The austere minimalism of Ridley Scott’s Alien has kept it from becoming dated. Originally released in 1979, this “haunted house in outer space” scary movie still manages to spook audiences, though its infamous “chest bursting” scene plays somewhat comic now, with the crew looking on aghast like a bunch of stooges. Best known for creating an atmosphere of dread through production design and art direction (the cavernous ship looks like a sci-fi variation of a dilapidated car garage) and, of course, H.R. Giger’s creature (all limbs and shiny black skin and protruding jaws—watch those teeth!), Alien may be the most artfully directed and well-acted slasher movie of all time. Here’s the rub: If you’ve seen the movie, it’s exasperating to watch poor Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) march through one wet, filthy engine room after another, chasing the ship’s cat for five minutes, en route to impending doom. Alien is a one-trick pony, but it does its job remarkably well. One wishes Ridley Scott still possessed this kind of cinematic restraint. He’s helped by an especially fine cast whose characters grow increasingly paranoid, addled, or insane. Also welcome is the late-’70s distrust of corporate authority, where the mother ship winds up being more duplicitous and evil than the marauding alien. Horror films used to have that edge, the feeling that they were actually about something.
- Ridley Scott
- Dan O'Bannon
- Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto, Bolaji Badejo
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