Tuesday, December 29, 2009

80s SF/Horror special part 1: Alien (1979)

When audiences sat down to watch Alien in 1979, they expected another space adventure of the likes of Star Wars (1977, only two years earlier). Alien took the dirty-looking spaceship idea of Star Wars and put it in an unexpected horror environment that scared the crap out of the viewers. A new thing was born: the next generation of the potent SF/horror mix. Today, thirty years later, Alien has become a hollywood classic. Too well known to be a cult movie, yet not exactly a part of the canon of respected good movies. How did it hold up in those thirty years?

There is the usual excuse for old movies (and Alien is an old movie by now) that they “were new at the time” and thus excused for shortcomings. Well, one obvious shortcoming is that Alien is a terribly slow movie. Even for the audience of 1979 it must have been slow. It takes half an hour for the movie to get started, and the final part is not much more than people searching dark rooms and faintly lit corridors step by cautious step. Yet the middle part is pure greatness! It is the foundation on which all the future sequels and spin-offs are based on.

Director Ridley Scott increases the tension step by step by step in a series of brilliant scenes:
1. The dark windy planet & the alien spacecraft
2. The eggs
3. The facehugger (great scary idea)
4. The acid blood
5. The birth of the baby alien (chestburster classic)
6. The full grown alien (a great and unique design by Swiss artist H. R. Giger)
7. The robot (very organic robot. A cool new idea)

It might be a step by step movie, but every step is made with deliberation, amazing artwork and set pieces and great shots. With so many iconic scenes and a great atmosphere, the whole movie is a milestone in cinema and I can indeed excuse its slowness.

IMDB: Alien

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