The Classics of Horror #11 – Alien (1979)

Upon re-watching Alien for the umpteenth time last night, I love it even more than I remember.

Do you want to know why? Because it almost made me forget about Alien: Covenant

alien-1979-movie-review-ridley-scott-science-fiction-film-xenomorph-john-hurtAll jokes apart, Alien is a masterpiece of horror cinema in space. It tells the story of the crew of a space vessel (the Nostromo) that perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call from an uncharted planet. When one of the crew members is attached by a mysterious, spider-like creature, the others take him back on the ship to check on him and, as you know, all hell breaks loose.

The chest-bursting scene, the fast growth process of the xenomorph, the revelation of Ash being an android, the badassery of Ripley, the design of the creature, the atmosphere on the Nostromo: everything in Alien delivers awesomeness.

You probably already know the stuff I’ve written so far. Therefore, let me explain why I think Alien deserves a spot in a classic of horror list and what I love about it.

Directed by Ridley Scott, Alien paved the way to all the Sci-Fi monster movies that came out within the next 40 years or so from its release. The sense of dread and isolation delivered by this film is something many directors have tried to achieve with mixed results, never reaching the level of Alien nonetheless.

Such atmosphere gradually builds up throughout the movie, but it’s already there when, after the opening credits, the space vessel is shown in its entire, desolated form. The darkness surrounding every single scene helps to keep the viewer on the edge, without the need of loud noises, jump-scares and characters overreacting.

MV5BMjY1NzQ3Mzk3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjM2NTUyMw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1495,1000_AL_.jpgIndeed, the crew members and their actions are also what sets this movie apart from endless of imitators: their comradery is palpable since the very first scenes, as well as the internal struggles they have with each other and with the protocols they must follow. As opposed to them, Ash (masterfully played by Ian Holm) looks strangely out of place, being rarely nice to his colleagues. Thus, Ash’s reveal as a synthetic comes unexpected and surprising.

Ah, the good old days when the evil android wasn’t a posh, British asshole with power deliriums!

tumblr_m4qfv49wnW1rs1ef6o1_500Yet, mentioning the characters is impossible to overlook to Ripley. Sigourney Weaver pulls it off in this film, being able to seamlessly switch from one feeling to the other according to the situation. Every time I re-watch the scene in which Ripley tells Parker off, my level of testosterone increases and I felt so pumped I could fight a xenomorph bare-handed!

Okay, that was silly, but you got the point. The character of Ripley was so ahead of his time: a heroine who’s more resourceful than every other man on the ship and transmits charisma every time is on screen. Ridley Scott, thanks for Ellen Ripley!

And thanks for the xenomorphs. It’s a bit sad that, in almost 40 years, none could come up with a creature design better than the one in Alien. Simultaneously, though, this is a clear and undisputable merit of makeup team, cinematographers and director of the movie. Lurking in the dark, waiting for its next victim, the xenomorph is a perfect killing machine that needs no motivation or any further explanation for its existence. Nor did it need an origin story, damn Alien: Covenant!

Yet, Alien is scary. I know, as a horror reviewer I should use this adjective more often: unfortunately, it’s not easy to find something that really frightens the audience.

Alien, though, delivers. In my opinion, it’s a timeless, suspenseful generator of fear and uneasiness.

In all honesty, I don’t know what else to say about it. Upon my 7th (seventh!) view of the film, I still didn’t find any flaw. To me, Alien is technically perfect – yes, the final explosion of the Nostromo at the end looks quite dated, but that’s it.

Alien_1979_Directors_Cut_1080p_Bluray_DTS_x264_VBesides this tiny detail, the movie holds up perfectly since it’s all practical: the Nostromo, the xenomorph, the chest-bursting scene, the decapitation of Ash… they are all made through practical effects that will never ever look old or dated.

Do yourself a favour and watch Alien now if you haven’t seen it yet. Otherwise, if you have, just re-watch it right away and appreciate its greatness.

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Seriously, Ridley Scott? Alien: Covenant – movie review

Alien: Covenant is Ridley Scott’s attempt to reinvigorate the Alien franchise after the somewhat cold reactions received by Prometheus (2012) and some stinkers from the past (Alien: Resurrection, AVP), unworthily labelled as Alien movies.

Alien CovenantIn the film, we follow the crew of the Covenant – a spaceship on the way to Origae-6, a remote planet, to colonise it with some two-thousand colonists and a thousand embryos on-board. After something goes terribly wrong, the ship catches a human message from another unknown planet and, therefore, the crew decides to land there and see what’s going on.

Needless to say, the crew happens to be the target of creatures interested in nothing but ripping them apart in all manner of devastatingly inventive new ways.

After hanging over five years for answers that Prometheus set for us, Alien: Covenant only provides the viewers with some of the posers.

Instead, the result of the latest Scott’s movie appears an amalgamation between Alien and Prometheus, a mixed-bag that doesn’t satisfy neither the fans of the first nor the supporters of the latter.

Ali CovenantHaving high expectations for this film, I was very let down by it. In all honesty, Covenant is a convoluted, bloated mess that attempts to recreate the most successful chunks of both the first two Alien movies and Prometheus, failing, though, almost on every single level.

In all fairness, though, visuals and acting are the saving grace of the movie.

The cinematography is gorgeous and, once again, Ridley Scott proves to be a master-class Sci-fi director in terms of visual effects. Some of the shots are breath-taking and eye-grabbing, that’s undeniable.

Plus, the acting is very good on everyone’s part. Although Katherine Waterston as Daniels is decent, Danny McBride in an unprecedented role for him and Michael Fassbender – who carries the plot along throughout the entire two hours or so of runtime – stand out and are worth praising over the other performances.

However, these two elements only can’t save the movie from being a big let-down.

My main disappointment with Alien: Covenant revolves around the tone. The Prometheus-like vibe never matches with the Alien-like tone, providing a very contrasting feeling throughout the whole film.

Yet, the camera-work is sometimes frustrating: certain shots seem directly extracted from a videogame and there are scenes where it’s impossible to understand what’s going on because of the use of the infamous shaky-cam. Which I was really surprised Scott got away with, since it’s a technique such a good director should shy away from.

aliencovenantIn terms of camera-work, I was also disappointed by the fact that some gruesome and bloody sequences were made hard to look at, whereas would have been great to appreciate their effectiveness in this type of film.

Again, the CGI doesn’t blend with the practical effects and shots on location. It looks already fake and dated even in comparison with the astounding special effects of the first Alien (1979)! Ridley Scott, where did you go?

All in all, I would have preferred to see a straight-up sequel to Prometheus – which, although not perfect by any means, is an entertaining, challenging piece of cinema – rather than a bloated flick where direction and production company aimed to please the mass audience’s requests for more xenomorphs and brutal killings.

In conclusion, give Covenant a chance if you have to, but I personally wouldn’t recommend to watch this film, especially to those who love the first two movies and hope to see their beloved franchise to be reinvigorated. Cheers!