Alien

Alien is a classic blend of horror and sci-fi from talented director Ridley Scott. This is the story of a mining expedition into deep space which runs into more than they bargained for upon answering a suspected S.O.S. signal. One of the most tense and suspenseful movies ever made everybody should see this at least once.

A face-hugger attached to poor old Kane

The ship Nostromo is heading back to earth when they pick up, what they believe to be, a distress signal from a nearby planet. Some of the crew are sent down to investigate and they discover a strange derelict spaceship. While investigating one of the crew is attacked by some kind of alien which hatches from an egg, a creature which adheres to his face and won´t come off. They rush him back to the ship and find he is in a coma and they are unable to remove the face-hugger. Eventually it drops off by itself and the ship sets course for home.

The crew have a meal and the recently recovered Kane gets a nasty shock as the alien which has been planted within him bursts out. This is a truly incredible scene which made movie history and simply has to be seen to be believed. The crew are understandably horrified and the alien is allowed to escape into the air ducts. The rest of the film is a game of cat and mouse as the crew and the alien stalk each other by turns.

Ridley Scott has proven his abilities with countless films, his artistic vision is always well realised and he is adept at creating a tense atmosphere. His direction style is diverse and he employs a range of techniques in Alien. The barren loneliness of space (tagline - "In space no-one can hear you scream.") and the empty vastness are contrasted with the claustrophobic badly lit tunnels onboard the Nostromo. Scott is able to build an unbearable level of tension as isolated crew members search the labyrinth of tunnels using the sound of the proximity radar bleeping to indicate that something is approaching.

Brett is about to get it

The cast in Alien are simply perfect. Sigourney Weaver plays Ripley, the First Officer onboard the Nostromo and we can see her strong heroine develop throughout the movie and beyond into the sequels. Tom Skerrit is Dallas, the captain of the ship, John Hurt plays the unfortunate Kane, Harry Dean Stanton pops up as the slovenly Brett and Ian Holm is excellent as the possibly insane android Ash. Scott kept them cooped up on the set of the Nostromo and had food brought in during the shoot to heighten their emotions and get more convincing performances.

The pacing of the film is extremely good. The first segment is full of character development and scene setting. Scott´s vision of space is dirty and worn, the bulky equipment is beautifully styled and the detailed backdrop really helps to make the whole scenario believable (by chris). The design of the aliens and the derelict ship they discover is incredible and it comes from the warped mind of H.R.Giger. Ron Cobb also deserves a special mention for his design of the internal Nostromo set which really creates the illusion of a working space ship.

As the film climaxes in an extended chase and battle scene the carnage caused by just one of these creatures becomes apparent. The aliens are devastating predators with acid for blood; they grow very quickly and seem to be constantly hungry. The face-huggers lay parasites which gestate in the human body and then burst out through the chest cavity, they grow fast, shedding their skin with each new iteration and they are virtually unstoppable.

Alien still looks fantastic by modern standards and it was released in 1979 and produced in just seven weeks on a comparatively low budget of around £7 million. Scott hadn´t done much before this and he was only fourth or fifth choice for the job, thank god he got it. Alien remains a masterpiece of sci-fi cinema which inspired a glut of cheap rip-offs and imitators, a true classic.


Reviewed by Simon Hill

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