In case you didn’t know, let me clue you in. Disney recently finished an acquisition deal, claiming ownership over Fox and all their properties. This includes the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Deadpool, Avatar (for whatever that’s worth), and of course: the Alien franchise. Which means that the newest addition to the Disney pantheon of royalty is the Alien Queen!
But that’s in Aliens. As much as I’d love to talk about it, I feel we should tackle the first film before that. So let’s discuss my favorite classic horror film of all time: Alien.
At it’s core, Alien fits into the same archetypes that all classic horror films fall into. A group of friends go somewhere they’re not supposed to go, find some serial killer/monster and start dying off one by one. The only real difference to the set up is that they’re in SPACE! And the killer is an ALIEN! Hence the title!
Plot: I Guess I Summarized It Already, Didn’t I?
In terms of an actual story, Alien is pretty simple. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and her friends are the crew on a ship, out on a long-term away mission. One day, they catch a mysterious signal and go to investigate. There, one of them catches a parasite unlike any they’ve ever seen. It bursts forth, starts growing, and kills the crew members one by one.
It’s an incredibly simple plot. The characters are simple and likable, the setting is easy to get into and fascinating, and the villain is intimidating, scary and super fucking cool! If you’re familiar with slasher movies, you can predict each beat of this movie way before they come. Just put a sci-fi twist on them, and you’ve got it.
Only without, y’know, horny teenagers doing stupid things.
This may seem like a bad thing. From what I’ve described, the movie may seem very cut-and-dry. I assure you, it’s not a problem. While the plot is indeed predictable, that doesn’t make it any less engaging. This is helped in large part by the single strongest aspect of the movie, which makes the story engaging despite it’s predictability.
Visuals: In Space, No One Can Hear You “Whoa!”
Oh my fucking god, where do I even start?!
This movie has some of the strongest visuals I’ve ever seen! From it’s cinematography to it’s sets to the Xenomorph itself, everything in this film is just so damn beautiful! While the story itself can be lacking, the look of this movie makes up for that in full and then some!
Let’s start with the sets. Each environment the film is set in is absolutely drop dead gorgeous! Each set is completely believable, especially in the ship! You can see exactly how one area would connect to the other, perfectly creating the illusion that the characters are aboard a real space ship.
This same level of detail goes into the Xenomorph. In terms of design, this may be my favorite movie monster that didn’t come from Japan! It looks horrifying on every level, and it’s black color scheme fits in perfectly with the settings in which it’s placed, allowing it to disappear with ease. Both in design and effect, this monster is truly terrifying, and deserves to be among the most iconic monsters in cinematic history.
Come on, just look at it!
And then there’s the cinematography. Oh my god it’s amazing! Almost every shot in the film is creative, dynamic and interesting! The language of cinema is on perfect display here, as each shot creates unease, dread and terror when needed.
The visual fidelity of this film is fucking outstanding! If you’re interested in cinema, especially cinematography, you need to watch this movie. Sure, the plot is kind of generic, save for them being in space, but god damn does it look good!
The only real problem I have is the music. It’s not bad, don’t get me wrong. But it is forgettable. I’m racking my brain as hard as I can, and I can’t even recall a single melody, let alone a full track. It’s a damn shame, as a truly fantastic and memorable score would propel this movie even further.
Conclusion: The Beginning of a Short Lived Legacy
Alien served as a fantastic beginning to a new franchise, on top of becoming a pop culture staple. Aliens would only propel the series even further, rocketing it to the top of the sci-fi world, right alongside Star Wars, Terminator and other such series. Unfortunately, that’s where the quality of the series started to fall, as we got the dreadful Alien 3, the forgettable Alien: Resurrection, and the terrible reboot/prequel films: Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.
While the series certainly spiraled downhill, it cannot be denied that the roots of the series are firm and powerful. Alien is one of the most iconic and influential horror films of all time, and it’s been remembered as such for forty years now! And I get the feeling that it will be remembered for many years yet.
Unlike the ones to come after. Except Aliens. Aliens is fantastic.
(Also, fun fact: Alien is exactly twenty years older than me. Yeah, me and the Xenomorph share a birthday! Yet my parents never called me ‘Their Little Xenomorph”… Now I’m upset.)