Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that Ridley Scott’s “frightening, ferocious science-fiction film” — which “incorporates many elements of the horror film” — is “loved by many science-fiction fans” but “despised by others” (really? is it still?). He himself argues (and I agree) that it’s an “underrated”, “extremely scary, well-made, interesting film” — one which could be viewed as simply a “violent, big-budget rip-off of [the] cheap fifties SF film, It! The Terror From Beyond Space” but deserves recognition on its own merits, as a modern-day cult classic. In addition to the “stunning” design work (by H.R. Giger, Ron Cobb, and Michael Seymour) and truly creepy special effects (the “terrifying scene” in which “a creature attaches itself” to John Hurt’s face makes me jump every time), Scott’s direction of the film — essentially an “old dark house” thriller, in which one character after the other is murdered — is “as imaginative as it is (properly) manipulative”, given that he “builds tension by having characters talk in hushed tones, smoke incessantly, drink coffee, pace nervously, sweat, [and] argue”.
Indeed, for an action thriller, Alien is surprisingly character-driven. As Peary points out, this is the “first space film that has working-class heroes rather than scientists and astronauts flying a ship”, and the entire supporting cast — most notably Tom Skerritt as Captain Dallas, Harry Dean Stanton as Brett, Veronica Cartwright as Lambert, and Ian Holm as the android “Ash” — give effectively memorable and nuanced performances. In her first starring role, Weaver (as Ripley) is a refreshingly focused and competent leader — so much so that we’re almost willing to forgive Scott for turning her into a temporary sex object during the film’s infamous final “strip” sequence (the precursor to a genuinely terrifying denouement). What’s perhaps scariest of all about this film, however, is the fact that it’s not the alien, but instead the ship’s “home corporation” who is the “real villain of the piece”, given that it willingly “sacrifices people for discovery”.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Sigourney Weaver as Ripley
- Memorable supporting performances across the board
- Atmospheric cinematography
- Effectively futuristic sets and production design
- Excellent special effects
- A remarkably freaky screenplay
Yes, as a modern classic of the genre.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)