Alien (1979) Movie Review

Mild spoilers ahead.

I heard from some readers who were impressed (sarcasm) with my review of a movie that was two years old (Parasite). Well, wait until I go back 42 years!

This is part of the Alien project in which I will be watching the movies and reading the books and comics based on the franchise. Earlier today I watched this movie for the first time in my life. I tried to watch it as a clean slate, and with 1979 eyes. This worked in some ways and didn’t in others.

For those that don’t know, Alien is a science fiction confined space horror film. The crew of the mining spaceship Nostromo are woken before returning to Earth. The ship received a message and protocol is that all unknown frequencies must be investigated. Three members of the already small crew head to the surface and come back with something attached to one’s face. There is debate over protocol, science, safety, the mission, etc but let’s just say poor decisions are made and there are revelations later. All of this is too late because now arguably the most perfect hunting creature ever discovered is growing inside of the Nostromo. Only human or alien will come out of this alive, but definitely not both. The ride to the finish is one of the most intense and suspenseful second halves of a movie ever filmed.

Due to this being an iconic film, I knew some of the iconic moments already. The table scene especially. But I didn’t know when it would happen or everything that leads up to it. The movie starts slow. Such a slow burn, slow build. It goes on so long I let my guard down and I have to imagine film goers in 1979 did so too. When the facehugger shows up it’s gross looking. Then another revelation, and another, and another, and a twist. Even these aren’t huge but it makes the viewer lean closer and closer to the screen. The story unfolds like a master story teller who knows the entire audience is in their hands. When the big iconic Alien finally appears, that’s it. There is no calming down. Anxiety is peaked. As each crew member journeys through the expanse of the ship, we wait for them to encounter the enemy. A limb, a shadow, something appears in frame and we all jump then only come back down half way because something else is gearing up to happen. It’s a jack in the box of a movie.

I also debated on watching the “making of” features and listening to the commentary because the framing and cinematography throughout the film fascinated me. There were POV shots, but who’s? Or what? Characters aren’t completely in frame. The camera pans. I’m convinced they’re all being watched. Maybe by Mother, or the Alien, or even the cat.

That stupid f’ing cat. Maybe I’m heartless but I would have left the cat behind a hundred times over. It provided great jump scares, distractions, excuses, and really acted like a deus ex machina at times. Oh this happens now because of the cat. I can excuse the cat being on there. Same as a cat on a ship crossing the ocean. Keep away the vermin from the equipment and supplies. But I’m also escaping away from this giant Alien as fast as I can and not worrying about the feline on my way out.

I wasn’t completely aware of the twist involving Ash but I knew something was off the whole time. I didn’t know what, but I knew I should be paying attention to what he was doing until the eventual revelation. I’m also not sure if the Alien was hiding or stuck in the final scene. The scene worked, and I think even Ripley’s strip down made sense with her escape plan.

Overall, I think this movie has influenced so much that came along since, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have if I was old enough to see it new in 1979. However, I also only watched it a few hours ago and it’s already sitting in my brain. I’m already debating watching it again. Worse, I’m thinking about buying the whole set. I already feel as this series continues I will have many moments of joy and frustration as I dive deeper into the Alien franchise.

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