Alien ★★★★★

Schocktober 2021 #1

Watched on Blu-Ray (Director's Cut)

"In space no one can hear you scream" is the tagline for "Alien", which is used in the trailer and on the poster to promote the film. The two key words "space" on the one hand and "scream" on the other make it clear that science fiction horror is on offer here - and at the very highest level. For many, the Science Fiction genre is itself a horror. Often fiction based on scientific or pseudo-scientific assumptions degenerates into a somewhat unworldly story about armies of authority-obeying races in uniforms with asymmetrical zippers chugging through distant galaxies.

"Alien" is quite different. On the supply ship Nostromo are somewhat filthy protagonists who can be divided into a two-class society of hard-working craftsmen and intellectual headmen. They eat together, laugh together, you smoke on board and simply do your work. Ridley Scott had "truck drivers in space" in mind when he imagined the crew of the Nostromo. And if they weren't in hypersleep on a spaceship, you'd think they were leading normal lives. And that is quite refreshing for a science fiction film.

Not new to the genre is the threat of monsters. "The Eighth Passenger", as "Alien" is called in the Spanish version, is nevertheless groundbreaking in its viciousness. It goes through several life cycles, has corrosive acid for blood and is not afraid of anything except fire. What's more, it also looks great. H.R. Giger from Graubünden did a great job designing the life form and the planetary landscapes in which it nests. A biomechanical body, half-man half-animal, which one cannot deny a certain phallus-like quality. The beast can thus adapt to its environment excellently. At times it really disappears into the walls of the spaceship. The scene with its first appearance as an adult specimen makes the blood run cold and is one of the classics of the horror film. Unfortunately, younger moviegoers first learned about this scene as a parody from "Spaceballs", which diminishes the shock effect. But when you consider that in the late seventies men in rubber suits were still essentially the standard for portraying movie monsters, you are all the more impressed by the quality of the shock scenes in the film. Only when the alien is catapulted out of the spaceship at the end is the trickery all too obvious.

Another standout is Sigourney Weaver as Lieutenant Ellen Ripley. Eight years after the introduction of women's suffrage at the federal level, she heralded the era of strong, self-confident women in space as well. Weaver embodies the courageous woman here, far removed from the shrieking appendage that populates the scenery of other science fiction films. The fact that it is possible to be sexy in the process, however, is shown in the final battle against the beast, which is fought in pants. Ripley was not originally planned as a female character. Alongside the on-board computer, which is called "Mother", this was another feminist snip that director Ridley Scott took at genre conventions.

The film title "Alien" is interesting. Surely this film is partly to blame for the term "alien" becoming a byword for mostly malevolent aliens. The English word "alien", which originally only meant something "strange" and "foreign", took on a threatening extraterrestrial connotation. Nowadays, aliens are omnipresent and even abduct people from the US Midwest.

"Alien" is and remains a great film. Just in time for the 25th anniversary, the director's cut was released, in which only a few scenes were added. For example, the conflict between the two women on board is given greater weight, the death of the first crew member is bloodier and for the first time there is the fabulous pupation scene, which shows with drastic images what the beast does to its prey. The director's cut is nevertheless less long than the original theatrical version, as Scott has tightened up the film and made cuts in various places to suit 21st century viewing. Both versions are absolutely worth seeing.

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