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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: June 9: Alien


June 9: Alien

"A mining ship, investigating a suspected SOS, lands on a distant planet. The crew discovers some strange creatures and investigates."

So the buildup of "Alien Week" has lead to this. Well, the first part of it at least. I still need to see Prometheus. But to set myself up for the film, I revisited the original Alien movie itself. The 1979 sci-fi classic that paved way for every other movie I reviewed this week as well as creating a new standard for the horror genre. It's surprisingly how effective Alien still is after 33 years and shows that it is much more about the story, the characters, and the fear of being trapped in a spaceship with a deadly beast, than it is about fancy special effects and big explosions (although the effects in the film still look pretty damn good). Alien is a lot like Halloween, or other slasher films, but in space, with a giant creature instead of the creepy Michael Myers and none of the unnecessary (but necessary) sex scenes. 

I can only imagine how terrifying Halloween would have been if Myers had little creatures rape the faces of his victims before he brutally murders them. 

Alien follows the story of the Nostromo, a commercial mining ship that discovers an SOS signal coming from an unidentified planet. Upon landing, the crew sends out a team to investigate the signal and they come across eggs of some kind of creature. Events unfold and an alien creature boards the Nostromo, causing destruction and killing off members of the crew. Once the alien is on board, and after a memorable dinner scene, the terror really begins. With the alien's arrival, a heightened sense of paranoia and fear arrives with it for not only Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and her crew, but for the audience as well. Alien is a claustrophobic film and Ridley Scott does an amazing job capturing the close quarters fight to the death. The narrow passageways  of the Nostromo are used wonderfully and Scott uses the setting and the sets masterfully. The use of a good score and terrific sound effects, including an almost constant heartbeat throughout the film, just adds to the scary atmosphere. And, with so many twists and turns in the ship, you never can expect what's around the next corner. 

Oh my f**king God.

Alien succeeds on so many levels. It's truly terrifying and has moments that will make you jump and cringe even if you have already seen the film. It's ingenious with its special effects, using props and real, live effects. The creature design for the alien has now become iconic and it still stands the test of time on its looks and scare factor. Sigourney Weaver is good as Ripley but I have to give it to Ian Holm, who plays the Nostromo's science officer, Ash. His role is very vital to the film's plot and how his story plays out is surprising as well as looking incredible. Alien is a classic. What Jaws does for the ocean, what Psycho does for showers, and what Halloween does for your own neighborhood, Alien does for space. Sure, very few of us will ever venture out into the final frontier, but I can't help wonder how many, if given the opportunity, would turn down an offer after watching Alien. Also, as we all have come to know, in space, no one can hear you scream.

The Good:
a horror movie disguised as a science fiction movie that scares the crap out of you
The Better:
great creature effects that still look good after 33 years and also scares the crap out of you
The Best:
even knowing what's going to happen and still having the crap scared out of you... the damn thing is that intense (and awesome)

Overall: 9.0/10


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At September 4, 2012 at 9:17 PM , Blogger Richard Kirkham said...

I can't believe this has been up for three months and none of your other readers has bothered to comment. Alien is Ridley Scott's Masterpiece. Look I admire Blade Runner as much as the next cinemaniac, but this movie is perfect. I am going to do a post at some point on films in which not a single frame should be changed or added to. Alien will be on that list. Five or six years ago there was a release of this film in a "Director's Cut" version, promoting the DVD release at Halloween time. There are three or four additional shots and longer scenes that have no business being in the movie at all. A couple of years ago, the Blu Ray box set came out and it gives you a choice of which version to watch, ALWAYS choose the theatrical version.
I understand the comparison to Halloween" but it is really more of a Haunted House movie than a stalker film. Atmospheric beyond belief, with an amazing set design and a score by my personal favorite film composer, Jerry Goldsmith. There is not any need for a piece of CGI chicanery to make this film work. One tough jump cut during the reveal of Ash's head is just the consequence of working with practical effects, it does not hurt the film at all. Any time I get a chance to see it on the big screen, I jump at it.
I posted a couple of years ago on my original experience seeing the movie in 1979. Those comments are here:

At September 4, 2012 at 10:04 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Great comment and great enthusiasm! It really is a great film. I saw Blade Runner forever ago and don't remember a lot of it, but I really do want to revisit it to compare it to Alien. I'm always a fan of practical effects over CGI and am sad to see that rarely used anymore these days. I have not seen it on the big screen but I can only imagine how epic it would be. Thanks, as always and I'll check out your post as well.


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