Alien, directed by Ridley Scott, was released to theaters in 1979 under the fairly new genre of horror-science fiction. Rated R for violence and language, this 117 minute movie ended up securing an Oscar award for best visual effects. Sigourney Weaver stars in this classic thriller as Ripley, the stoic, level-headed protagonist.
Seven crew members aboard the intergalactic spaceship “The Nostromo” are in the process of returning to Earth when everyone is unexpectedly woken from their deep sleeps to answer a mysterious distress beacon sent from a nearby planet.
Initially, the film seemed reminiscent of Star Wars from two years earlier. As viewers, we are abruptly brought into this futuristic environment within a spaceship characterized by a sterile white color on every wall, flashing lights overwhelming us from all angles, and constant beeps from numerous control stations scattered along the halls. As the crew members wake from their deep sleep, they gather in a joyous dinner which resembles the Mos Eisley Cantina scene from Star Wars when Obi-Wan and Luke enter the festive bar full of lively characters.
Similarly, “Alien” seems to be inspired in part by “2001 A Space Odyssey” due to one of the members mirroring qualities possessed by HAL, the human-like computer that withholds knowledge from the crew to pursue a dangerous mission in the pursuit of science.
Several camera techniques immerse viewers into this foreign environment in space. Handheld shots and helmet-cams create shaky scenes to increase the intensity and simulate a first-person view aboard the ship. Throughout the film, scenes are transitioned by quick cuts of the planet’s terrain outside. Extreme fog and loud gusts of wind create the feeling of unfriendliness and severe danger brewing for the crew members. My absolute favorite scene from the movie would be when Sigourney Weaver’s character has to escape the self-destructing ship as strobe lights blink on and off creating an environment that kept me on the edge of my seat wondering what would appear in the quick transitions from bright light to extreme darkness.
Overall, “Alien” seems like a quality film that propelled similar horror-science fiction movies to evolve into what they are today. It created strong feelings of suspense, but was not particularly frightening in comparison to more modern films.
Category: Mild Suspense