There are some movies that dance along a very thin line between science fiction and horror, honoring both genres while strictly adhering to the rules of neither. Even though a movie is set in space, upon a spaceship, and even though the movie might feature a futuristic landscape or a terrible creature from a place beyond the stars, it may still be called a horror movie.
Very much so in the case of tonight’s chilling space case, Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic that proved in space, no one can hear you scream. Alien
Year Released: 1979
Written By: Dan O’Bannon, David Glier, Walter Hill
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt
While returning to Earth from collecting minerals and ore on the planet Thedus, the spaceship Nostromo receives a distress signal from a nearby tiny planet and this causes the ship’s computers to awaken the seven member crew from stasis sleep. They land on the planetoid below, causing structural damage to the ship. Upon landing, a few of the crew members decide to leave the ship and investigate the source of the signal. They find the signal originating from an alien ship that appears to have crashed upon the surface of this planetoid long before the Nostromo passed by.
Within the ship, they find the ancient remains of a humanoid creature, the chest of which seems to have been forced outward, as though something had burst forth from it. Confused, they proceed further into the ship and discover a large chamber filled with bizarre looking eggs. A member of the crew peers in as one of the eggs begins to open, and a creature leaps from within and attaches itself to his face. The rest of the crew struggle to remove it, but upon realizing that it has fused fully with his face, they decide to bring him back to the ship in hopes the others might be able to help. The creature eventually detaches and dies. Feeling as though they’ve just dodged a bullet, the crew finish repairs to Nostromo and continue their return journey to Earth.
What they fail to realize is that they are no longer alone on their ship.
I might get some flack for reviewing this as a horror film instead of science fiction, but I don’t care. It’s both.
Alien is the sort of science fiction film, and it is a science fiction film, that forces you to think about our place in the universe and whether or not we should really be venturing too far outside of our own cozy little solar system where nothing will eat our faces off.
Alien is also the sort of horror film, and it is a horror film as well, that is so terrifying that it leaves a lasting impression on your psyche long after you’ve seen it. I still think back to this movie with fondness and when I do, a shudder runs down my spine.
The marriage between the dark and twisted vision of director Ridley Scott with the beautifully disturbed designs of H.R. Giger are what makes this movie stand out from all of the other “Alien Monster Attacks Spaceship Crew” movies that have already existed for years. The suspense builds at such a pace as to confuse you, since it is slow enough to put you on the edge of your seat, but also fast enough to make you want to look away in terror.
The writing and the acting are both fantastic in this movie, as Sigourney Weaver and John Hurt give some of the best performances of their careers.
Should You See It
I feel like Alien should be on everyone’s list of movies to see before they die. It’s become a huge part of pop culture, it’s become a milestone in both science fiction and horror, and it helped launch the career of Sigourney Weaver.
The James Cameron directed follow-up, Aliens is also quite good.