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Classic Review: Alien

Are we really alone in the multi-verse? To find out, Arne listened to a podcast with Prof. Brian Cox – he was soon bored, so watched Alien instead

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It would be hard nowadays to find anyone who has not heard of Sir Ridley Scott. It is safe to say Blade Runner (1982), Thelma & Louise (1991), Gladiator (2000) and American Gangster (2007) did not go unnoticed, but Alien is where Sir Scott proved he is worthy of being one of the biggest names in modern cinema. At the beginning of a great sci-fi saga, Alien has kept up with the times while maintaining an authentic feel. Sigourney Weaver stars as Ripley, the third officer on board of the USCSS Nostromo, a commercial spacecraft sent to investigate a mysterious SOS signal. However, they quickly discover that the signal was a warning and that their employer, the Company, has made them expendable in its mission to capture and study an unknown organism. The cast does a great job of conveying the fear and desperation of the crew of the Nostromo, trapped on one side by a hostile ‘guest’ and their superiors on the other.

Alien pits Dallas, portrayed by Tom Skerritt, and his crew against “the ultimate survivor, unclouded by judgement”. It is the brute struggle for survival at its most primitive in a high-tech setting, dominated by colourful buttons and ‘bleep bloop’ sound effects. Based on H.R. Giger’s concept art, this sci-fi horror flick raised the bar for visual effects in the film industry. While most of the special effects belong to the Star Wars era – as in they were probably revolutionary at the time – and seem rather outdated nowadays, the décors do not fail to impress. From the very first seconds of the film, the dark and still settings inspire nothing but unease. In fact, I will even go as far as to say that the décors, along with the cinematography and unsettling music are the biggest contributors to the horror. The film just feels creepy from start to finish, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. The Facehugger, in particular, made me uncomfortable in ways I’m not sure I can describe…

I only regret not having been able to witness Alien when it was first released. While it is important to respect the huge leap forward that its special effects represented at the time, I felt slightly underwhelmed by the emergence of the actual alien. However, true cineasts will join me in looking over this minor hitch and enjoying the strong acting, intense dialogue and creepy cinematography. This classic is a must-see. It will bring you back to the origins of the modern horror genre and the start of an iconic movie franchise. It will make you shiver at your most primal level, as Ridley tugs at your fear of the dark, your fear of the unknown and even your trust issues. Alien demonstrates that no matter how advanced our technology becomes, humanity is still driven by very animal instincts.