Alien is an exemplary example of scifi horror.

Alek pavkovic, Staff

Alien is a sci-fi horror movie, released in may of 1979. It takes place on the Nostromo, a civilian freighter who picks up a mysterious distress call they go to see who, or what, was broadcasting it, and come across a long dead “space jockey” and a cargo hold full of mysterious eggs. One of these eggs opens up when Kane disturbs it, and a facehugger leaps out, implanting a child chestburster inside of him. Later, this chestburster, well, bursts its way out of his chest, and the crew now must try to kill the xenomorph that it grows up to be, with all but one of them dying along the way and the cat gets saved, don’t worry. 

the characters are Dallas, the good looking, lovable and loyal captain who feels like Kane’s death and the escape of the xenomorph was his fault, Ripley, the young and pretty but hard and occasionally cruel warrant officer of the Nostromo, Kane, the friendly executive officer who is the host to the xenomorph, Lambert, the naïve and young female navigator who is both small in stature and small emotionally, Brett, disconnected, exhausted, middle aged Engineering technician who has probably worked his line for most of his life, Parker, the young and huge and loyal and money focused chief engineer, and Ash, the charismatic science officer who appears to be in his late 40s but is secretly an android looking to return the Xenomorph to the weyland-yutani corporation for use as a biological weapon. Finally, the alien itself: The xenomorph. it is a heartless murdering machine, and looks like a living machine in and of itself. it has a smooth black carapace, a long head, a long, sharp tail, and can hide in just about anywhere. 

Ridley Scott is an amazing director, whose worst films are mediocre. Bad, yes, but not so bad no one wants to watch them. Alien, however, is not bad. It is great. It is amazing. A scene that is commonly referenced is the long, opening crawl across the Nostromo. It is a quiet scene, and is being used to get you used to the layout of the ship before you even see it in use. You already know what the halls look like, you know what the bridge looks like, you know what engineering’s maze of pipes looks like, you already have an idea of the layout and feel of the ship. He also uses scenes to show the shift in the movie’s tone halfway through. At the start of the movie, everyone is laughing and eating together, but the next time the crew is together, after the xenomorph gets released, the cafeteria is quiet. They are talking in hushed tones, not laughing and yelling. This symbolizes when the movie takes the shift from a normal sci fi movie to a sci-fi horror movie. It also utilizes cinematography to its fullest, hiding the alien until the very final scene. Sure you might see a head, tail, or arm here, but you don’t see it in its full glory until the end, when it is spiraling into space. The Nostromo industrial style helps with this- with the alien having a very biomechanical look, it might be hard to tell what is the creature and what is simply a greeble in the background of the ship. And, while the movie does utilize jump scares in a few places, they are kept to a minimum and used well, such as the dead facehugger falling on Ripley, or goose jumping out of the vents. I don’t like jump scares, and believe that they are a cheap way to scare your audience without putting any effort into it, but how this is done is well enough that I’m willing to give aliens a pass. Just this once. They used the famous motion tracker excellently, as well. That clicking is incredibly disconcerting, and the scene where Ripley is wandering the lower sections of the ship with Parker and Brett are great because the tension is high, and that clicking sound helps put you on edge. Other scenes, such as Dallas when he goes into the vents are excellent, because you know what’s going to happen. But how they draw the scene out makes it that much more unnerving, as you need to wait for the alien to… eat him?  What does the alien do with its prey, anyways?

The scene where ash gets revealed as an android is probably my least favorite scene in the movie. It feels like they wanted a super bloody scene, but didn’t want blood, so they used white motor fluid or whatever that is. It looks stupid, to cut to the chase. It looks laughable, parker hitting Ash with a big metal rod and all this weird white blood spraying all over the place, and it just was a bit awkward, especially considering how good the horror had been until then. However, a great scene is the scene in which they discover the space jockey ship(I’m not calling them engineers. I don’t care if that’s the official name for it, I prefer space jockey.) and we see the massive alien ship. Ridley actually scrapped quite a few drawings for them, as he wanted something unnatural, something grotesque, and I think the ship is perfect. With its weird, wishbone design and odd asymmetry, I can’t help but feel unnerved when I look at it. It looks like a living creature, rather than a spacecraft. The difference between it and the human ship is extreme as well; the industrial geometric shapes of the Nostromo vs the soft, organic shapes of the space jockey ship. I also love the space jockey. I cant imagine it as a living creature, with its eldritch looking skeleton. I almost feel that it is part of the ship it once piloted, its body meshing with the chair it died in.

Ridley Scott calls alien a slasher in space, and I can’t help but disagree with him. A slasher, for me requires stupid protagonists and a ton of blood, and alien just isn’t that. With the exception of Lambert, the characters are intelligent, doing what they should do.  And the blood is only used in scenes like the chestburster or maybe others- with the dark lighting it can be hard to tell at times. I think aliens are more intelligent as a movie than your average slasher. the most slasherish part is the incredibly sexist lambert, but I feel that’s more a issue of the time. put it simply, alien is a really good movie. If you haven’t watched Alien yet, I encourage you to do it. You probably won’t regret it.