Score : 94/100
Watchable Minutes : 117 / 117. I find that most horror movies spend too much time setting up / explaining the horror but Alien just puts you right into it.
Trailer Comparison : I don’t know what’s worse, a trailer that gives away too much or a trailer that doesn’t give away anything. You can hide a good movie in a bad trailer but more often than not, you’re hiding a bad movie in a good trailer. I think that Alien suffers from the former because it is a terrible trailer that is loud and grainy. Don’t show anybody this trailer (show them my summary instead ).
Movie or Film : I consider most sci fi projects to be movies. The same goes for horror projects, they can’t really be films by my definition.
- Run time : 1 hr 57 minutes
- Studio : 20th Century Studios
- Director : Ridley Scott
- Where to Watch : HBO Max
Veering off course from their return to Earth, the commercial towing vessel, Nostromo, awakens its crew after detecting a signal in deep space. After entering orbit around the planet LV-426, a small team is dispatched to the surface in order to investigate the signal. The team soon discovers an otherworldly structure, suggesting that intelligent life was once on this planet. Compelled by their contracts under forfeiture of pay, the team ventures inside where the secret of this planet lies in wait for those unlucky enough to stumble upon it.
Alien is a unique, genre blending movie that is incredibly satisfying and unnerving to watch. The sci-fi elements are unique while the horror elements are viscerally terrifying. There aren’t many movies out there that can do either genre as good as Alien, let alone both at the same time. Everything about this movie works well together and it doesn’t compromise on the horror by introducing cheap scares. That’s why it reigns supreme as one of the all time greats and one of my absolute favorites. Let’s get into what makes this movie so great.
The thing I enjoy most about Alien‘s story is that nobody tries to play at being the hero – everyone is just trying to do their jobs and survive. It feels very true to life. These characters are on a routine job just towing a refinery through space. There’s nothing complicated about it to them, so it isn’t complicated to me as a viewer. Even the idea of stumbling across an unknown signal, while fascinating and scary, also doesn’t seem to phase the crew. They just look at it as an inconvenience because they want to go home and get paid. The Nostromo isn’t an exploratory ship like the Starship Enterprise, it’s a space tow truck for crying out loud. But because of the contract they all signed, the crew is forced to go check it out. Further down the line, Dallas orders Ash to break quarantine procedure to save Kane, and it is just as realistic. As all hell breaks loose in the latter half of the movie, tensions rise and the crew gets desperate trying to figure out how to survive. Couple all that with one of the most iconic character designs of all time and you’ve got yourself an A+ story.
As for the acting, Sigourney Weaver steals the show by being the lone survivor. Her portrayal of Ellen Ripley is calculating, fair, and poised throughout the whole movie. John Hurt, Ian Holm, and Tom Skerritt are great additions to the cast and brought their characters to life marvelously. I mentioned how the story felt very routine (until it wasn’t) and this cast nailed the chemistry of a disgruntled crew that has to break routine for a dumb company rule. I can’t think of anybody I would replace or remove from this casting because it’s that well done.
Sitting in the directors chair is Ridley Scott, a man recognized for his director’s cuts and contributions to the movie industry as a whole. Scott is known for being an actor’s director and having a good eye. A lot of what I’ve mentioned above about the routine nature of the story is thanks to the directing by Scott and his willingness to allow the actors to create the right tone on their own. Since this was a low budget movie, the directing had to be precise so as to not create a lot of waste on the cutting room floor. The editing that is present was just as solid as the directing, making this one of Ridley Scott’s best movies in my opinion.
Alien is such a visually interesting movie, thanks again to Ridley Scott. The Nostromo feels cramped and lived in, almost like a submarine. The lack of sleek and clean elements make this feel like a realistic space ship that focuses on function over aesthetics. In the context of the movie, Weyland-Yutani doesn’t seem like the type of company to spend a single dollar on the comfort of their crew outside what is required by the law and the job. The claustrophobic design of the twisting and turning hallways made it feel like anything could be just ahead or behind you (as was often the case). The camerawork is slow and methodical with plenty of darkness to keep the eyes of the viewer on the hunt for the Xenomorph. One of my few issues is the amount of strobe lights in the final act. It was a little hard to watch at points because of that, so beware. Anyway, the sound design is also very appealing. It’s industrial and busy and the movie knows when to use silence and ambient noise to accentuate the dread. The overall score and theme of the movie is deep and menacing, just like the creature.
The creature itself is grotesque in all its various stages. The facehugger preys on those viewers with arachnophobia (totally not me). The chestburster is so absurd and horrifying that anybody would at least feel uncomfortable watching something hatch into the world so violently. The final stage, the xenomorph is grotesque and demonic with its two mouths and large distended head. All of that is thanks to Hans Rudolph “HR” Giger. Here’s a video that goes in depth about HR Giger’s contribution to the film.
I’m a big sci-fi nerd and I am a also huge wuss about horror movies. I’ve probably seen Alien about a dozen times since I first watched it when I was 12 or 13 in my parents creepy basement. Ten years later, at 23 (born in ’97 for those curious), I was still creeped out watching this movie alone in my house in the dark. I think that speaks volumes to the quality of movie and why you should watch it.
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