Skrik vir niks? Don’t be too sure, because ‘Alien’ is back
In space no one can hear you scream, but you can scream plenty here on Earth in the darkness of a cinema
If you’re walking down the streets of London this week and happen to see a poster outside a cinema advertising Alien, don’t be confused – this is not some pre-publicity for another disappointing prequel or an OTT continuation of the franchise. This is the original Alien, the groundbreaking lo-fi space horror film that taught us that while it may be true that in space no one can hear you scream, you can scream plenty here on Earth in the darkness of a cinema.
It’s 40 years since Ridley Scott unleashed artist HR Giger’s terrifying mother on the world, introduced us to Sigourney Weaver’s no-bull ass-kicking hero Ripley, and gave a masterclass in creating terrifying suspense through the art of showing not telling. It would define the genre for generations.
In celebration of this milestone, Alien is receiving a limited re-release (alas not, apparently, on SA screens) and being reissued in a special 4K, extras-packed Blu-ray edition.
Alien was only Scott’s second feature film after his period piece debut The Duellists, and before the phenomenal success of Blade Runner. While the advertising director wasn’t the first choice to direct writer Dan O’Bannon’s grisly tale of the fight between a mining ship crew and a creature from a very different mother, Scott’s cunning use of lo-fi techniques and tight control of his set and actors ratcheted the levels of suspense and uncanny horror to unbearable levels. He made it a seminal film not only in the history of science fiction but of cinema at large.
Rewatching the film today it’s mind boggling to see how scary it still is, and how it used the power of suggestion to creep the hell out of audiences. It’s also memorable for the way in which Scott’s decision to recast Ripley as a woman created a truly memorable leading female role. Weaver played a proto-MeToo feminist who keeps her shit together while all the men around her are losing theirs. No matter how many times you’ve seen it, you’ll still jump when John Hurt’s stomach opens, freak out when the cat growls, hide under the covers when mother gets real mad, and be awestruck by the eeriness of Giger’s set design.
Alien also has the distinction of leading to a sequel (directed by James Cameron in 1986) that is as good as its predecessor. That’s before the franchise left behind its lo-fi less-is-more roots and went off into ridiculous territory that saw a host of directors playing with toys rather than focusing on chills. Even Scott hasn’t been able to control himself with his recent disappointing effects-heavy prequels.
If you have a chance, take yourself back to 1979 and save plenty of space for a good old-fashioned scream.