“In space, no one can hear you scream.” Never has a tagline so perfectly captured the atmosphere of its film. Ridley Scott essentially made a haunted house movie but set it on a decidedly unglamorous spaceship inhabited by a group of largely unknown actors and one relentlessly merciless alien who picks them off one by one. Packed with some of the most memorable moments in film history, John Hurt’s exploding stomach amongst them, Alien is a landmark piece of filmmaking that spawned three sequels, two Predator crossovers and of course the long awaited ‘non-prequel’ prequel Prometheus; which is seemingly an entire film built around Alien’s very brief ‘Space Jockey’ scene. Released in 1979, two years after Star Wars, Alien was a groundbreaking film that bridged the horror and sci-fi genres; long since imitated but never matched in design or sheer terror.
James Cameron’s Aliens is by far one of the most exciting horror films I’ve ever seen. The film merges the sci-fi action genre with the more traditional monster horror genre. Its predecessor had been a film of moderation; Aliens was a film to a certain extent of excess, and Cameron’s adrenaline-fuelled style utilised the Xenomorphs en masse. Whereas before, they’d been terrifying stalkers in the shadows, they were now a swarm crawling in every crevice. Fraught with great one-liners, a dystopian – yet still very 80s – vision of the future and perhaps Sigourney Weaver’s best performance, Aliens remains probably my favourite within the series. Whereas Alien took a refined approach to the horror genre, Aliens injected an unmatchable energy into it, lifting the series to a new plateau.
Though often unfairly derided as the worst one, Alien 3 does indeed mark a dip in quality and doesn’t compare to its two predecessors. But in his debut, David Fincher begins to reveal the dark, brooding atmosphere and cinematography that would become his trademark. The script, however, was constantly changing and was the ultimate problem. While ideas had potential, such as a ‘bald’ Ripley having to unite savage prisoners in a colony to tackle the Alien once again, others did not (e.g. the characters played by British actors, who ultimately do not make that interesting a supporting cast). There isn’t much action and whilst the romantic subplot with Charles Dance’s medic con is entertaining, there is overall a lack of fear or general suspense. It fails to up the ante as much as Cameron did and was a step back for the series.
Set 200 years after the events of Alien 3, the fourth instalment of the franchise sees Ellen Ripley having been somehow resurrected through science. ‘Cloning’, ‘Human-Alien hybrids’, and ‘The Newborn’ are tossed around to form some semblance of a plot, albeit an unmemorable one. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s action-oriented feature has some touches of visual flair, but is marred by awful dialogue and a lack of atmosphere and tension. Ron Perlman is his usual over-the-top self, while Sigourney Weaver shows her prowess with the basketball. Meanwhile, the less said about Winona Ryder’s performance, the better. Resurrection signalled the Alien series’ overall fatigue, from which 20th Century Fox moved onto better things like: Alien vs. Predator…