Nothing quite says a horror movie like Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic, Alien. Starring 80’s icon Sigourney Weaver, Alien shows life in the far future where space travel and extertersitals are an everyday occurrence.
Now as a shock to many, I’ve never actually seen the original Alien movie; hell, I haven’t seen anything from the franchise. Of course I’ve heard of it, I even know behind the scenes facts, yet I’ve never actually sat down and watched it.
So I took advantage of the first movie being on Disney+ and decided it was finally time to see why everyone loves this movie and holds it so highly amongst the rest.
And right off the bat, my first few thoughts of this movie was that the backgrounds were just beautiful, they’re so full of life and detail. Every nook and cranny was filled with junk, but junk that added and made the spaces feel slightly claustrophobic when needed.
The universe and settings outside of the ship felt dark and dank, this juxtaposes greatly with the white, clean, sterile environments we see on the ship. But once the alien is onboard, we see the ship get darker and gringier to match the shift in tone of the movie.
Besides the backgrounds, another way this movie adds great tension is through its music. Musical cues help tell the audience when the alien is either in the room or going to attack, in a similar vein to Jaws. It adds to the idea that you don’t need to see the monster to be scared.
Speaking of which, you don’t tend to see the alien a lot during the movie, it’s only really in its final few minutes where you can get a good glimpse of it. Throughout the movie you’re only shown small parts of the creature, it’s mouth, it’s tail, etc.
It clearly pulls inspiration from monster movies of old, making the monster scarier than it actually was by showing very little of it until a big build up at the end.
I love the special effects used during the movie, what I can only imagine is similar to how they filmed Star Wars: A New Hope which came out only two years before Alien. The practical models oddly make the film feel more real compared to if it was done with CGI. Although in today’s times we look back and think the effects look a little goofy, I think it adds to their charm.
Linking back to the use of models, through a lot of establishing shots and forced perspective, you get a great idea of size in this movie. Whether this be through the absolute mammoth size of the ship or the depths of the caves characters explore on unknown planets.
The addition of low camera angles and close ups make the scenes feel claustrophobic and like you’re actively involved within the movie. You’re right there with Ripley as she’s hiding in the closet; it’s a very nice touch.
Other, more noticeable, things like when the camera pans up to the ceilings or vents is a clever indicator to show the audience where the alien is within a scene. It’s not very subtle in the way it does it, to be honest, but I love when a movie plays along with the show don’t tell mentality.
I can’t lie and say I remember everyone’s names besides Ripley and Jones, the latter being my favourite character in the movie; what a surprise. I do feel as though this movie, even the entire franchise, could have ended quite shortly if everyone had just listened to Ripley in the beginning of the movie.
Something I couldn’t get on well with was when Ash, which I definitely didn’t just have to look up, is revealed to be a robot. I don’t really think the signs were there, unless you possibly do a rewatch with the knowledge, but I do like that you can piece together that he wasn’t truly on their side if you’re paying attention.
I do, however, love when the alien kills somebody. It’s always off screen and the audio plays a big factor into making it scary. The scene when Lambert and Parker are in the underbelly of the ship grabbing supplies, but uh oh, the alien is with them.
The way the terror is conveyed through Lambert’s screams and Parker’s shouting on the radio is bone-chiling. You only see Ripley’s reaction, then it cuts back to the screaming until it eventually rumbles into static.
Then we move onto Ripley’s great escape, as she’s running down the tunnels we get bright blue and yellow flashing lights but I feel as though it takes away from the great lighting you have with the open flame Ripley is carrying around.
You get some great highlights of her face, and although the flashing lights are there to make the scene feel more hectic and fast, you lose this closeness you have and this sense of fear with the fire. And the strobing effect can’t be good for anyone who suffers from seizures.
All in all, the movie wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. My whole life I had thought this movie was the worst of the worst when it came to horror, at least that’s what I remember people telling me. And sure, maybe at the time it was; but not so much now.
Alien wasn’t a bad movie but with decades of people overhyping the heck out of it, the whole thing can come across as a little misleading. There are aspects that I do greatly enjoy, however, it just doesn’t hit the entertaining mark for me.
Would I watch it again? Possibly, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch something like the Alien Vs Predator franchise.
Alien gets 3 out of 5 Mothers from me.