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Alien (1979)

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Plot Summary:
"When commercial towing vehicle Nostromo, heading back to Earth, intercepts an SoS signal from a nearby planet, the crew are under obligation to investigate. After a bad landing on the planet, some crew members leave the ship to explore the area. At the same time as they discover a hive colony of some unknown creature, the ship's computer deciphers the message to be a warning, not a call for help. When one of the eggs is disturbed, the crew do not know the danger they are in until it is too late."

Review by
Ryan McDonald
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Review Date: 02 November 2003 My Rating: out of 5


Given that it has recently been re-released, I figured I'd give this Ridley Scott flick another go. I have all of the Alien films on video, but this has always been my least favourite. I've always viewed it as being a big-time retread of all the great 50s sci-fi films I love so dearly, only taking out everything that was 'fun' about them.

I mean really, folks. It's just Plumbers in Space, when you get right down to it (And Harry Dean Stanton really does seem to fit the part if you ask me, though he and Yaphet Kotto are rays of sunshine here amidst their grim-looking co-stars). A mining ship full of rather disgruntled and underpaid folks answers a distress call from an alien planet. There they find some bizarre creatures, one of whom attaches itself to the face of poor, unfortunate John Hurt (Looking about 55 with a bad hangover to boot). Yadda Yadda, it's man vs. alien...well, OK, so there are two women on board. And a cat.

A great cast, with Sigourney Weaver her usual terrific self, but I still find the film takes the least interesting elements of science-fiction (cold, distanced characters, sterile photography, lots of gabbing) and the least interesting elements of horror (no sense of humour, lots of jump scenes rather than atmosphere like the great Hammer horror films) and puts it all together. Add to that actors like Tom Skerritt and Ian Holm, who whilst fine in certain roles, don't exactly scream 'life of the party' to me. Sure, they needed to convey a sense of weariness associated with long space travel, but screenwriter O'Bannon did this much better with John Carpenter on 'Dark Star', which heightened the absurdity of it all, rather humorously.

However, when the film is on target, it's great. The chest-bursting scene is superb, the scenes set on the alien planet are visually arresting (whilst the rest looks like leftovers from bland stuff like '2001' or 'THX-1138'), the creature design is superlative. You could probably add an extra half a star to my rating, because it is certainly watchable, just so damn overrated.

Now say it with me, people; Get ready for another episode of!

Sterile-looking, mostly uneventful for the the first forty minutes, the film gets better in the latter stages with some fine FX and terrific performances. But I'd still skip it and move on to the much better sequels.

Reviewer: Josh Winning @horrorasylum
Review Date: 31 October 2001 My Rating: out of 5

# This is one of those classics that remains in the memory a long time after having watched it. It's the type of movie that is a classic not because it was made by a load of 'knowns' (in fact pretty much every single person involved in Alien - from cast to crew - were completely unknown), nor because it had a particularly large budget. It is a classic because it is one of the most remarkable and truly scary movies ever made.

Ridley Scott's slow, disarmingly peaceful direction sets up some great - unxpected - scenes of tension, creating a raw atmosphere of fear and claustraphobia throughout, and Alien is surprisingly post-modern in its plotting. People die who you would never expect to (normally the captain would be the one battling the evil in the final showdown), and characters - who previously had all odds against them - survive. This is just one of Alien's many inspired moments that both shock and manage to scare the audience.

The shabby, tight sets only add to the cloying, uncomfortable feeling that is created while watching Alien, and it seems that behind the scenes the set designers were going for a very dramatic, dark feel for, which comes across well and only heightens the horror that is induced.

Sigourney Weaver in her debut role (of Ripley) is excellent and, in retrospect, her character is far jokier and humorous than in the later Alien installments that were to come (with the possible exception of Alien Resurrection). This is an interesting fact to note from a continuity point of view. The rest of the cast (including Brit veteran Ian Holmes and Cult icon Veronica Cartwright) do well in their roles, and are given quite a lot of screen time considering the movie's genre. This brings me to another unique thing about Alien - the action/violence within it is actually fairly minimal, and most of the screen time is taken up with character interaction and humorous dialect (which helps lighten the opperssively-dark mood). When the action does come, it comes thick and intense and is overpowering in its real-ness.

And then we have the Alien itself. I don't believe that there is a single other film monster out there that is quite so beautifully-realised and completely terrifying. Its quick, calm disposal of its victims is more fright-inducing then a human in a mask, and the creature itself really is something to behold. A sort of human-shaped abomination, this is the Grand-Daddy of all screen nasties, and it knows it!

An enjoyable and thrilling ride with many shocks along the way, Alien is a first-class Sci-Fi Horror with suspense galore and some great effects. Keep away from the big-budget Sci-Fi's of today, this one is still going strong - even after over years!

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