1979. Directed by Ridley Scott.
One of the most important horror films ever created, Ridley Scott's Alien is a singular movie going experience. Often imitated and never equally replicated, Alien is a Hitchcockian slasher flick of the highest order, masquerading as a science fiction thriller.
The blue collar crew of the Nostromo, a mining vessel receives a SOS from an uncharted planet. They intercept the signal, finding a derelict spaceship that crashed on the planet. One of their crew is infected by a parasite and they quickly bring him back to their ship for medical treatment. What spawns from the ill fated crewman is an ever changing creature that begins to hunt the crew one at a time.
One of the best elements of Alien is it's cast. Sigourney Weaver as Ripley is magnetic. She is both strong and vulnerable as well as competent and terrified. It's such an experience to watch the character's evolution from simple crew member to trauma hardened survivor. The legendary Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton as Parker and Brett are the comedic element, but also the film's most human characters. It's absolutely brilliant how Dan O Bannon's script uses the overly long first act to make you care about all of these characters, so much so that their grisly fates stick with you long after the film's conclusion.
Veronica Cartwright as the hysterical Lambert is pitch perfect, while Tom Skerritt is relatable in his exhausted delivery of Dallas. John Hurt doesn't have a lot of time with Kane, but what time he does have is, as usual, solid. Ian Holm's Ash is delicious, delivering some of the film's most memorable, venom laced lines with gravity.
John Mollo's costume design is a great supporting element. The character's look like real people, working a thankless job. Ian Whittaker's astounding set design supports this. The Nostromo's Gothic interior looks lived in and homey, despite it's dark recesses. Jerry Goldsmith's score rounds out the vibe trifecta, with a somber and yet...disquieting score.
Derek Vanlint's cinematography catapults the viewer directly into harms way. This is no mercy film making at it's finest and every scene is presented with the very real possibility of danger. Roger Christian and Leslie Dilley's art direction are what makes this possible. All of the individual pieces are woven together into a slime spattered tapestry that blankets the final product, promising dark times ahead.
Scott drew inspiration from Bava's Planet of the Vampires and other cult features to construct a narrative using Spielberg's Jaws technique of never fully showing the monster and it worked in dividends. Alien works because the terror is in the viewer's mind, imagining the monstrosity's true form while it attacks from the shadows. H. R. Giger's phallic demon was designed by Carlo Rambaldi under Giger's guidance, however each stage of the creature's evolution was handled with meticulous detail. From Scott using his own hands inside the egg to simulate movement, to cow intestines being used for the inside, it's apparent this was a monster that was loved and nourished by very capable artists.
The most shocking scene was performed without the cast's knowledge, capturing their very real and terrified reactions. It's little tricks like this that remind you you're witnessing something special. A final contributor to the wonder of Alien is Jim Shields' sound editing. Particularly in the final act, sound becomes the centerpiece of the story and Shields' ability to take you beyond the terror into something worse is truly a thing of beauty.
Available now for digital rental, Alien is a seminal horror film that has gone on to inspire an entire subculture. Initially divisive among critics, Alien has gone on to become a staple in science fiction and horror cinema. If you've never experienced Ridley Scott's near masterpiece, run, do not walk to see it. Run, because you never know what's behind you once you lock in and experience Alien.
Highly. Highly Recommended.