I’ve got to be avoiding some sort of deep dark abyss opening inside myself or in the world. That’s the only explanation for how much I’ve been watching television and movies lately.
I guess there’s a way to deal with these existential things bubbling under the surface in a healthy way, or I could try to find answers by watching all four of the original Alien movies over the course of 3 or 4 days.
Alien (1979) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray :
Ridley Scott made this masterpiece of space horror that every other space horror or serious sci-fi action movie has tried to emulate on the heels of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars. You can see hints of both in the scene when Tom Skeritt is talking to MU-TH-UR (Mother) in a blinky-light room, punching away at a black screen with green letters. Star Wars borrowed from 2001 (I’m assuming) all of those white hallways. Alien borrowed form 2001 and Star Wars the same thing, but added in the freight business. 70s-type dialog where people talk over each other and cut each other off, jump-scares, good special effects. This movie holds up except for a few moments when the alien definitely looks like a puppet. The chest bursting scene is terrifying, but the way the chest burster peeps his head around is a little too sock-puppetty. I watched this movie with my friend who is an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, meaning she was sheltered and hasn’t seen the films we all grew up with. But she also hasn’t been under a rock so she new the major plot points. The biggest shock for her was the reveal of Ian Holm being an android. That scene definitely is still so bizarre- who tries to kill someone by stuffing a magazine down their throat? And the weird noise Ian Holm emits while whirling around before Yaphet Kotto smashes his head off is uncanny and freaky. And Yaphet Kotto is the best in this movie. Probably my favorite acting performance in the whole film.
Aliens (1986) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray:
James Cameron, pre- Terminator 2, and pre- Titanic. This movie goes more for action movie than horror. I think it’s fair to say that it coined a lot of things that are cultural staples. Bill Paxton yelling “Game over, man!” Sigourney Weaver yelling “Get away from her, you bitch!” I was seven years old when this movie came out and my brother and I watched it repeatedly. Of the four original movies, it’s definitely the one that will appeal to 12 year old heterosexual white males the most. It’s still a good romp, but the tone changed drastically from the first movie. The first Alien movie was about claustrophobia and survival. It was about encountering an unknown thing in the midst of your routine life and finding out that the company you work for is actually out to screw you over, royally, and doesn’t give a crap about you. Aliens is about paranoia and the fight of a woman trying to get a bunch of dudes to listen to her. She’s talking sense and is getting condescended to left and right. There are claustrophobic moments, but Aliens is more about guns, sets, space ships, and kicking ass. There’s more humor and mugging for the camera. Sigourney gets into a freight suit thing that I’m pretty sure they made specifically for this movie, and stomps around in it a bit, while the camera follows each movement. “Where do you want it?” She says to the marine dudes. It’s clearly a sly moment for the audience and it felt a little silly. The special effects didn’t hold up as well as the first movie. The flying spaceship moments look kind of like Crayola on cardboard, somehow. The Aliens are frightening, though. The introduction of the queen Xenomorph is genius. Although the getting sucked out into space thing to kill it- that just felt way too familiar. I was surprised at how this one wasn’t as good as I’d remembered it being.
Alien 3 (1992) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray:
David Fincher directs this weirdly paced and overly long movie. It has some really good moments, though. A way younger Charles Dance, before he played the maniac Lannister on Game of Thrones is actually really good. The prison setting worked for me, too. A lot of this movie is Ellen Ripley trying to figure out the prison scenario and also play detective, of sorts. You think Charles Dance is going to be a huge part of the whole movie, until he’s killed by an Alien right after revealing some deep dark secrets of his past to Ripley. And I was with the movie up until around this point. It kind of felt like 12 Monkeys, in a way. Weird British dudes in this run down future, trying to stay alive. Disgusting lice-ridden dead oxen, other bugs clogging up pipes, and molten metal bubbling in the basement. It was pretty cool. But right around the point when Charles Dance gets killed, the movie sort of loses its way. We learn Ripley’s got a chest burster inside of her and she’s suicidal. Dance’s character is gone, so the other heavy lifting for acting goes to Charles S. Dutton, who is really really good, but he can’t quite shoulder the whole burden himself. The scenes of the inmates trying to shut doors and lead the Alien-dog-oxen thing into a piston room goes on way too long. There’s a fisheye shot from the Alien’s perspective that they keep coming back to. It goes on a long time. The wide shots of the Alien are just too phony- the CGI has a weird glow around the Alien against the “real” foreground. It’s just not that great. Overall, this movie was sort of disappointing.
Alien Resurrection (1997) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray:
This movie had a lot going for it. Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed this- I’m surprised at how many of my friends hadn’t seen City of Lost Children or Micmacs, but they recognized his name from Amelie. The movie was written by a pre-Firefly and pre-Avengers Joss Whedon. You can definitely see the beginnings of Firefly formula in the rag-tag bunch of mercenaries. Winona Rider and Sigourney are great. The Aliens look fantastic. There’s virtually no “ugh, that looks dated” reactions until we get to the final morphed Alien, which is a strange human-Xenomorph hybrid. It has eyes, it has a weird nub of a nose, it’s kinda pasty and jaundiced looking. We’re made to feel bad for it and also despise it. At least Jean-Pierre put a spin on the air-lock death by having it be sucked through a tiny window. It screams pathetically while we watch its guts get deposited into space. Then the ending is also kind of a thud. They land on Earth, Winona and Sigourney exchange a few words, the camera pans out to show a demolished Paris. My friend I was watching this with had never seen it. “Wait, are the humans all dead?” She asked. I have no idea. Ron Perlman is great in this movie. Raymond Cruz, young and way before his role as Tuco on Breaking Bad is great- manic, likable, and just generally calm mixed with bursts of crazy (like Tuco). Dominique Pinon is so damn likable as the wheel-chair bound mercenary. Brad Dourif conjures his creepy doctor vibe yet again. There are so many good things about this movie, it’s a shame the weird Alien baby thing at the end had to happen in it.
I’m sure there are misspellings all over the place. I need to edit more.