Alien: 40th Anniversary Review

With the Halloween season upon us, more and more horror films are being released. Films like The Adams Family and Maleficent: Mistress of evil are releasing to appeal to younger audiences, while Zombieland: Double Tap and Countdown are for the more mature. Yet, during this season we tend to rewatch some of our favorite horrors of the past. Classics like Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th are all close to, or already, celebrating their 40th anniversary. One of these films, Alien, was recently re-released in theatres as apart of the TCM Big Screen Classics to celebrate its 40th anniversary. This filmed sparked the historic careers of Actor Sigourney Weaver and Director Ridley Scott, which secured the film as a pop culture icon that many movies imitate to this day. But the question is, Does it hold up?

First released in June of 1979 and written by the late Dan O’Bannon and directed by Ridley Scott, this influential sci-fi film has obvious inspirations. Taking from 2001: A Space Odyssey’s slow, drawn outpacing and uneasy and tense tone. To the original Star Wars, inspiring its use of unique massive in scope spaceship designs. Coming off of those relatively less tense films, Alien was able to fuel its ambition with films of the past and subvert the audience’s expectations and terrify them.

The film begins with a slow reveal of the title while a matte painting of a planet moves in the background. After this when the first shot started, I was struck with amazement over the digital scan of the original 35mm print. Older films of the past can fall victim to lazily done digitizations when releasing them, using a worn print and calling it a day, but the Alien digitization was perfect and clear.

Now onto the actual film itself, to describe it today would say it’s wonderfully suspenseful. Yes, since it’s a forty-year-old film it isn’t as scary as it used to be but it still can be extremely disturbing. The chest-bursting scene is as terrifying as you can get, while also being one of the greatest uses of puppets and VFX to this day. The only problem is the over-reliance of strobe lights to hide the Xenomorph suits imperfections, I had to close my eyes cause it was irritating. The scares are either hit or miss, but again expected of a movie from a different era of film. But other than that the film production is amazing. The characters are compelling and set up well enough to when the Xenomorph starts picking them off, you feel a real sense of dread for characters, feeling claustrophobic when they’re crawling through the air ducts.

Sigourney Weaver plays the main heroine of Ripley and is in all ways the perfect protagonist. Being a middle-ranked officer in the film, she can identify with both the repairmen and captain of the Nostromo. Being strong and level headed when needed, while also showing compassion for other character’s deaths. Ian Holm who plays Ash is easily the second most interesting, because of his cold distant and mysterious relationship with the rest of the crew. As for the rest of the 7 person cast, they do fine, but are never really given anything good to work with but do the best with what they got.

As for the story, it is second to none, being a part slasher, sci-fi, and mystery. Leading you down the twists and turns that you have come to expect from modern films, but if accounting for the time would be fresh and innovative. Although seeing it in theatres wasn’t my first time seeing it, the story still felt engaging and entertaining which is all that matters in a film. While the pacing is slow in the beginning, it feels purposeful to set up a false sense of security. 

Alien all in all is a sci-fi horror masterpiece that with its age should find a new appreciation in modern cinema. It is a movie that you need to see once in your life. With great characters and a horrific villain it still is entertaining to this day, I recommend seeing this movie for Halloween as it is the perfect film to watch with friends. 8.4/10.