Time: 117 mins
Age Rating: Violence and offensive language
Sigourney Weaver as Ripley
Tom Skerritt as Dallas
Veronica Cartwright as Lambert
Harry Dean Stanton as Brett
John Hurt as Kane
Ian Holm as Ash
Director: Ridley Scott
A commercial crew aboard the deep space towing vessel, Nostromo is on its way home when they pick an SOS warning from a distant planet. What they don’t know is that the SOS warning is not like any other ordinary warning call. After picking up the signal, the crew realize that they are not alone on the spaceship when an alien stowaways on the cargo ship.
The pacing of this movie is slow at first. The first half an hour or so is build up for the rest of the movie, which is absolutely perfect because it manages to create a very tense atmosphere. Alien is one of the best examples of how to create atmosphere in a movie, you take the pacing slower and let it build the atmosphere build up over time. This film also manages to give a feeling of claustrophobia and vulnerability that is present throughout the entire film.
One reason that the alien is scary is because unless you’ve seen the other movies, you don’t know how this alien works and what it can do. The alien looks different every time we see it, and leaves us wondering what it would look like every time it’s on screen. If there is one thing that the alien represents, it’s the unknown. Like other well-made horror movies it doesn’t give all the answers to the creature that stalks the characters, all the viewer can do is watch. It’s quite a while before the alien gets seen or even mentioned. When it does, it only appears on screen every so often but that’s what made it scarier than if it was frequently popping up. The film’s scares don’t come from jump scares alone, it takes advantage of its atmosphere and uses it to help its scares. This led to one of the biggest scares I’ve ever seen in a movie. I won’t tell which scene it is or any of the other scares; in case you haven’t seen it. Like Psycho, many of the scenes are so easy to spoil it’s best to watch those moments yourself without prior knowledge. Another thing great about this movie is the fact that it doesn’t have action that could’ve ruined the amount of tension. Granted, James Cameron’s sequel manages to balance it out nicely but Alien succeeds in the type of movie it’s aiming to be: a haunted house in space.
The actors still do a good job reacting to everything that happens despite the fact that they aren’t anything special. When you go to a horror movie you aren’t looking for great acting but fortunately the actors here to a much better job than most actors in most horror movies. While you don’t get to learn much about the characters, again, most horror movies aren’t about the people. We are with these characters for the whole movies so they needed to feel real enough, which they do.
The alien is always a presence in this movie, even when it’s not on screen. This is due to many things, the camera work, the lighting, the sound design and the score. The score by Jerry Goldsmith in particular gives the movie an eerie vibe. The sound design should also be commended for managing to convey a feeling of emptiness. The camera’s tone is quite bleak and dark. The lighting in this movie in some parts is quite dark, leading viewers to wonder if the alien is on screen or not. All of those film techniques results in the film have a very creepy vibe.
Although I still personally prefer Aliens over this movie, I will say is that Alien is scarier than its great sequel. Even though Aliens has a lot of action, don’t go into this movie expecting that same thing. It’s a slow, horror movie that builds atmosphere, and actually is a great example of how to create suspense, scares, atmosphere and an overall good horror film.