“In space no one can hear you scream” That was the original tagline for this truly amazing work of horror and film. I grew up watching the movies in this franchise (even if they came out a few years before my time) and loved them from the first viewing. I can admit that I collected the action figures, the posters, comics, anything I could get my hands on. I think part of the thrill was knowing that it scared my mother more than me. But, I digress.
Watching Alien again was truly fun. I haven’t watched the first movie in this series in a few years and now I feel like I need to binge on the entire franchise. This movie follows the crew of the Nostromo as they pick up a distress signal and investigate it. When one of their own is attacked by a “facehugger”, they bring him and the alien back to the ship and evacuate the planetoid. That’s when all hell breaks loose.
In one of the most iconic scenes of the franchise, the alien literally smashes out of Kane’s chest and takes off, escaping into the ship. It’s probably the most gore that is seen in the entire film but it was enough to keep my mom from ever watching it again. The alien grows into the larger monster that most people have come to be afraid of.
The horror that propels this movie is established in two very large and distinct ways. First being the alien itself. After it has grown to its full size, it is unstoppable. It is “a survivor, unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality” as Ash describes it. And it is a ruthless killer. It takes its time and waits until everyone is secluded, killing them one by one in the darkness of the ship.
That is where the second element of horror for the movie comes in. The atmosphere created for the ship is very dark and cold and wet. There are very few scenes with a lot of light and even those are warped to horror (the scene when Kane dies is very well lit). The alien is able to blend in with the darkness of the ship and even with the metal. When Ripley thinks that she has escaped, it is actually three feet in front of her before she realizes it’s there. This movie just wouldn’t have been the same if it was set in an urban setting. The ship and the darkness of space give it that extra element to push it over the edge.
I really enjoyed this movie. Always have. Its a thrill ride of excitement and death, but not in the overdone way of some of the gory horror films we see today. And the best part is that even though Ripley is the only survivor, she still manages to save the cat that nearly died three times throughout the film. Any movie that ends with the pet being saved is fine by me.
8 thoughts on “Alien: The Movie that Started It All”
I think you’ve hit on what makes this movie great. It’s not just the unstoppable monster or the scenes of shock and gore. It’s the storytelling, including the atmosphere. The baby alien bursting out of Kane’s chest is great and scary and deserves its “classic scene” status, but the true horror of the movie comes after that. Never quite knowing where the alien is or what it, is but knowing it’s there, lurking somewhere…awesome.
As for the sets and atmosphere–watching Alien on a big screen in a dark movie theater, you really feel like you’re *on* the ship. Definitely ups the creepy factor. Still effective on this viewing, but I missed that with my small screen and lit living room.
Kitty hug scene! =^_^=
No, but seriously the atmosphere is almost a character unto itself. Even with some of the tech now looking a bit clunky, it still feels realistic, almost like the innards of a cargo airplane. I could totally see a mining ship–even one designed tomorrow–looking like that. And yet it’s still a bit eerie, dark, and mechanical, which is kind of how the alien itself looks.
You make a good point about the lighting in Kane’s death scene – it really makes it stand out from the rest of the film. Almost all the other alien attacks are a blur of close ups and off screen violence.
Like everyone said, the atmosphere is what makes the movie work. The atmosphere combined with the setting help up the horror. It’s much harder to run away in space, and like the tagline says, no one’s exactly close to swoop in a save the day.
I kept wondering why the ship was so BIG yet had a crew of seven. Even if there wasn’t a vicious alien creature, you could take a wrong turn going to the bathroom and never find your crew mates again on that thing. The size and complexity of the ship itself was terrifying. Even with others it was still scary, the ship was too big for seven to make it feel populated.
So, I had to look this up too. Evidently the Nostromo is a towing ship and they were pulling a refinery and several million tons of unrefined ore. So I pictured a tow truck pulling several large semi-trucks.
I like that you mentioned that everything was “dark and cold and wet”. For some reason the wetness and slickness of the setting just made it creepier. Maybe because when metal is wet it has the same kind of sheen that the alien’s head does. Or the wet is reminiscent of alien drool and goop and blood.