With a brand new Ridley Scott Alien film set for release this week, we at Psycho Drive-In thought it would be fun to look back at each of the films in the official franchise. So every day this week, the Psycho Drive-In All-Stars will be sharing their thoughts, memories, and interpretations of one of Hollywood’s most enduring and important science fiction franchises. Watching Alien now is to see something engrained in the public consciousness, but the rhythms and beats of the film don’t strike you like a film that crafted a forty year legacy. It is quiet and unassuming so that when the terror strikes it is all the more palpable. Ridley Scott confines his film like no Alien film to follow. You can feel the age and wear on the ship just like you can feel the tightness of the confines. For a ship with nowhere to hide, the xenomorph is surprisingly adept at finding spaces to hide. It is foolish to look at Ripley and not see her as a grunt. Everyone on the ship is pretty much a grunt except for Ian Holm’s android character. This is pivotal to understanding the cultural effect of the film. The corporation at the center of the story is the true villain. Corporate greed is what makes Holm’s character bring the alien on the ship in the first place. Ridley Scott has gone on to be a filmmaker that is all about the spectacle. The larger and bigger the story, the more he flies into it with artistic abandon. But, Alien, which was his second feature film, is the type of bravura work that a true craftsman makes. His direction is still and assured. His slow entrance into the horror is something that most other directors would have resisted. Scott was confident in his ability to tease an audience along for as long as possible. The other real star is H.R. Giger’s incredible design of the actual alien. He is able to make something that is both vaginal and phallic, but wholly unnatural. The xenomorph is one of the greatest creations in the history of cinema with its acid blood, razor teeth, and slippery coat. Giger created something that is otherworldly, however, he grounds it with enough specificity that we as an audience feel like it is in the room with us. Alien is Scott’s best film. It is a work of unbearable suspense that is made by a true master of his craft. This type of film isn’t made today because it is too patient. Modern studios think that everything needs to be scaled to fifteen so that people stay with it. Alien is the start of one of the most important franchises in movie history. The magic is that it never feels like it is the start of something big. — Peterson Hill I was too young to have seen Alien in theaters, but its legend was inescapable. The film inspired such terror that I can recall it being the subject of many hushed childhood discussions. A friend’s parents walked out of the theater they were so horrified and second-hand tales of the chest-burster scene ran rampant. A thread of ice-cold dread ran through me at the very thought of Alien, tinged the sickly yellow-green glow of the strange light emitted by the egg in the film’s poster. At ten years old, I finally dredged up the courage to pop the VHS tape into the player late one night, alone. Prior to any discussion of feminist theory or deconstruction of the slasher genre or any of the real intellectualization of film that I would embrace later in life, I watched Alien. And I was absolutely terrified. So much of what was original about the film has been done to death over the years: the fake distress signal, the AI betrayal, the final girl. But I daresay it’s never been done collectively better. Deliberate pacing, brilliant world-building, always leaving more questions than it provides answers – it’s a master class in horror and science-fiction. Horror film is often quite content to shoot for the lowest common denominator these days. Science-fiction has a bad habit of overthinking everything and wanting to appear smarter than it is. Alien manages to hit the sweet spot, it’s an incredibly intelligent horror film that remains relatable in its sci-fi setting. It’s a high water mark for both genres and one of the few horror films to achieve true and lasting critical acclaim. Watching it again for the purposes of this review, I was struck by how minimal it is. The xenomorph barely seen, the violence (aside from the hallowed Last Supper) often implied, the use of darkness, claustrophobia, and panic to build tension; it’s tremendous in its reservation. Even the jump-scares with Jonesy the cat become more than just cheap shots, as we reach the point where both we and Ripley are questioning whether that sound was just the cat again or something else. Perhaps most chilling of all is the sequence of events that take place with Ash and his final monologue concerning the creature. He coldly frames the situation in a way that reminds you how truly alone these characters are and how desperate their situation. And the creature itself, a nightmare brought to life via the work of H.R. Giger, has had a resounding impact for decades to come regarding the depiction of alien threat in horror. It’s kept such hold on us for nearly 40 years that I often wonder if I’ll ever encounter an alien design in my lifetime that inspires more dread. — Adam Barraclough Scott’s visuals were as perfect in Alien as they were in Blade Runner and Prometheus, and what he perfected was a way of making a giant space factory look like a haunted house. You believed completely in all the spaces of the Nostromo, because they were diverse and so carefully made, not cheesy but instead a full range from industrial to clinical, and capable of providing so many different sites for horror to unfold. The human quarters were clean, padded, white, with the cryogenic chambers opening up like flowers to awaken their sleeping beauties. The bridge was grimly efficient, little workstations loaded with crucial controls and tech. The med labs were sealed and reinforced, like the airlocks. And then there were the hangars, the cubbyholes, the various air and chemical and water systems managed so resentfully by Parker and Brett in a world of pipes, tunnels, and wires. Chains clanked, water dripped and gas hissed, leaving behind rust and puddles and the idea of all of human endeavor and labor carrying on despite the light years to and from home. No chamber was so padded and protected as the womb where commanding officers accessed mission computer Mother, yet another place Ripley was prevented from accessing in her constant struggles to assert her command authority. Lambert and Ripley embroiled the story fully in 1970s sexual politics, and Scott had a fresh take that created an iconic heroine (and to me her equally sympathetic counterpart in whining, sleepy, fearful and angry Lambert) while embodying patriarchal power in the confused Dallas, the fallen Kane, and the merciless robot Ash. Only when he is decapitated (read castrated) is his symbolic rape of Ripley with a pornographic magazine halted, white “blood” burbling from his mouth instead of hers. And only with his demise do the remaining cast members finally show Ripley the loyalty that would have protected all of them had they heeded her commands earlier. — Shawn Hill See larger image Alien Blu-ray The terror begins when the crew of a spaceship investigates a transmission from a desolate planet, and discovers a life form that is perfectly evolved to annihilate mankind. One by one, each crew member is slain until only Ripley is left, leading to an explosive conclusion that sets the stage for its stunning sequel, “Aliens.” New From: $5.15 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.