It’s Day 18 today, and I’m extremely excited to be talking about the 1979 Sci-fi/Horror classic Alien with you guys. Alien is directed by Ridley Scott, and stars a young Sigourney Weaver as the Supreme Badass of the Final Frontier: Ellen Ripley.
I have no idea how this is possible, but up until now, I’d managed to go my entire life without ever having seen this movie. It’s not that I purposely avoided it, but I’m not a huge extraterrestrial/space movie person–I suppose I just never got around to it. Suffice it to say that I’m glad I finally did.
Y’all, Alien has 8.5 stars on IMDb, and it earns every single one of them. Do you know what else has 8.5 stars on IMDb? Casablanca. Citizen Kane. Sunset Boulevard. We’re talking some of the most famous, beloved movies of all time. It is unequivocally a classic, and I’d go so far as to say that it deserves to be seen by everyone. If, like me, you’ve been lazy about renting it thus far: Go do it. Right now. I’ll wait.
Alien centers around a 7-person crew aboard the space merchant vessel, Nostromo. At the film’s opening, the crew is prematurely awakened from cryo-sleep when the vessel responds to an unknown transmission from a nearby moon. The transmission is automatically perceived as a distress call, and despite some dissension within the ranks about the proper protocol, Nostromo lands on the moon to investigate and lend aid. During exploration of the moon’s surface, the team encounters a nest of mysterious alien eggs, one of which spontaneously bursts open. The life-form within the burst egg proceeds to penetrate crewman Kane’s helmet, and attaches itself to his face…shudder.
Ellen Ripley, warrant officer of the Nostromo, is deeply concerned about bringing Kane back aboard the spacecraft in his current, compromised state, but the crew defy her orders and bring him aboard anyway (alien still attached to his face and all). After a brief comatose period, Kane ultimately awakens and the creature is nowhere to be found–much to the crew’s dismay. They eventually find the body of the crab-like alien, believing it dead; what they don’t realize, however, is that its life cycle has only just begun.
This movie is just fantastic. The practical effects are amazing, as is the acting from all parties involved. This was Sigourney Weaver’s first leading role, and it’s easy to see why it catapulted her into stardom. Not only did it bring Weaver personal acclaim, but her portrayal of Ripley challenged traditional gender roles in both science fiction and horror genres for years to come. Ripley is not a slinky seductress or a boring do-nothing; she doesn’t wear spandex or makeup, and she doesn’t die immediately following a sexy interlude with her hardier male co-star. In fact, she doesn’t even HAVE any sexy interludes in this movie. It’s not what she’s about. Unlike so many other leading ladies of Sci-fi and horror, she’s not defined by the man she’s helping–she is her own boss, damnit, and she gets things done. Ripley isn’t a simpering yes-woman, and at times she can be rude and abrasive. But, more importantly, she’s a PERSON: a real one. I love when movies give us leads who are flawed as well as heroic; it just rings truer for me. Perhaps this is part of the reason why the American Film Institute named Ripley the 8th greatest hero of all time. Her character feels authentic, and I stand in awe of that even after the movie is over.
As I said before: if you haven’t already seen this film, please, please seek it out. It’s heart-pounding suspense at its best, and I was quite literally on the edge of my seat for the entire second half of the movie (not to mention the goosebumps that refused to recede into my flesh until the credits finished rolling). You can find it on Netflix DVD and Amazon Video, and you will absolutely not be sorry. If nothing else, you’ll feel a little more a part of pop culture, and you’ll finally get about a zillion subsequent TV and movie references. Who can put a price on that?
Tomorrow, join me again as I review Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 classic, The Shining. I have a feeling many of you have already seen this one, so be sure to come back and see if our thoughts line up on Day 19, as well as the rest of our 31 Days of Horror!!