Published Jan 01, 2006Just in time for its 24th anniversary and Halloween, one of the scariest movies ever made (please, no Brown Bunny jokes) is being re-released for the big screen, deluxe treatment (new scenes, digitally remastered, etc.) and all. But nostalgia has a way of making decades old movies seem way better than they were, and throwing them up on a giant screen for all to see exposes and magnifies flaws, but Alien, despite almost 25 years of influence and being blatantly ripped off, not to mention advances in technology and its three sequels, still stands strong and is arguably the best of the franchise.
Alien’s plot is not a convoluted one but is linear and smart: a group of blue collar space "truckers" investigate an "alien" distress beacon on an unknown planet, pick up more than they bargain for and terror ensues. But what elevates Alien above B-movie schlock, which it unquestionably draws its roots from, is the level of artistry, design, suspense, horror and shock that director Ridley Scott (then fresh off his first movie, The Duellists) captured.
It’s all in the details, and here Scott and his team, including noted surrealistic artist H.R. Giger, who is credited with creating the Alien’s biomechanical look, spared no effort in going for either a totally alien or a completely human, "used future" look, eschewing the stereotypically antiseptic space movies of the time (Star Wars), and showing the contrast between the two in their wonderfully complex and intricate sets.
But the movie is called Alien, and Giger’s creature, seemingly ripped from a nightmare, still looks incredible (asexual but feminine, beautiful yet horrifying, organic yet mechanical), but its visual impact is greatly increased in the movie by what it couldn’t do because of its "guy in a suit" limitations, forcing its showing in brief snapshots, much like Jaws, and heightening the terror exponentially because of it.
However, all the talk of Alien: The Director’s Cut is of the new scenes Scott has put in (and the near-five minutes of "trimming" he also did), which if you own the DVD, aren’t new at all. Most talked about is the "cocoon" scene, where Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) finds some of her crewmates cocooned to a wall in the bowls of their ship, The Nostromo — an idea Cameron would lift for Aliens. And while it’s a cool scene, it doesn’t explain why after setting the self-destruct mechanism, Ripley is running around the innards of the ship with a giant monster on the loose instead of getting the hell out of there.
Regardless, while the "new" scenes alone may not be impetus enough to see Alien: The Director’s Cut, especially if you own the DVD, seeing it on a giant screen, where the power and creepiness of the score is near-deafening, enhances the movie exponentially. Not to mention that the entire cast is excellent, the effects mostly hold up, and it’s still incredibly terrifying, even when you know what’s coming next — the chest-bursting dinner scene is still awesome and is a defining moment in the horror genre.
Comparable to 2001 in its artistry and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in its bloodlust, Alien can be viewed as either a horror movie with underlying implications of the nature of rape, violation and unwanted pregnancy, or one of the first action movies to utilise a female as its hero, either way, it is still one of the scariest, and best, movies ever made. (Fox)