Classic Review: Alien

With the latest installment in the Alien franchise, Alien: Covenant, in theaters tomorrow across the U.S., I thought it was the perfect time to take a look at one of the most influential science-fiction horror films ever, 1979's Alien. While I may have spent most my childhood avoiding this film and its many sequels, I finally settled in for the chilling deep-space adventure from director Ridley Scott. Offering up a sleek yet genuinely grimy '80s sci-fi feel, with a cluster of sarcastic and conflicted characters, the original film that introduced the horrifying Xenomorph packs a slow-burn nail-bitter into a grim and beautifully-desolate atmosphere of terror.

In the far reaches of deep space, the diverse crew of the starship Nostromo are suddenly awakened from their cryo-sleep halfway into their journey. Burdened by a distress call from a distant planet, the crew soon uncovers a massive alien vessel seemingly left abandoned. After uncovering a nest of mysterious eggs, one of the crew members brings an unknown organism onto the ship. Unleashing a series of deadly occurrences onto the rest of the crew, the Nostromo soon becomes a breeding ground not only for bone-chilling terror, but also the beginnings of a new and horrifying creature.  

Spawning a blockbuster sci-fi series like no other, the first installment in what would become a fascinating collection of films from a wide variety of filmmakers, is possibly sci-fi horror at its best. With the realm of science fiction intermingling with the tropes of classic horror, 1979's Alien was able to craft a spine-tingling thriller through simply hinting at the horrors of its futuristic environment. In one of my favorite scenes from the film, the crew of the Nostromo, whom we've only met through their casual dialogue aboard the ship, embark into the far reaches of space to answer the distress call that initially awakens them. With a blaring collection of haunting sounds accompanying the crew as they enter the alien craft, remnants of the mysterious civilization begin to sprout up among them, hinting at the fascinating unknown world they've just entered. One of the most influential elements of the film for me was not simply the iconic characters introduced, but rather the mind-bending world that would be explored in the later films. That, intertwined with director Ridley Scott's unique vision of scale, made for a fantastic introduction to the horrific world of Alien. 

With that, the characters introduced in the film, primary Sigourney Weaver's iconic portrayal of the hard-edged crew member Ellen Ripley, allowed the film to explore a slice of humanity within its desolate futuristic environment. From John Hurt's brilliant portrayal of the innocent host for the mysterious creature to Ian Holm's peculiar science officer, the film's cast excelled at giving the film the proper range of reactions to the horrific occurrences that unfold. While we might not hold onto the sentiments of much of the cast simply because we know they won't last very long, the collective hysteria that eventually haunts the crew of the Nostromo makes for an entertaining range of effective performances. Overall, it's Weaver's fantastic turn as the film's heroine that retains her legacy as one of the most bad-ass females in sci-fi.

Still kicking today, even after a few lackluster sequels and a sudden jump into the past with 2012's Prometheus, the epic sci-fi franchise that began with 1979's Alien continues to surprise fans as it explores more and more of its expansive realm of deep-space horror. With the first Alien introducing us to a new world within the era of filmmaking that still relied on grimy prosthetics and chilling backdrops to spook us, the film remains a landmark in classic horror and revolutionary science fiction.

As I continue my binge of all things Alien -- better late than never I guess -- stay tuned for my review of the newest installment in the blockbuster franchise, Alien: Covenant, out in theaters this Friday!         

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