#53: Alien (1979)

When and how did I watch this?

January 24th, 2017, on Amazon Instant Video.

Had I seen this film already?

Nope, though after watching it, I started to believe I had.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

Aliens blew me away. Having no real experience with the films besides common pop culture knowledge, the innovation and effects really captured my attention.  The film also revealed a lot of plot information regarding the original, so I felt “prepared” for what was to come.

What do I know about it now?

The major drawback to knowing what is to come is reckoning with how formulaic the horror genre is. The key difference between a quality horror flick and a laugher is the use of the unknown.  Fear of what we cannot see is a pervasive force in horror, especially in a sensory-heavy media format like film. Much of the plot between Alien and its sequel might be divergent, but still run parallel:
There is an element of pride in the beginning, and orders supersede morality and reason.
The ship has some sort of malfunction and needs repairs.
There’s an evil guy on the ship with an ulterior motive.
One dumb dude gets too close to the aliens despite warnings.
There’s a critical disruption in the technology at an intense moment.
Ripley is inclined to save the weak (cat/girl).
The alien forces its way into a tight space at the conclusion.
Ripley dons a suit in the final showdown.
The final alien is shot out of the airlock.
I didn’t care that I didn’t know what the aliens looked like — I suppose I knew about their appearance and behavior before watching these — and certainly the screenplay generated incredible tension.  Furthermore, Alien IS the innovative masterpiece, and not its sequel, so I nonetheless watched in awe.  The eggs, the face-hugger, the means of using a host body (wow), the species’ incredible rate of growth — it’s as if Scott and O’Bannon had a manual on the life cycle of extra-terrestrial beings in their glove box. We don’t see anything until a good 45 minutes into the film. To the credit of Aliens, the effects were better, and in many facets the acting was superior; the prequel’s actors seemed to be just bodies waiting to die. But I confess the movie put a bad taste in my mouth.

What are some themes in the film?

Pride, the possibility of extra-terrestrial life, politics and bureaucracy, value of human life and sacrifice

Did this affect me personally?

The legendary chest-burst scene was quite memorable.  I’m “glad” to have seen it.

Why is this ranked #53?

It’s an icon in film, and, from what I know, the penultimate sci-fi flick.  A young Sigourney Weaver proves her acting chops and basically outdoes everyone in the film by miles. It put Ridley Scott on the map.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She stayed out of the room for most of this one.

Would I watch it again?

Nah.  I’m glad to have seen it, but I’m done with these.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

Yes indeed. It’s a bit of a gore fest at times; it might make you queasy if you’re not into stylized violence.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

Of course.  To me, The Lion King represented a divide between the questionable and legitimate on the IMDb Top 250.  There might be a fluke here and there, but generally everything here and above deserves a place in the all-time greats.  Alien is innovative, well-paced, has numerous “moments”, perfect screenplay and cinematography, and some of the more ghastly sci-fi/horror scenes in film history. I was surely entertained, and walked away from it holding the film in high reverence.

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