Thursday, 10 November 2011

Alien (1979) review

Alien directed by Ridley Scott is the science fiction horror film that arguably defined the 70's era in terms of sexuality and female independence. Horror films prior to Alien largely had the notion that the female characters would often be the clumsy and foolish burden whom would be rescued by the masculine male lead. Ridley Scott however shunned this concept and took a risk having a female play the hero. Arguably this was because of the changing times of the 70's where woman were beginning to become more independent and empowered, no longer being seen as inferior to men but as equals. "Having Ripley as the hero of Alien is an interesting twist." (Berardinelli:2003)

Sigourney Weaver takes on the role of Ellen Ripley, a warrant officer aboard the Nostromo spaceship. After receiving a transmission from an unknown planetoid the crew act on orders and scour the area in search of life. The crew soon find that the signal is coming from a derelict alien spacecraft. Executive Officer Kane played by John Hurt finds a chamber of unusual eggs, one of which after examination bursts open and a creature fuses itself to the Officers face. Ignoring quarantine protocol the crew carry Kane back to the ship unsuccessfully attempting to prize the creature off of his face. Eventually the creature detaches itself and is found dead.

Kane eventually awakens seemingly unharmed by the creature, however while eating with the crew begins uncontrollably writhing in agony until an alien bursts out of his chest, escaping into the vast ship. The crew then proceed to hunt the creature, now fully grown into the hull of the ship. Eventually one by one the crew are killed by the alien leaving a nail biting stand off between the creature and Ripley.

A common theme in this film is the crude sexual references which occur throughout the entire duration of the film. consider the scene in which the alien burst out of Kane's chest. The design of the alien is a clear reference to a male phallus. The manner in which it was forced through the chest of the Officer could possibly relate to sexual violation and rape. "Unsettling, perverse, and scary, and most viewers single out the scene in which the baby alien first bursts out of John Hurt’s chest." (Levy:2007) 

The set design of Alien was completely unique for this type of film. The construct of the space ship was as complex as a circuit board. This made the film all the more terrifying as it was almost maze like, making the viewer get a feeling of being engulfed in a place there is no escape from. Scott's use of light, sound and camera angles make the film edgy and add suspense. Independent reviewer Cole Smithy observes that the manner in which it was filmed  "Makes the film an artistic journey that coincides with a great story". These factors are perhaps why Alien is often mentioned as one of the greatest sci fi horrors of all time.

List of Illustrations

Fig.1 The Robot head

Fig.2 The creature attached to the face of Kane

Fig.3 The fully grown alien

Images extracted from


James Berardinelli (Published 2003) (Accessed on 11,11,11)

Emmanuel Levy (Published March 15 2007) (Accessed on 11,11,11)

Cole Smithey (Published on January 15 2009) (Accessed on 11,11,11)

No comments:

Post a Comment