As Prometheus is hitting cinemas around the world, I felt it might be good to revisit the Alien trilogy and brush up on Ridley Scott's universe. Being that it has been over ten years since I had seen it last, the film has aged really well over the years. Antiquated computer systems aside, the story is just as fresh and as frightening as ever before.
Space may be the final frontier, but Scott seems weary about humanity's ability to conquer something so vast and recondite. Space isn't depicted as a place of beauty and wonder, but as rather dark, desolate, and possibly full of things that are best left undiscovered. Curiosity killed the cat, and this film suggests that it may soon do the rest of us in as well.
Aside from being an effective warning in this new age of exploration, it is at it's core a monster movie.
Rather than being a barrage of cheap gags, Scott & the editors effectively make this film a slow burn in which anything feels possible. I mean, i'm a 26 year old horror movie buff who has seen this film before, but could barley curb the desire to cover my eyes every time the face-hugging alien appeared on screen.
Scott exploits these moments of impending doom by filming some of these scenes at low angles. Making the audience wonder if we are seeing the alien's POV, or will it rear it's ugly, sometime's phallic head in some other corner of the room? Also, the camera slowly creeps from room to room at an agonizingly slow pace. This marvelously builds tension until it is almost unbearable.
The film is also well cast. Sigourney Weaver is great as the cunning Ripley. Ian Holm is also down-right creepy as an android hellbent on bringing back the alien life form and Harry Dean Stanton is...well...Harry Dean Stanton. That is always a good thing.
On top of this, for 1979 the creature effects are absolutely stunning. These creatures are more realistic than most of the schlock that passes for monsters in films nowadays. That one scene which features a close up of the alien's face as the water cascades down it's jowls is alone worth the price of admission.
Alien is a prime example of a monster movie done right. From it's excellent direction, to it's striking visuals and capable cast, Alien is a testament to the power of a good sci-fi film. It is equal parts imaginative, entertaining, and as frightening as hell. With a product this good, it should be no surprise that Scott would want to get some more miles out of the material.