For a movie released in 1979 Ridley Scott’s Alien feels remarkably cutting edge. The opening shot of the mothership looks like something that could have been filmed yesterday. This feeling gradually fades as the movie progresses; as setpeices get more dynamic and the era of Alien‘s genesis becomes clearer. However the imagery serves its purpose, catapulting the watcher into the future of space travel.
The horror created in this film is very unconventional, but powerful nonetheless. At one point, before the full fury of the Alien is released, the organism that birthed it disappears. The crew searches for it, walking around the brightly lit room. suddenly, with no fanfare or buildup of score, it swings down behind her and falls on her shoulder. The fact that this jump scare is so different from horror movies makes it that much scarier.
Scott also resorts to grotesquity for his scares, most notably in the scene where the crew sees the alien for the first time. It emerges shockingly from the chest of the man inside whom it grew. It springs out of his torso, covered in blood, an earpiercing wail coming from its gleaming-toothed mouth. The kitten sized monstrosity scurries off, to become something more formidable. Equally repugnant is the android Ash. When he malfunctions and tries to kill Ripley, a crew member knocks his head off. It hangs about rather unnaturally as Ash fumbles about spastically, white fluid spewing from his body.
I’m not much of a horror movie fan. Few horror movies really possess any appeal for me at all. However, in forcing my way through Alien, I really enjoyed it. It presents a visual feast with its beautiful sci-fi set design, a terrifying and grotesque antagonist, and in the form of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), a gutsy and courageous heroine.