Posted March 30, 2017 by Jag Garcia in Movies/TV

ALIEN (1979): a Retrospect Review

Anything involving horror was something I avoided at all costs. Growing up, a few seconds of invoking fear to the viewers was enough to traumatize me for days, even weeks. But after being desensitized from the likes of multiple Doctor Who stories and a TV edit of Predator, I was prepared to take horror on to a whole new scale: Alien.
When it comes to science fiction horror, many fans of the genre will point to Ridley Scott’s Alien as a timeless classic. The 1979 film served as the launchpad of a franchise spread across multiple medium. We take a look back and learn more about its lasting appeal.

Alien tells the tale in the Nostromo, a ship manned by a crew of seven, as they try to race for their survival after an alien lifeform makes it in the ship and aims to take them out one by one. The premise itself is very simple. Strip the movie to the bare bones, it’s essentially a slasher flick. But Alien’s complexity lies in the overall world and character designs in and around the Nostromo.

©20th Century Fox

©20th Century Fox

The dim visuals add to that Lovecraftian horror of the film, creating a depth of uncalculated fear mixed in with the minimalist score and environmental noise. This choice of aesthetic and lack of audio cues really have you focused on the story while gripping on the edge of your seat. That feeling of uncertainty riles you up once those moments happen. You know it’s there, lurking. You’re unsure, and that’s a great buildup.

The late H. R. Giger’s surrealism is heavily influenced all throughout, as viewers are teased with where the humanity and machine lie. Giger’s design also plays on human sexuality and anatomy can disturb some to an extent, with tones of rape and genitalia blended in the overall art and action.

While Alien bears some slasher film elements, the gory moments are far and between, the bloodiest being John Hurt’s iconic death while giving birth to the Alien. (NSFW)

©20th Century Fox

©20th Century Fox

Ellen Ripley stands out in such a way that she is a great example of a female lead. She doesn’t really lean to any stereotype, but her character is purely human to be relatable. She displays a sense of toughness and level-headedness, and faces trials and tribulations not only against the Alien, but from her fellow crew members as well. Her leadership and decision-making displays a sense of authority that resonates stronger as the film progresses. When in the face of danger, she battles those inner demons and puts herself up to the task. For something that came out in 1979, Alien definitely broke the gender barrier, and hasn’t been topped since.

Alien is almost 40 years old at this point, but it’s barely aged. The film’s minimalism helps curb that transition to silliness that most horror films go through at this point. On top of that, it’s created a lasting legacy that subsequent films try to emulate.

This year, the franchise lives on with Alien: Covenant, set for release later this summer. Ridley Scott takes on the reigns again as director, with Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterson, and Billy Crudup as part of the cast.

Not being the biggest fan of horror, I’ve shied away from countless movies that bear great significance. But I’m glad I took the time to watch Alien. The film bears intricacies that inspire the vision of the film, and opens up to a whole artform previously unfamiliar that’s both beautiful and horrific to witness. The movie’s timelessness shines through the years, that even watching it the first time in 2017 can be as gripping as when it first showed in theaters decades ago. But alas, I may not be able to walk into any dark corners of the house for the meantime.

Science fiction heavily relies on good visual effects, and when pulled off right, can be so integral to the story without breaking the sense of wonder. Films like Star Wars, The Terminator, and Back to the Future, are such examples. Needless to say, it’s no wonder Alien is on that list as well.


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Jag Garcia

Jag Garcia is a wrestling smark and a lover of all things indie. As you are reading this, he's probably ranting about RAW while watching an art film with that band you've never heard of playing in the background.