What’s your favorite scary movie? Part 3: ‘Alien’

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I had seen Alien on tv before and didn’t think it was that scary.  But in 2003 20th Century Fox rereleased the film in a handful of theaters, and so I went; more because I was such a big fan of its sequel Aliens.  The theater was large and there was hardly anyone in it.  Perfect for any big-screen viewing, but especially appropriate for Alien.  So to really get the heebie-jeebies, Alien is best when viewed alone.  In a dark room.

What’s it about? In the distant future, the space ship Nostromo heads back to Earth.  The ship delivers mineral ore and is manned by a crew of seven.  The trip is long, so the crew is in cryo-sleep.  (No sense in aging when you’re millions of miles away from Earth, right?) The ship receives transitions from Mother, a computer that communicates with The Company back on earth.

The crew is awoken mid-journey because Mother has orders for them to check out a life form on a nearby planet.  So Dallas (Tom Skerritt), the ship’s captain, and crew members Lambert (Veronia Cartwright) and Kane (John Hurt) put on their space suits and check out the signs of life Mother says are out there.

While on the planet, Kane discovers life: giant egg-like pods, with something moving inside.  One of the pods opens, and the creature itself latches on to Kane’s face.  And so the trouble begins.

Warrant officer Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) refuses to let Kane back on the ship because it violates The Company’s quarantine policy.  She is overruled, however, by Ash (Ian Holm), the science officer.  And so the trouble worsens.

The parasitic creature attached to Kane’s face has acid for blood (the crew finds this out the hard way).  There is no way to remove it without killing Kane.  A few days later, the thing falls off Kane; he seems to be fine.  It’s only a few hours later that the crew of the Nostromo realize that something inside Kane will wipe them out.  And so the trouble turns into terror.

What’s good about it? Like my favorite scary movies, this one’s on slow burn.  And just when you think things are good, they’re not.  Not even close.  There’s an unnerving eerines right from the beginning, thanks to Jerry Goldsmith’s restrained score, which is so sparse, it doesn’t give you the luxury of knowing what’s going to happen next (as many horror movies do).  The production design is genius–this is not the pristine future of Star Trek or Star Wars; this is a grimy, working-class type of outer space.  The cinematography is fantastic; while released in 1979, the film has a look that indicates it could have been made this year.  Great performances from an exceptional cast, particulary Holm and, of course, Weaver, who became the star of the Alien franchise.  And, of course, expert direction from Ridley Scott, who at the time had only one prior feature under his belt.

Oh, and it’s scary as hell.

What’s bad about it? If your tolerance for language and gore is low, skip this.  There are some shocking scenes of violence that are messy and disturbing.

Perfect for: Sci-fi fans, horror fans, and those with strong stomachs.

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One Response to “What’s your favorite scary movie? Part 3: ‘Alien’”

  1. Shayla Says:

    Scary, scary! I’m glad you are watching them for some of us! Some say my favorite scary movie isn’t scary but it is to me, it’s The Village.

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