Alien (1979): Classic Horror Movie Review

alien-face-huggerI told you about The Brainiac and The Deadly Mantis from my childhood.  Now, I’ll tell you about my favorite movie. The one movie that started my absolute love of horror and sci-fi… The Ridley Scott masterpiece… Alien.

By the time I finally got around to seeing it at the movies it was already on its last legs and playing down the street for a dollar. (Does anyone else remember the days of neighborhood theaters?) My friend Brian asked me if I had seen it yet and when I said no he told me, “I’ll meet you there because you HAVE to see this.” (A personal pet peeve is people telling me what I have to see, because it usually sucks). So with my dollar in hand I went in and was told I should sit in the front row of a fairly empty theater, but he refused to tell me why. This turned out to be the best dollar I EVER spent.

(Warning, monster and sci-fi fans who haven’t seen Alien—are there any left?—spoilers abound ahead!)

The movie starts out with the Nostromo, a salvage freighter on its way back to earth, diverted by the ship’s computers to investigate an unidentified beacon coming from a nearby planet. The crew is brought out of their sleep to investigate, and Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt, one of my favorite actors) takes Kane (John Hurt) and Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) down to an extremely uninhabitable planet to investigate while Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) make repairs of the damage incurred on landing. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, in the role that launched her career) stays behind to work on deciphering the repeating message.

Classic Horror Movie Review: Alien (1979)On the planet they find a derelict ship housing the remains of a creature that seems to have exploded from the inside. As Ripley begins to realize the message is a warning, Kane discovers a room filled with eggs. When he leans down to get a closer look, the egg opens and a creature leaps out and attaches itself to his face. Once they bring him back, Ripley refuses them entry due to quarantine protocol until Ash (Ian Holm), the ships medical officer, overrides her and let them in.

An attempt to remove it reveals it has acid for blood, which eats through several layers of the ship. It eventually comes off on its own and Kane slowly regains consciousness, seemingly none the worse. Deciding to have one last meal before they hit the “Old Freezerino”, the crew sits down and begins chatting about all the things they are going to do when they get home. As they talk, Kane begins to cough, choke and convulse. They pin him down on the table and try to open his mouth to keep him from swallowing his tongue when he screams and his shirt becomes stained with blood.  Convulsing again, he lets out one more scream and his chest bursts open and a small Alien rises up out of him, teeth bared and ready to fight.  Ash tells them all “Don’t touch it” and it turns and scurries quickly out of the room.

Horror Movie Review: Ridley Scott's Alien

To say this scene scared the crap out of me is an understatement. I was already riveted to the screen and jumped the proverbial “foot” out of my chair. Now I knew why he insisted I sit in the front row.  I never did thank him for that.

The stunned crew gives Kane a burial in space and decides to find the “little bugger” using motion sensors. After mistaking Jones the Cat for the Alien, Brett goes off to get him and finds the now full-grown Alien instead. The last Parker sees of Brett is the Alien pulling him into the airshaft. Since they now know it’s using the shafts, they plan on closing them all one by one and forcing it into the airlock where they can blow it out into space. Captain Dallas decides to enter the shaft himself where he meets with the same fate as Brett.

With Dallas gone, Ripley is now senior officer and goes in to talk to “Mother,” the ship’s computer, angry over the lack of help or information coming from Ash. She discovers that Ash has orders to bring the Alien back to Earth, regardless of the cost…crew expendable. When she confronts him, he attacks her and Parker saves her by knocking off his head. They find that Ash was a robot planted on this mission by “The Company.” With no options left, Parker, Lambert and Ripley decide to take their chances in the shuttle. Ripley prepares the self-destruct while Parker and Lambert get supplies.

alien-weaver-in-astronaut-suitThe Alien finds them and kills them, leaving Ripley alone with Jones the Cat. She heads for the shuttle to find the Alien blocking her way, so she returns to reverse the self-destruct, but too late. She heads for the shuttle again, and–seeing no Alien in sight–gets in and makes a narrow escape before the ship explodes. As she begins preparing for stasis she discovers the Alien is on board the shuttle with her. Donning a space suit, she sits in the control chair and forces the Alien out of hiding. When he is virtually on top of her, she opens the hatch and watches as the escaping air pulls the Alien out the door. He grabs the sides and Ripley shoots him with a grappling hook, which gets stuck inside the shuttle as the door closes. The Alien makes for the engine, determined to get back inside. Ripley fires them up, blasting him, once and for all, out into space.

Sigourney Weaver would go on to earn an Oscar nod for the sequel, Aliens, in a role originally written for a man. The original story was written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett with help from Walter Hill and David Giles and as I said earlier, the movie is my personal favorite. I’ve never seen another film that made me forget I was just watching a movie. A fantastic buildup to a truly terrifying moment that you can never forget, followed by a fast paced race to the finish.  I do not scare easily and this movie scared me, and that is why it has become the obsession with me that it has. Books, magazines, action figures, trading cards and a board game (Sorry, Chris. You still can’t have it). Little did I know that a few short months later, I would be introduced to the world of Argento…and that is where I will pick up my story next time.

Watch and enjoy–God knows I did.


Fred proudly displays his love of Lucio Fulci and Xenomorph-themed board games!

Fred’s article is just one of many great genre posts also spotlighted on our page located on the Famous Monsters of Filmland site. Part one of What Makes You A Fan can be read by clicking here.