Inspired by the fan-boy raving over at Condemned Movies and in anticipation of the June release of Ridley Scott’s prequel/not-a-prequel hybrid Prometheus, I decided to take a stroll down memory lane and revisit Scott’s iconic Alien and Cameron’s raucous Aliens.
I have such fond childhood memories of Scott’s Alien. Even though I first watched it at a very young age (I think it must have been around the time of Aliens‘ release so I would’ve been about seven), it’s not memories of the film scaring me that I remember most, but memories instead of my parents telling stories of how it scared them when it came to theaters in 1979, also the year of my arrival into the world. There was pent-up giddy kid-wild anticipation in the Schleicher household as our parents regaled tales of the shock and horror and the downright badass spookiness of Alien – a film that took old-school monster-movie horror and melded it with a new wave of gritty futurism. It was both a throw-back film and pop-avant-garde. And I remember feeling truly special when my parents finally let us watch it. The initial shock of the chest-bursting scene lasts with me to this day as well as fractured fairy-tale memories of a an android that bled milk, an acid-filled face-hugging bug, a pretty girl in her underwear, and a kitty that must be rescued!
Watching it as an adult now, the psychosexual overtones are certainly not subtle – but such subtext was never meant to hide in the best of horror films. Apart from the fantastic industrial-futuristic-gothic-grunge production design, the nightmare inducing creature models, and the 2001-like special effects that hold up to this day…what amazes and entertains me now is how steadfastly Scott adhered to the tropes of horror genre. He used the monster on the ship like the mad killer of a slasher film with it slowly growing more unstoppable as it stalked and killed the crew one-by-one only to be one-upped by the lone surviving female. In the form of Sigourney Weaver, this archetype took on a new tough exterior, but just when we thought all was well and done, Scott took us to that all-too familiar place…where a pretty young thing is getting undressed thinking she is safe and about to go into a literal deep sleep…only to have that damn monster show up right at her bedside for one last thrill.
Alien is a rock-solid genre mixing film filled with delectable pacing and old-fashioned suspense combined with new-age effects and gore. It defined a generation of sci-fi films, but I’ll always hold fast that the movie it makes the best double-feature with is another classic of the era that has withheld the test of time, Halloween.
And then came Aliens. Oh, the cursing, the Marines, the action, the aliens, the DUN DUN…DUN DUN DUN…pounding of James Horner’s score…it was everything a little boy could want in a movie. When Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley became the adoptive mother of little Newt and then went head to head with the Alien Queen, it was an epic battle of two bad-ass muthas!
The initial shock of the discovery of the nest scene lasts with me to this day as well as fractured fairy-tale memories of a an android named Bishop’s redemption, a macho-female marine’s last stand in an air shaft, a weasely pre-sitcom Paul Reiser receiving his just desserts, and a little girl who must be rescued!
This was the prototypical James Cameron movie – loud, locked and loaded whereas Scott’s original was creeping and gothic. While the creature models still rank amongst the best in film history and the special effects were top-notch for their time, there’s a decidedly ’80’s set and sound design that make this sequel ironically more dated than the original. There’s also the genesis of that Cameron heart (cheese) that would run amuck in his later films and turn him into the grandest sentimentalist next to Steven Spielberg. But, dude…he still delivers the goods here and broke the mold on what sequels could achieve under new vision.
Cameron’s film was followed much later by two misguided sequels (the first of which is only notable for launching the career of David Fincher) and a god-awful series of comedies detailing the romance between Alien and Predator which seemed to exist for the sole purpose of tarnishing the legacy of Scott’s original.
Well, good ol’ Ridley apparently wanted to the set the record straight. Next month marks the arrival of Prometheus. Can Scott’s career of 30+ years come full circle? Can this film bring back that wide-eyed kid-wild excitement by melding something old with something new? Can that fear and awe live inside a mythos that has become this expansive? Is this damn thing even really a prequel to Alien? We shall see…we shall see…and hopefully once again in space, we shall collectively scream.
The trailer below I feel has set a new high point in teaser-dom.
Written by David H. Schleicher