Many horror films today are stunning, such as Andy Muschietti’s IT (2017), and James Wan’s Malignant (2021); however, films from the past have paved the way to excellence, and Ridley Scott’s Alien is one of the best.
Alien is a film that truly leans into the villain of the movie: the Alien. Of course, other sci-fi/horror films do this too, but Alien has extra leverage when it comes to tension.
The film follows a crew deep in space, and when they are woken up earlier than expected, things go downhill rather fast. After deviating from their path in order to find out more about a signal they came across, one of the members, Kane (John Hurt), come back with something attached to his face...
After attempting to remove the ‘face-hugger’, the team must sit and wait for Kane to hopefully regain consciousness, and re-join the crew.
When Kane does wake up, the creature that was stuck to him has died, but Ash (Ian Holm) seems more than interested in this extra-terrestrial being.
The team have dinner together, along with Kane, and appear to be joking, laughing, and their worries seem to be dissipating; however, Kane begins to cough and, when blood spreads and a small, alien organism bursts through his ribcage, the crew shift from concerned to a state of total panic and fear.
From this point, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and her friends must find a way to rid themselves of the infestation that has arrived on their ship – will everyone make it out alive?
Alien is a phenomenal movie, and much of its charm may come from the fact that it is 42 years old. Released in 1979, this film shows what can be done with a small cast, minimal music, a deadly, domineering villain, and a passion for filmmaking.
The cast for this film is very small, with only seven crew members at the start of the film. Having a team of this size allows for audiences to not only get to know them a little better, but for interactions to have more meaning, as they diverse with one another on a more intimate level.
Of course, we have to discuss Ripley. She is one of cinema’s leading ladies, even after all these years. Ripley made tough decisions in the face of danger, stared death in the eye more than once, and fought an alien that towered over her and threatened to punch a hole in her head.
While this may not have been the intention, Ripley’s character proves that women can be the star of the show, and that they too can make choices they’d rather not, and wield a weapon while still carrying cares and worries along with them; she is the perfect female protagonist.
Alien also sets itself apart from other similar movies due to its stunning set design and musical scores.
The sets for this movie are outstanding, as computers and complicated wiring line the crew’s colossal ship; even the capsules in which they wake up look to be from the future, and every single prop, from a magazine to a water glass, has its purpose and creates the feeling that the characters really do live in this environment.
The musical scores are something to admire within Alien, as there is very little of it. The lack of music, instead replaced by chatter from the characters or eerie silence, works exceptionally well to instil a sense of the unknown, even before the Xenomorph shows up.
There is music, of course, when the fast-paced scenes arrive, but there is little else to listen to. Because of this decision, Ripley and her team are isolated not just due to them being in space, but because that environment holds no noise.
The lack of music creates the perfect illusion of separation from the rest of the universe, allowing the audience to almost feel as though they are there with everyone else, deep in the eerie and captivating silence.
For a film to forgo most music is a risk, but it paid off here as it relaxed the environment to the point of fear, and suggested that the deadly life form could be anywhere, hiding in the silence.
The Xenomorph, or Alien, is perhaps one of cinema’s most recognisable and perfectly-designed beasts. It is tall, almost jet black, cunning, and deadly; the perfect killing machine. Just one of these creatures could cause catastrophe on board a ship...
The creature is seen only a few times within this feature, but to be honest, one or twice would have been enough to showcase their intense power to not only dominate the screen, but the lives of the crew members.
Alien utilises this flawlessly designed monster to its full potential; hiding it in dark vents, within machinery, and while we rarely see it move, its presence never leaves the screen, whether it is in shot or not.
Ripley and the Xenomorph are a sensational paring, like fine cheese and wine. They compliment one another, and the creature allows Ripley to play to her strength: bravery. She is a headstrong, capable character who gets the job done, despite being upset at her fallen friends and what she must do to survive.
Essentially, Alien is one of cinema’s greatest triumphs. It has the perfect villain, an ideal and courageous protagonist, and a straightforward plot that paves the way for fear and disaster; it is simply flawless.
Watch the trailer for Alien below:
Written by Melissa, who you can follow on Twitter @melissajournal