¨It's got a wonderful defense mechanism. You don't dare kill it.¨
Ridley Scott has had a great career and made several great films, but Alien, only his second film, may arguably be his best one. In my opinion this is the best horror film of all time due to the dark mood, the claustrophobic atmosphere, and several shocking scenes that continue to have an impact on the horror genre 33 years after its release. I have to admit that I just now got around watching this historic movie after having seen its prequel, Prometheus. I liked Prometheus so much that I knew I had to go back and watch the original film that got the franchise started. Despite having seen the aliens in the horrific AVP films, I still was shocked and surprised with the scenes and effects in Alien. The visual effects were excellent and it rightfully won an Oscar in that department. I can only imagine how shocking the chest bursting scene must have been for viewers in the late 70`s. The scene was masterfully directed by Ridley Scott and it has to be one of the most frightening ones in horror history. It may be the highlight of the movie, but there are also several other shocking moments that make this the perfect sci-fi horror film. I loved the way they managed to build the suspense without showing too much of the alien. The setting was just perfect and the sense of claustrophobia is all over the movie. You knew that at any moment the alien could pop out of nowhere and attack once again. That sense of dread was also built thanks to the suspenseful score. Thousands of horror films have tried to copy a similar format since the release of this perfect movie without reaching the same success.
The film takes place sometime in the future as a towing spaceship named Nostromo is on its way back to Earth. There are seven crew members who are in hypersleep and aren’t expected to wake up until they get home, but unexpectedly the smart computer running the ship, known as ¨Mother, ¨ receives a signal that seems like a distress call from a nearby planet. The crew members are awaken and are informed of the situation by Mother. Despite some initial arguments over them not being a rescue team, the Captain of the vessel, Dallas (Tom Skerritt), decides to land on the planet and once there they discover a wrecked spaceship nearby. Dallas along with his assistant Kane (John Hurt) and crew member Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) get off their ship and enter the wrecked one in search for clues as to who may have sent the distress call while Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Brett (Harry Dean Stanton), Ash (Ian Holm), and Parker (Yaphet Kotto) remain on board of the Nostromo trying to fix some mechanical problems after the rough landing they experienced. Kane, Lambert and Dallas on the other hand discover the fossilized remains of the dead alien pilot on their expedition with a huge hole on his chest. Kane is sent further down the ship where he finds some sort of alien eggs surrounded by a blue mist which seems to be disturbed by his presence. This is where the horror begins as Ripley discovers that the distress call isn’t really an SOS call, but a warning.
The film has a perfect structure: the science fiction is beautiful taking us to a futuristic world that is well constructed, the visuals are excellent, the editing perfect, the performances are strong, the script is really well written by Dan O`Bannon and Ronald Shusett (who later collaborated together for another known sci-fi film: Total Recall), the thrills and scares are plentiful, and there are several shocking moments with a couple of twists. The true star of the film is the alien even though we do not see much of it. The reason he`s the star is because the claustrophobic mood of the film makes you dread it can show up at any given moment. These characters are stuck in the spaceship with this evil alien that`s killing them off one by one. Not even Sigourney Weaver is the star of this film as she practically gets equal screen time as the rest of the cast. She wasn’t a known star at the time, and it was actually this franchise that catapulted her to fame, so no one really knew which characters were really going to survive this horror story as the film had plenty of surprises throughout. I wish I would have been around in 1979 to see what kind of reaction I would of got considering I already have seen the aliens in recent versions, but the fear of the unknown is always much more frightening. I still had a great time with this movie and consider it mandatory viewing for everyone who loves film. Alien is as close to a perfect film as you will ever see.