Anthony's Film Review

Alien (1979)

Ridley Scott directs a truly suspenseful sci-fi horror movie...

The 1979 science-fiction movie Alien works for one simple reason: its ability to scare the audience. I'm not just talking about scenes that depict scary images. I'm also talking about scenes that don't. Like the movie Jaws, Alien relies on the audience anticipating something bad happening on screen as much as, or perhaps more than, the audience seeing the bad thing itself. And it doesn't really need too much ambient music to generate suspense. The result is an effective and realistic scenario that is guaranteed to please any die-hard fan of science-fiction.

At first, you might think this movie goes slowly and is often quiet, particularly in the first thirty to forty minutes. This is when the crew of a commercial mining spaceship called the Nostromo receive a mysterious signal from another planet. Three of its members step out of the ship and onto the planet in protective suits. Minutes go by before one of the three, a man named Kane (John Hurt), enters an underground chamber where he discovers some strange-looking large eggs incubated in mist. One egg opens, and a small creature leaps out and attaches to his face.

Even after this major development, the pacing still seems mellow, though the story does maintain interest. Then, just when it looks as if Kane is alive and well after all, he isn't. In one of the most shocking moments in horror film history, an alien, perhaps the result of the facehugger laying eggs inside a human stomach, bursts through Kane's chest, killing him in a bloody gruesome fashion. The rest of the movie involves the surviving crew—Parker (Yaphet Kotto), Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), Ash (Ian Holm), Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Brett (Harry Dean Stanton), and Ripley (Sigourney Weaver)—finding ways to eradicate this Alien.

Notice how I just referred to the alien as the Alien, with a capital A. That's because the Alien really is a character, even if it's not human and has much less screen time than the protagonists. But it's not the amount of time on screen that counts. It's what the character does. Here, the Alien scares us by appearing even more hideous than before. Because the Alien grows very quickly, each of its on-screen appearances presents a different stage of its life cycle: facehugger, chestburster, and various adult forms, including the most mature stage with a frighteningly elongated head.

If this is the way you like suspense, then you will certainly find Alien to be an entertaining film. It's also a launching vehicle for director Ridley Scott and actress Sigourney Weaver, whose character Ripley becomes the unexpected hero when the task of defeating the Alien falls entirely on her. Weaver does a fine job as Ripley, and it's no surprise that she returns years later for Alien sequels. On my scale of 1 to 10 stars, it easily deserves a solid 7, but earns one extra star for the heart-pounding half-hour climax.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Alien, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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