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Alien (1979)

  Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Starring: Veronica Cartwright, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton, Sigourney Weaver
Links: Alien on the IMDb, Official site, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy on DVD, Buy on Video
Genre: Suspense/Horror/Thriller

This movie gets: 10.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

Alien (1979) is also mentioned in andy-j's review of Aliens (1986), andy-j's review of AVP: Alien Vs. Predator (2004), timchuma's review of AVP: Alien Vs. Predator (2004) and timchuma's review of The Seventh Curse (1986).

"Perfect" - a review by andy-j

On the way back from a routine mining mission, the spacecraft Nostromo picks up a distress beacon from an distant planet. The ship is programmed to investigate, so it changes its course and awakens the crew from hypersleep to have them land on the planet and find out what is going on. Whilst exploring the planet, Kane, one of the crew members, disturbs a weird egg which hatches, and a parasite "facehugger" creature attaches itself to him. The rest of the crew rush to get him back onboard, and eventually manage to free Kane from the alien creature, which dies suddenly. But only hours later, the next stage of the alien's life-cycle is revealed. It hides away in the bowels of the ship and hunts the crew, one by one. It is a race against time to try to find a way to kill the seemingly invincible creature before it destroys the entire crew.

Alien is a horror film executed perfectly. Primarily, the element of terror, the alien, is horrifying. It doesn't just look disgusting and menancing (thanks to H.R. Giger's design) - its amazing lifecycle, its accelerated growth, its camouflage, its mouth inside its mouth, its high intelligence and its biological defences - it all comes together to create a horror that, to my mind, is yet to be matched. We know so little about the creature. How can it be following a primal base-level instinct in such an intelligent manner? It is mysterious, unpredictable, and able to anticipate anything the crew can think of. How? Unsettling.

There are plenty more aspects to this film that make it work so well. The characters are hugely atypical. Some of them barely know each other - they've just been thrown together on this mission, so when things start going wrong, their interaction is fascinating. Some want to follow procedure, some want to take matters into their own hands. No-one can really decide. Their terror and their underlying anger at each other feels very real and adds hugely to the overall sense that the crew are seriously screwed.

The characters all work so well because the actors who play them are all brilliant. Its a small cast, and there isn't a single weak link in the chain. John Hurt, Ian Holm, Veronica Cartwright, and of course, Sigourney Weaver, to name a few. They know their characters inside out. They add subtleties that would not have been included in the script. They are as real as they come.

Finally, I have to mention director Ridley Scott. Alien is directed so tightly and is so wonderfully controlled. Scott creates a huge atmosphere and massive tension. He handles the alien perfectly, he builds the tension perfectly, he shifts the focus wonderfully. He saves the best till last - the final fifteen minutes is so absolutely nailbitingly terrifying, it will stay with you and give you nightmares (I know I got 'em when I first saw Alien). He knows exactly what he is doing and he does it absolutely flawlessly.

Alien is perfect. It is as scary today as it was when it first came out in 1979. There aren't many films you can say that about.

andy-j gives this movie 10 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 9 Apr 2004

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Reader comments

  1. I often wonder whether ALIEN is in fact the fright masterpiece I think it is, or whether I simply saw it at the right age to be scared shitless by it? I think seeing it today for the first time, I would be terrified but not as much as I was. But now, I would have appreciated the artisty more than I did back then. Which is, really, almost beside the point. It's prime purpose is to scare the audience - it just happens to look and sound gorgeous as well.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Rod Williams ( on Sun 11 Apr 2004 12:26 #

  2. I just pray that some idiot doesn't come along and decide to remake it because the archaic graphics on the computer equipment that the crew uses looks out-of-place.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Andrew on Fri 17 Dec 2004 12:05 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 10.00 (2 ratings)

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