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Retro Cinema Classics: ‘Alien’ (Ridley Scott, 1979)

With the director’s latest, Prometheus, promising to be one of this year’s better efforts, I felt it necessary to take a long overdue first look at Ridley Scott’s widely lauded sci-fi/horror hybrid. It’s easily one of the better entries to ever grace both genres, I’ll give it that, and even despite its age, Alien holds up quite well thanks to its imaginative futuristic visual panache that coincides wonderfully with the film’s unique central premise and effective spooks.

Focusing on deep space commercial mining vessel Nostromo as it and its crew begin their trek back home to Earth, a distress signal is picked up from a nearby planet, prompting the crew to investigate according to protocol. Following a rather rocky landing procedure, select individuals are sent out to investigate the source of the beacon, soon realizing that it wasn’t an S.O.S., but a warning for others to steer clear altogether. And then shit pops off.

By that, I’m of course referring to the film’s title and subsequent bane of the ill-fated crew’s existence. Following John Hurt’s Kane’s run-in with a “Facehugger,” then unnamed, the seed is planted as his body becomes a sort of cocoon for the alien to mature inside and eventually burst out of, resulting in one of the more iconic scenes in cinematic history. Scott makes sure the suspense is as unrelenting as can be from start to finish, making each worsening predicament aboard the Nostromo as nail-bitingly distressing as the last.

When Alien‘s grim twist pertaining to the creature’s discovery is revealed, things are quickly thrown into overdrive as everyone enters full-blown panic mode. If anything, the film’s final act feels a little forced, but as a whole the entire production is truly something special, especially considering its age in relation to what newer technology’s been able to do for similar genre entries, James Cameron’s more action-oriented Aliens included. If you’re looking for a true classic that delivers all the thrills and chills you’d expect it to, even 30+ years after its inception, Alien is a solid choice backed by excellent performances and an engaging, highly imaginative script that’s given birth to one of the more recognizable movie monsters to ever have existed.

– Derin Spector