Prologue written by Miles Farmer:
Like most kids my age, I had seen Aliens first. We played it on the playground, pretended we were a various Colonial Marines fighting off the Xenomoprh horde. At the time, I never gave thought to the fact that there was a movie that came before it, but I figured it was more than the same, just with one little alien.
I think I was 9 when I saw Alien for the first time. It was around Halloween, and I was spending the night at my Uncle and Aunt’s house. They were the first of my family to have a bigger TV, speakers behind the couch, and the whole “movie going experience”. They wanted to watch a scary movie, and they offered it up as an option. I thought, “Aliens wasn’t that scary so this can’t be that bad.”
I didn’t sleep that night. Nor the next two nights afterward.
Alien is not an action movie; it is a horror movie set in space. Everything is slow and quiet, which sets you up perfectly for the terror of turning a dark corner and seeing it jump out to get you. In Jaws, you had this iconic two-tone sound to warn you that something is coming; the music typically builds to the climactic moment of the big fright. Ridley went quiet. There is no sound when you first see the face-hugger jump out at Kane. You can barely hear it over Lambert’s screaming at Captain Dallas as he’s trying to scape the air shafts. There is nothing but silence when the Alien confronts Ripley in the shuttle, after you think all is well. These moments and these scenes can scar you psychologically that sometimes the biggest fear isn’t hearing something in the dark, its hearing nothing at all.
On a “WHAT?! You haven’t seen ______???” scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest level of shock, disappointment and sad): I’m going to do something out of character here, and give Laura a pass for not seeing this. Since I consider the Alien franchise consisting only of this and Aliens, I place these two in different genres connected only by Sigourney Weaver, and Stan Winston’s monster. Some people like getting a comfortable night’s rest after seeing a movie, and therefore I won’t be mad if she thinks the movie is slow, or dull, or laughs ridiculously at the John Hurt Moment.
Slow? No. Dull? Definitely not. Laugh ridiculously at the John Hurt moment? Yes. Yes, I did.
As Miles mentioned, the best part of this movie was the sound. I took a ‘History of Film Music’ class at KU and remembered the professor mentioning Alien and how sometimes the lack of music or sound builds up the drama in a different way. Now I get what he means. I was on the edge of the couch and definitely leapt back a few times as things happened that I didn’t at all expect.
The other thing I like about Alien was the lack of gore, and yet it was so incredibly scary. Aside from the John Hurt moment, I don’t think you see fully how anyone dies. When Captain Dallas meets Alien, the camera turns to the cat and the cat watches the scene. I flipped out when I saw that– that seemed so Hitchcockian to me and everyone knows how I love that sort of thing. I can handle gore, but things are so much scarier to me when you don’t completely know what is happening.
And Dad, I am sorry for all of the times I told you that you were insane when you said that Sigourney Weaver was a fine-looking lady. You are right. I’m wrong.
All in all, this was probably not the best way to start off Scary Movie October since all of the other movies have a lot to live up to. I called my dad to let him know that I finally saw it and he says Alien is his absolute favorite horror movie of all time. It’s definitely in my top five.
Face palm moment: Miles wrote this and it’s accurate, so I had to share– Instead of being truly petrified of seeing an alien burst out of Kane’s chest, all Laura will be reminded of will be the scene in Spaceballs.
Yep. And I even sang ‘hello my Ragtime gaaaaaaaal’ as the scene ended. Sorry I’m not sorry.
Favorite part: The cat scene, I believe. I also really liked the part where they rewire Ash’s head to talk on top of the table. There are some terrible transitions between the mold and his real head, but when he says ‘You have my sympathies’ I sort of freaked out. It reminded me a lot of the scene in The Shining when Shelley Duvall is reading the millions of pages that Jack Nicholson has typed up. Creepy. Also, why is Ash actually made of spaghetti and milk? That’s weird.
The “I missed that in pop culture trivia” moment: I now have some context behind the Ripley underwear scene. Yep. I get it.
Regrettable tardiness scale (out of 10): 10 out of 10. What was I thinking not seeing this earlier? I blame society. And dammit, I would pay one million dollars to go back in time and not watch Spaceballs first because that ruined the movie a little bit for me. Yet I still loved it. I think if I hadn’t seen that scene first, I would have had a full-blown panic attack somewhere near the end.
- Late to the Schwartz! A review of Spaceballs (localhost/laura)
- ‘Alien’ guest essay: Looking back in horror to 1979 (herocomplex.latimes.com)
- Check Out a Rare Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver Photo From the Set of ‘Alien’ (hdmovies4pc.wordpress.com)