Horror: Intelligent Life Forms (Alien)

Intelligent Life Forms

(WARNING: THIS POST IS FOR A CLASS ON HORROR FICTION. IT WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS ABOUT THE FILM ALIEN.)

The sets are very nice in Alien. As I watched this film with my mother, we both commented that the inside of the ship is clearly designed to look just a little bit like the monster itself, thus making it quite difficult to tell when the awful thing is actually waiting around the corner.

I also thought the directing was a creative choice. We spend a long time at the start watching very little happen, as if we’re members of the crew ourselves, and we’re getting used to life aboard the ship. For many viewers (at least for me), this may have been a problematic directorial choice because it turns out that getting used to life aboard the ship is as dull as watching people sit around a table and talk about work for half an hour.

Apart from an appreciation for the sets and creative structure of the film, I have to say that I was mostly disappointed by the story.

Of course, Alien is a big thrill because it reaches out to nearly every possible audience member: it’s a science fiction, horror, action film with a female protagonist. Should be a total win. I suppose it is, when you look at its lasting effect on audiences; it came out in 1979 and is still fairly popular today.

It’s a fun show. There are things that jump out at the perfect moments, there are cool twists – the android head on the table was my favorite part –, and the big, bad monster is pretty horrific (as long as you don’t look at his full body; then he just looks like a guy in a suit).

But I have to say that the human characters were seriously lacking in intelligence. Not even intelligence – simple common sense. Why would you send one person off alone in search of a cat when the rest of the team is looking for a man-eating monster? Why would you go in search of that monster in the first place with no real plan? A net? Seriously? They couldn’t even catch the cat with the net. What were they going to do with the alien?

There were so many moments of “COME ON” during this film that I lost any sense of tension that I was supposed to feel. The fact is, if I wouldn’t be stupid enough to do these things, I have a hard time imagining I’m in those situations. How could these people possibly be so thick? Really. Why are you putting your face against the alien egg in the first place? You’re not a rescue worker. Surely you realize you are not qualified to fiddle with an unborn alien life form.

A good monster is fun in itself, and this film had more than one monster, which was even better. The alien, Ash, and the ship itself all served as different types of monsters. I liked all of them. They were creepy and dangerous and threatening, just as monsters should be. If only the crew had been worthy adversaries, I might have felt a bit more involved.

WORKS CITED

Scott, Ridley. Alien. 20th Century Fox, 1979.

One response to “Horror: Intelligent Life Forms (Alien)

  1. Because we watched this together, I was particularly interested to read your take on it. I think your comment about the guy putting his face up against the alien egg is a very telling one. I, too, lost some of my tension because the crew annoyed me so much, but I hadn’t really focused on how much this one stupid decision set the tone for later ones. It was as if they didn’t understand anything about life in space, which made it feel about as real and scary as a bunch of kids putting on a neighborhood play about astronauts and aliens. After that, almost no matter what you come up with in monsters, they’re going to fall flat.

    I liked Ash, too, but I didn’t really understand how he worked, either. He’s clearly some kind of emotionless robot doing only what he’s programmed to do, so what was that macho, I’m bringing his head back long enough to force him to cough up the answers stuff? Why would a robot programmed NOT to reveal anything suddenly do so because some guy gets fussy with him? Even the cool stuff had those weird soft spots, in which it didn’t seem to have been fully thought through.

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