It's a very well made, certainly tense and occasionally frightening movie that succeeds as a sci-fi horror. However, there are some ridiculous decisions made by the crew that I can't just ignore. Ultimately, if you like this kind of thing, you'll like Alien. For me personally, some of the scenes intended to be tense I simply found boring.
A Slightly Skewed review of "Alien"
To say that the film Alien was simply a "haunted house in space" may sound a bit diminishing but it's not meant to. Released on May 25, 1979 and directed by Ridley Scott, it went on to produce three sequels, a "prequel" in the film Prometheus (also directed by Ridley Scott), two crossover films with the popular Predator franchise, and countless comics, video games, and merchandise. But what about the film that started it all? Let's get into that. P.S. There will be some SPOILERS in this review. The film is 37 years old, so if you want the short review: It's good, go watch it! Anyway, on with the review......
Opening on a cold, panning shot of deep space, the credits do what most opening credits don't even bother to do today; they set the mood. The music is a series of clicks and swells of noise and spooky harmonics. It's truly haunting. We then see the primary setting of the film: The Nostromo, a commercial towing vehicle with a huge mineral ore refinery in tow. The camera moves inside as we get to see all of the intricate hallways and passages of the ship. This shows the claustrophobic setting that we will be dealing with. Everything is cramped and looks dingy and used, and the whole ship is dimly lit. The set design is of particular note throughout the movie. Our main characters are the crew of said ship on a return trip to Earth. They are awakened out of stasis by the main computer of the ship; called MOTHER, to respond to a distress signal coming from a nearby planet. As the Nostromo is just a glorified tow truck in space, the crew is quite small, consisting of just seven people. After a series of discussion about responding to the distress signal and a point being made that they all are REQUIRED to check any sign of "intelligent life" or they won't be paid. As all of them are just working stiffs, they begrudgingly go to the planet to investigate the signal. Upon landing on the planet LV-426, three of the crew go outside to check the surface for an indication of where the signal is coming from. They find it inside of a huge, horseshoe shaped spacecraft that looks to have crash landed eons ago. They move into the ship to investigate further, all the while the sounds of the desolate planet winds blow harshly outside. Moving into the bowels of the ship one crew member; Kane, finds an expansive nest of large pods that could be described as eggs. When he moves in to look at one that had opened, a spider-like creature bursts out, breaking through his space helmet and attaching itself to his face. The other two find him and bring him back to the ship. Upon trying to remove the creature from Kane's face the crew finds that when they try to make an incision on the creature's leg, it spews out a highly acidic blood that eats through a few floors of their ship. This thing isn't coming off. After a while they find Kane awake and the creature dead, seemingly falling off and dying on it's own. As they are all eating a meal together, Kane starts coughing and convulsing. A splash of blood and the crack of bone give way as a small snake like being bursts from his chest, killing him. This is the titular "Alien". It speeds off into the ducts of the ship as the crew wonder what they just saw. The plan is made to find the little monster (which is about the size of a small cat) and kill/capture it, but the problem is that there are no weapons on the ship, no firearms of any kind. They rig up some cattle prods and flame throwers and the hunt is on. They do find the alien but in the few hour that it took them to find it, the creature is now massive, standing around eight feet tall with long gangly arms, a long tail, and a curved elongated head. They alien's design is one of a kind, its never been replicated and will never be forgotten once seen. Systematically the alien kills the crew one by one until just Ellen Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) is the only one left. The plan now is to set the Nostromo to self destruct hopefully taking the Alien with it. Thus starts the nail-biting final race to see if Ripley escapes or if she's doomed to join her dead compatriots. To say that the film is a masterpiece is a little cliché but it's true. The atmosphere in this movie is astounding. I can't think of a movie that, quite-literally in some cases, drips with so much atmosphere. There are moments of pure terror unmatched by many films except for Halloween. The Alien is one of cinema's most enduring monsters along with the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, Freddy Krueger, and his ultimate rival The Predator. I know I glossed over many of the characters but the less said, the better. The ending is of particular note, and my personal favorite sequence of the whole film, I'd even go as far as to say that the last ten minutes would function fine as a short film on its own, but I don't want to spoil EVERYTHING for those of you that haven't seen it. I will say that if you are looking for a ton of action throughout, you might want to stick to the first sequel "ALIENS", as this one takes it's time getting to the point when you actually see the alien in its full grown glory. And the scares do become a bit conventional and dare I say predictable once the alien starts it's killing spree. Characters walk off by themselves when you know they should stick together. But that's about all I can say negative about it. The acting, music, set design, cinematography, and lighting are all wonderful. I'd give it 4 &1/2 stars out of 5. It just barely falls short of being perfect because of its own horror movie trappings. There are twists that you may not see coming, like one of the crew members being not what they seem and also proposed the question: Is the Alien the true villain, or is it the corporation that the Nostromo crew work for? Give it a watch. I can think of worse ways to spend two hours. And remember as the tagline for the movie says, "In space no one can hear you scream".