Can you believe that this film is 31 years old? Thirty one years old. That’s as old as I am. And yet it is still as effective as ever. And perfect for the RIP’s Peril on the Screen.
You probably all know the plot; a commercial space vessel’s crew is woken from cryo-sleep midway through their journey home. The ship’s computer has picked up a transmission that may be an SOS call. As they investigate they find an abandoned ship but suffer an attack on a crew member. They retreat to their own ship, carrying their injured member, and ignoring quarantine procedures, they undergo treatment from the science officer. And then things begin to go wrong…
Watching this over the weekend I was amazed at how slowly the tension builds. And how little real gore there is. Sure there is the infamous chest-bursting scene, but really apart from that there is very little actual on-screen violence. Of course the film itself is so much more effective because of that. The viewer is left to imagine what might have happened to the missing crew-members, we only get the heart-stopping build-up and then nothing. It really works, so you have to wonder why more films don’t use the same methods. Might make for more imaginative film-making, and I suppose that is why, it is easier and cheaper to go for the gore factor.
Of course what makes Alien really work is the fact that we get a real sense of the crew members as characters, not just stereotypes waiting to be killed off in a gruesome manner.
I suppose in that regard there is some similarity with my other Peril on the Screen, The Village is also a monster movie, where the viewers imagination is used. But apart from that there aren’t too many similarities :) And I’d have to say that Alien is by far the better film.
For a more detailed review check out the Five Days with the Alien anthology as Bleeding Cool build up to the release of the blu-ray set.