Aliens: Blending Action and Horror

It’s Halloween, ladies and gents and non-binary friends. That means it’s time to talk about a horror movie. One problem with that: I’m not much of a fan of horror movies. I don’t want to spoil the holiday with an overly negative review of a film only I don’t like.

So I decided to pick a horror movie I actually like. Even if it’s only a horror movie half of the time.

Alien is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s a masterful example of how wonderfully sci-fi and horror can mix. Unfortunately, I already reviewed that a few years back. So instead, I’m gonna talk about the sequel: Aliens!

The fact that they just made the title a plural instead of adding a 2 at the end is equal parts genius and hilarious to me.

After surviving her nightmarish encounter with the Xenomorph, Ripley enters hyper-sleep and drifts through space, waiting to be rescued. Fifty-seven years later, she is. Unfortunately, when she recounts her story, her warnings go unheard. Not long after, the colony of Hadley’s Hope goes quiet, with signs pointing to Xenomorph activity. Being the only knowledgeable person on the subject, Ripley is sent in to investigate, along with a team of marines. Ripley struggled to survive against just one of the aliens; how will she fare against an entire horde?

At its core, Aliens is an action movie. Characters don’t just meekly die screaming like they did in the last movie; practically every single one of them goes down fighting with a massive gun in their hands. The grand finale isn’t some tense escape; Ripley gets into a goddamn mech and punches the Queen in the face! It’s a kickass action flick.

However, it doesn’t forget the series’ roots in horror. There are several scenes in this movie that focus less on big guns and explosions and more on building a tense, frightening atmosphere. The marine’s first dive into the hive is a particular highlight for me; the slow build-up of tension as they dive deeper and deeper into enemy territory, ultimately reaching an explosion of pure terror as everything goes wrong all at once.

Of course, none of that would matter if the story weren’t good. Thankfully, Aliens more than earns its iconic status. It’s easy to see why this is considered one of sci-fi’s greatest films.

Ripley’s arc in this movie is one of my personal highlights. She’s a woman out of time, a mother who lost her daughter and everything she cares about because of an alien and an evil megacorporation. In this movie, she’s presented with the opportunity to redeem herself as a mother, get her payback, and become a badass at the same time. It’s great!

The rest of the cast is pretty strong, too. Each of the marines is brimming with fun personalities and has enjoyable chemistry with each other. Most of the film’s most iconic lines, like “Game over, man! Game over!” come from these characters. Even Newt is pretty enjoyable; surprising for a child performance from the 80s.

Of course, there are the aliens themselves. One of the few problems with Alien was the limitations of the Xenomorph suit; there were several points where it very much looked like a dude in a costume. Here, the full potential of the creatures is fulfilled. From how they look and how they move, from the basic Xenomorph to the almighty Queen, they all look spectacular!

Even if they’re as durable as butter. It’s been over seventy years; I guess humans just have better weapons now.

That seems a good enough place to transition into talking about the presentation. On the whole, this movie looks fantastic. The environments are all gorgeously crafted, perfectly capturing the cold, dark, and grimy look the series established in the first film. The cinematography is fantastic, perfectly capturing tension and terror or pulse-pounding excitement. All of the special effects, from the aliens to the power armor, look stunning even to this day.

Ah, timeless classics. If only half of what we get today looked as good as they do.

Aliens may not be the scariest movie out there. But when it comes to blending horror with action and sci-fi, there are few films out there even half as good as this one. As a follow-up to Alien, it’s absolutely fantastic.

Now, just like every other beloved IP from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, it’s all downhill from here. See you all next Halloween for Alien 3, I guess. Or not; maybe I’ll find something actually good to watch.

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