. It all goes to help further the story and build intriguing characters.

Speaking of characters, all of the ones in the film are great. They all react differently to the situation, and they're all very different and interesting. There is no disposable character in the film. You begin to feel for all of them and really feel for the ones that get picked off. It makes the film not only terrifying, but also quite emotional.

The standout character, of course is Ripley. and she's brought to life with an unbelievable
performance from Sigourney Weaver. She's tough, but also relatable. No one's tough enough to deal with what she did. And I love how this film shows that. She's also one of the greatest heroines of all time. And in an era where only men were action stars, it really makes her stand out. Another thing I really appreciated was that she's not billed first. Tom Skerritt is. Who played Captain Dallas. If you go into this movie blind, you can't really tell who the main character is until well into the film. So you really have no idea who's going to make it out alive and who won't. And, spoiler alert, it's Ripley, but you wouldn't know that until the very end.

And that very end is jaw dropping. Ridley Scott wanted to include a 'fourth act' where Ripley has to once again deal with the Alien after boarding her shuttle and destroying the ship she abandoned. The audience thinks it's over, but after another fantastic jump scare, we see Ripley trying her best to hang onto what's left of her sanity as she finally defeats the Alien. It's one of my favorite movie endings of all time. Very satisfying and extremely well filmed.

That's all I really have to say. It may get a little boring from time to time, but everything else about this film is brilliant. From its unique film making to its incredible dialogue and performances, Alien well earns its designation as a horror classic.

Final Score: 5/5

If I was being more subjective, I might give it a 4.5 instead. But I can't deny how close to perfect this movie is.

Stay tuned, guys, as this is only the first of six reviews in the Alien franchise. My review of Aliens should be up very soon. So keep it here, at, and I'll see you next time.

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