I’ll be honest, I’m not one for scary movies. Mostly because I don’t like being scared, watching people being mutilated or torn to shreds, sex scenes make me uncomfortable, etc. Also they sometimes turn out to be garbage movies.
Call me a wuss all you like.
But sometime last month, maybe it was it’s popularity or science fiction elements, but I had the courage to watch Ridley Scott’s Alien.
Spoiler Alert: It kept me up all night.
But seriously though, minor spoilers.
In Space…Everything Is Beautiful!
Before we get into the nit and gritty of the movie, I wanted to touch on the filmmaking, and how gorgeous it is (as with almost any Ridley Scott movie).
Right from the get-go you’re sucked into this movie with its cinematography alone. The lighting is used so well, often there aren’t very many sources of light even before the crew ventures into darker areas of the nostromo to find and kill the alien. The only instance of a scene that was enveloped in bright light was the first chest-bursting scene, which helped make it look more gnarly than it already was.
The set design, also, is fantastic. The nostromo may not be an old, gothic mansion or a dark crypt, but it might as well be with the overall look of the ship. There are clear signs that people live in this ship, toys and equipment are scattered everywhere. The griminess helps to make the ship feel homey, and when the characters actually show up you feel comfortable with them in their natural state. However, there are some areas of the ship that are so dark and eerie it’s like they were meant to have a monster lurking in those dark corners.
Lighting and set design are used brilliantly to not only establish the tone of this movie, but to make the alien really shine in it’s menacing beauty. They spend much time in the beginning making you feel at home in the nostromo, so when the alien shows up, it actually feels like an intruder is in your home.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Nightmare In Space
The movie follows the crew of the fore-mentioned nostromo, a massive carrier ship. On their way back to earth, the ships computer, an A.I. called M.U.T.H.R, intercepts a distress call on another planet. The crew travels to the planet to find out what’s happening, only for one of them to become the unwitting host of a horrific creature that terrorizes everyone on the ship.
Like I mentioned before, the whole first act and a good chunk of the second is spent making you feel at home on the nostromo. The characters are very well fleshed out during this time as well, you get a sense of who they are and their relationships with one another. Which, for the most part, is very positive.
It’s unclear who the main character is at first until Ripley herself takes the reins. Sigourney Weaver does a great job at playing a character who is very “by the book”. She follows protocol no matter what anyone thinks and is able to conjure a plan on the spot. That doesn’t mean she’s perfect though. Like everyone else she’s scared out of her wits and isn’t really prepared for the horror they face. And when it comes down to it, like any person, she resorts to running for dear life. Thanks to her sharp thinking though, she can come up with solutions to a problem and is able to lead the others with ease.
That’s not to say she’s the only good character though. This is an ensemble movie done with fantastic precision. Each character have their own personalities and opinions of what should be done. We feel connected to them, which creates a tantalizing feeling of dread as we know that not all of them is going to survive.
Now for the real hero of this story.
This thing gave me nightmares for days. It doesn’t show up until near the middle of the movie, but even so, you can feel it’s looming presence overshadow everything happening long before it claims its first victim.
It, of course, goes through it’s stages. If you haven’t seen the movie, I’ll let you see what those stages are yourself (although it’s hard to imagine you don’t know, since this thing is a staple in pop culture). But the real treat is in how this creature is presented. It’s a boogeyman. It can fit in tight spaces and appear out of nowhere. Rather than having it pop up every ten seconds (jumpscare or not) its appearance is low. When we see it, it’s not for long. It does what it does and then it’s gone. This creates a sense of paranoia, whenever the characters go somewhere that’s outside the “safe-zone” you end up biting your nails because you know it’s there somewhere. You don’t know where it is or where it could be, so you’re holding onto your seat and preparing for the worst.
Like the the design of the nostromos, the design of the alien is amazing. Some find it cool, I personally just find it strange, in a good way. Everything about this thing makes you uncomfortable. Its size, Its inhuman thinness, the color, the long tail, and of course, let’s not forget, its freaking second mouth! This might be the only movie monster design I have seen that is genuinely terrifying to even look at, because you can feel it in your bones how inhuman this thing is. Props to the costume people for creating something so mortifying so elegantly.
I’ll admit that this movie wasn’t my introduction to the shared alien/predator universe. That credit goes to Alien vs Predator, which, while not great, I found to be enjoyable. Predator followed not long after (which, also, was amazing). But upon watching this movie, I now understand why it’s such a classic.
It does what any great horror movie should do and gets in your head. The boogeyman-esque persona of the alien will leave a lasting impression, not just in how it looks or how it kills, but how it’s presented in this movie. You can feel the fear the characters feel, which says a lot about the actors’ acting. Ridley Scott’s directing is careful and immaculate, he puts you in a terrifying and isolated situation and doesn’t let you out. This is a movie that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until the very end. Which is why I would recommend not doing anything else while watching it, because it really is a movie you need to be paying attention to if you want a truly thrilling experience.
I said before how I’m not one for horror movies. I just don’t like being scared. But after watching Alien, seeing how great horror can really be…I’m still not one for horror movies. But I now see why Alien holds a special place in the hearts of many. It is an example of horror at its best. In fact I would argue that it is a pitch-perfect horror film.
So if you love scary movies or are interested in getting to know the predalien universe, this movie is a safe bet that you’ll get what you’re looking for. Just make sure your with a buddy or two while watching, it is not for the faint of heart.
Have you seen Alien? What did you think? I’d love to know what you thought in the comments, especially if you can sum up why it’s so good better than I did. Thank you for reading and have a good day…or night!