Sat in the cinema, you see an old looking and sounding 20th century fox logo and BAM, you’re in another time, exactly 40 years ago to be exact, but being transported to the year 2122. Straight off the bat, you have a dark pan across space as the word ALIEN is slowly revealed across the top of the screen and an ominous drone similar to Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” plays and you know what you’re in for.
Straight off the bat, the scenery is eerie and grey in this futuristic ship which wouldn’t look out of place in Doctor Who (Sigourney Weaver would make a much better Doctor than Jodie Whittaker, but away from the point). Your three crew-members go and explore what is sending a distress call and one of them finds eggs, sticks his face too close to a hatching one and OH SHIT THE ALIEN JUMPS ON HIS FACE!!! The classic jump scare.
Back on the ship, they take alien face to their hospital and find the alien is feeding him oxygen. Weird… Anyway, soon the alien is off his face and dead. Alien-face is ok and they have dinner and BOOM OUT OF NOWHERE!!! STRAIGHT OUT OF THE STOMACH IS THIS WEIRD WORM THING!!! Is it scary? Nahh. Is it funny? Hell yeah.
The crew go to catch this alien and you think is that as scary as it gets? And you are wrong. This guy goes after the resident cat Jones, turns around… AND THERE’S A HUGE EFFING ALIEN!! WHAAAT!!!! It is going to go down from here on out. Can they catch it, will it kill them? Well, I’m probably going to spoil this a bit in the rest of the review, but you’ve had 40 years to watch it and if you haven’t by now…
In Space No One Can Hear You Scream
The truly scary thing about Alien is how you never truly see it. Yes, it can be scene as this big scary helmet head thing, but you never see it for more than a couple of seconds until the end and the not knowing is what leads to the fear. The lead ups in this film are long and the pay offs are instant and not graphic and drawn out. You never learn the alien’s weaknesses. It’s a perfect specimen says the weird scientist and any guesses of how to stop it seem desperate and unconvincing.
There are many tropes in this film used in horror, from the music to cat-based jump scares. The big cliche was discovering someone was a robot sent by the home planet. This cyborg was told to make sure the alien came home, even at the cost of human life in some form of secret message.
The characters were a mixed bunch. Dallas, Ripley and Ash are all well played, especially Ripley. A strong female lead, she was brave and probably the only smart person on the ship. The rest of the characters were more forgettable, but that is part and parcel of a horror film. The themes of poor worker treatment and isolation in space worked well to deliver a solid story. The script was decent as the fear felt palpable.
Forty Years Young
So, does this film still hold up forty years later? Well, if Ridley Scott were charged with faking the moon-landing, then the Soviets would’ve probably won the space race. While it may be unfair to compare this film to 2001: A Space Odyssey (which is eleven years, Alien’s senior), the effects aren’t great. The spaceship looks like a toy in space and when flying, it’s hardly convincing. The super computer is a basic typing interface, which is nothing on 2001’s HAL. The alien at first looks rather silly scuttling across a desk, although for at the time, that scene is iconic. Alien does look scary later, even if a bit mechanic.
This scene in particular doesn’t hold up well as the alien looks like a toy.
The worst out dated effect which you can start to notice in the above scene was the overuse of strobe lighting. It wasn’t just a minute or two. It felt like it was going on for a good ten minutes, made worse by being in a dark room. I had a small headache when I walked out and this slightly ruined the experience.
Overall Rating: N/A
As this film is forty years old, I can’t rate it on a fair scale against others. Instead, I will say that this film is iconic. Some of its scene still inspire cinema today and are a good watch. However, it doesn’t hold up very well forty years later. Is it a must watch today? No. Is it still worth your time? Yeah, if you happen to see it on TV.