The first movie I saw in the series was Aliens, on a bootleg vhs actually, the longer cut of James Cameron’s beloved sequel. At the time it was among the best movies I ever seen, but when I later rewatched it I kinda felt more cold towards it. It felt way too noisy and empty. Empty barrels, you know. I feel I’ve been a bit too harsh in my opinions about during my life and I will try to watch it again soon, just to try to see it with new eyes. Ridley Scott’s Alien came much later, on a full screen VHS tape (not bootleg this time) - and it’s a radically different film, it’s pure horror set in space.
I didn’t plan to watch it yesterday, but after holding one of the many rip-offs in my hands I decided to go back to the movie that created it all, and therefore put the blu-ray disc into the player and leaned back for two hours of entertainment. The thing is, as you might now, it’s not that original. The storyline is “borrowed” from 1958’s fun monster romp It! The Terror from Beyond Space, directed by the very competent but storytelling conservative Edward L. Cahn. It’s a lot like Alien, some scenes are lifted directly to the 1979 classic. The scenes on the planet are heavily inspired by Mario Bava’s still stunningly beautiful sci-fi classic Planet of the Vampires from 1965, and even here we have some sequences that’s more or less identical to what Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett, Ridley Scott and Walter Hill gave us in Alien.
But I’m not the one to complain! You know the old saying; Amateurs borrow, professionals steal. And what an awesome theft Alien is, not only inspired by the stuff you’ve seen in the two above mentioned sci-fi flicks, but also typical 70’s horror - I mean, the movie is almost slasher-esque at times - including every awesome ghost- and occult movie you might have seen. Without dealing with the supernatural, it just steals the atmosphere, injects some of patented 70’s grittiness into the storyline and voila, heeeeeeeere’s ALIEN!
Ridley Scott mixes two styles: the voyeuristic, distanced camera - capturing every part of the set design in long, wide shots. If Nostromo was up for sale these would be the images uploaded on the broker’s homepage. Then we have the documentarian Scott, carefully capturing the everyday life and talk of the crew, which is so naturalistic it almost makes me confused while watching the film. We’re there, together with Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skeritt (who I met once, very tired and bored man), Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright and Ian Holm (what a cast by the way, it’s friggin’ amazing!). The cast is talking at the same time, moving around like there’s no camera around, no one to block their scenes. No one to control them. It’s not working every time, but in Alien it becomes the definition of perfection.
As a horror movie it’s almost too good. There’s no flaws in the storytelling, which is very rare. Even the works of director slash dictator Stanley Kubrick have flaws, so imagine this little horror movie set in space having nothing to complain about - at least from my point of view. I love how the realism is mixed with a good old monster flick, some blood and goo, an awesome monster and a surprisingly controversial order of deaths. I would dare to say the filmmakers makes a Psycho here, killing off the person you think will be the hero… quite early, eat least considering how that character is written.
Today when watching the movie and looking back at the release, legacy, sequels, spin-offs, games, graphic novels and everything else around it, it’s surprising it got so negative reviews… like "an empty bag of tricks whose production values and expensive trickery cannot disguise imaginative poverty" as Time Out wrote when it came out. That quote is of course pure bollocks, written by a semi-retarded donkey.
Alien IS a perfect horror film, it just doesn’t get much better than this.
Lol. My memory is getting very frail. This is actually the SECOND time I review Alien this fucking year! I realized it after publishing this new text. You can read the old one here, but the one you have in front of you know is the better one!