My 100 favourite films. Entry #13: Alien.

Alien (1979)
directed by Ridley Scott
starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto
country: UK
genre: Sci-fi / Horror

Visuals: 10
Writing: 8
Everyday watchability: 5
Number of characters who survive to the end of the film: 1

This movie would definitely still make the cut if this list were only ten entries long instead of 100. When I was in junior high, I rented this movie from the corner video store many many times. So many times that my mother would sigh and say, "You rented that movie again?!" But I loved it, and didn't really know why. Based on her reaction, I figured it was just a guilty pleasure. It wasn't until much later that I realized I liked it was because it was a great movie. Just fucking fantastic. Alien was very much unlike the horror movies it followed and it was the template for many horror movies after it.

The first thing it did was hide the monster. Most movies would constantly show you the creature, as if you were to be horrified by its very construction. "Oh look at that hideous thing!" But most times, it just wasn't scary, especially when you could see a zipper. In Alien, you only get flashes and snippets of the creature. My theory: People are scared of the unknown, so the less they know, the more they're scared.

Another thing this movie did: nothing. For a good half an hour, nothing really happens. The characters wake up and eat and land on a planet and walk around. After half an hour, there's a brief moment of action. It's another 25 minutes after that when the shit really hits the fan. Movies are still trying to imitate this structure, but few manage to do it well. Somehow in Alien, the nothing is kind of exciting...

Other pluses: the set design; the creature design,; the acting; the dialog; the cinematography; the editing and the amazing score, one of Goldsmith's best.


4 comment(s).:

May 28, 2008 at 6:46 PM Peaches said...

How do you know good editing? How can you call that out as something of note?

This was such an interesting review I actually WANT to see this movie!

Your dad says he could never see the zippers you could see on the monsters.

May 28, 2008 at 6:50 PM P said...

Hey, wait a minute! You put this at #13 but said it would make the cut if it were only a Top Ten list. Is this like the dial set to #11?

Your dad thinks the entries are being consecutively numbered, but I was thinking these were rankings. We must really be in a fog if we didn't know this. Oh, wait, what's this "we" stuff?

May 28, 2008 at 7:36 PM Lee said...

It says it in the title: My 100 favourite films IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER... I'm only numbering them so that I (and you) know how many movies I've written about and how many are left. Yes, consecutively numbered in the order in which I write about them.

May 29, 2008 at 6:33 PM Anonymous said...

Only 5/10 watchability? I somehow expected it to be 8.5/10