Monday, October 5, 2009

30 Days of Fright - 04: Alien

Do you know anyone who's afraid of spiders? I mean really proper scared of them? I've met one or two full-on arachnophobes in my time and they always make me smile as they tell me of their deep rooted primal fear of our eight-legged little friends. Me, I kinda like spiders. I think they're cool. I especially like the way they murder flies and spin webs and were very kind to that Parker boy that time. If I were to have an equivalent fear to that of spiders it would have to be of nine foot tall armor plated Xenomorphs with concentrated acid for blood, if I were to encounter one of those things I'd probably shit myself!

Alien (1979), can be classified as a Science Fiction film but is more accurately described as a horror movie set in space. The commercial towing vessel Nostromo is on route back to Earth pulling a large mineral refinery behind it as its crew of seven lie in suspended animation. The ships computer, Mother, awakens the crew far from Earth as a signal has been detected coming from a nearby planet. The crew seperate the Nostromo from the refinery and land on the planet to investigate.

Three of the crew set out to find the source of the signal and are shocked to discover a crashed alien vessel containing the fossilised remains of the pilot and a large quantity of what appear to be eggs. One of the eggs opens and a parasite attaches itself to the face of one of the team. Upon returning to the ship, the parasite falls off by itself, but not after a failed attempt to remove it reveals the creature has a potent acid for blood.

The crewman appears to be none the worse for his nasty experience and the only side effect is a little short term memory loss coupled with a lingering feeling of having had a bad dream. At dinner, he suddenly takes violently ill and dies as an alien creature bursts out of his body and scuttles off, leaving the rest of the crew in a state of blood-stained shock. A search for the creature reveals that it's grown up very quickly and has gone from it's foot-long nasty worm form into it's nine-foot-tall armour plated form that is hell bent on killing all round itself.

The Committee for the Liberation and Integration of Terrifying Organisms and their Rehabilitation Into Society (C.L.I.T.O.R.I.S) say: "No Thanks!"

Alien is one of those landmark movies that went on to not only spawn a slew of sequels and spin-offs but also set the tone for serious sci fi and creature-based horror for years to come. HR Giger's bio-mechanical style alien became an icon and propelled the artist to a level of fame his work had deserved but not attained up to that point. Sigourney Weaver showed how strong female characters can really work in Hollywood movies and gave hope to overly tall girls everywhere. And Tom Skerrit went on to be in Top Gun.

Alien has in addition to the main storyline, which is a cut and dried "kill it before it kills us" type deal, a far deeper subtext about fear and morality. Ripley is against bringing the injured Kane (played very ably by John Hurt) on board the ship with the parasite as it's against quarantine protocols. This gets over-ruled and sets Ripley up as the heroine of the piece as she's the only one still in control of the moral high ground - if Alien had been a teen slasher, Ripley would have been the nerdy virgin who outwits the killer. The aliens physical appearance coupled with Ash's actions (before his true nature is revealed) with Ripley and the magazine, all point to a sexual subtext, which is confirmed with what can only be described as a gratuitous crotch-shot of Ripley towards the end when she's getting changed; and so the sexual elements of Alien have become the subject of much debate.

These deeper elements only add to what's an already excellent movie in every department, from writing to direction, music and acting, everything works very well to make a movie that can still make you jump at the right moments.

Oh, did I mention Tom Skeritt was in Top Gun?

Two Thumbs Up for Alien.

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