Sunday, 27 October 2013

Alien (1979)

Fig 1
The year of 1979 brought with it two of the most terrifying spectacles the world could scarcely have anticipated: the rise of the Iron Lady, and of course Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’. The story follows a diverse crew aboard spacecraft ‘Nostromo’, as they return to Earth from an expedition to retrieve mineral ore. Their voyage home is brought to a halt when signals of alien technology force them to explore the unidentifiable ship, which soon brings the domestic atmosphere to a grim demise. The foundation of the film is fuelled by unrelenting suspense, shocking visual terrors and sexual undertones that culminate in a fight for survival against the unknown.

Fig 2
The production of the alien completely reflects the final act. “Giger started building this graceful figure, his pipes and tubes and running, rotting sore joints and pustules and strange shapes and building it up and came up with something most bizarre.” (O’ Bannon 1979) This description of the unconventional, beastly structure slowly but surely contrasts the atmosphere of the ship, from a sheen-white homely environment to an obstacle course of flashing lights and burst pipes. Scenes reminiscent of this include the betrayal of Mother, the ship’s control system, in which our heroine Ripley misses the opportunity to deactivate the self-destruction sequence. This act of betrayal relates to the underlying route of the chaos, as if the birth of the alien was a betrayal of its predecessors, or even a violation of nature.

Fig 3
The ‘Chestburster’ scene in particular has become one of the most influential examples of horrifically gory cinema to date. Writer of Alien, Dan O’Bannon recalls the famous scene having not informed the cast of its content: “Afterwards these two people pick Veronica Cartwright up and she was weak kneed and they had to help her off the set. She was drenched, all her clothes sticking to her, and her hair sticking to her with this red dye and she was near hysterics.” (O’Bannon 1979) This repulsive visual spectacle reflects upon the theme of birth and creation, as the ‘Facehugger’ life-forms’ key motive is to breed life into the living, using existing creatures as vessels for fertilisation. Every element from the moment of entering the alien ship includes incredibly raw, organic designs which intend to bring unease to the viewer, but more subtly provoke ideas of dark sexuality in the subconscious.

Fig 4
The film is laden with this kind of sexual imagery in a variety of ways, from the phallic, organic textures that line the walls of the ship, to the more obvious Facehugger anatomy akin to that of human genitals. Associate Producer, Ivor Powell describes the Facehugger: “In a sense, the original Facehugger is f**king you orally and laying its eggs down your trachea. Very Freudian, isn’t it?” (Powell, 2009) In relation to this idea of forced sex, a scene in which Ash forcefully shoves a rolled up magazine into Ripley’s open mouth whilst pornographic cut-outs linger on the walls behind them leave a very confusing impression which has a lasting effect on the viewer.

Fig 5
Ripley’s final scenes also see the action hero that her character has developed into, stripping away her ambiguous gear to operate the ship in a scantily clad fashion. Although this means to give the impression that Ripley is safe, once it is revealed that the alien is aboard, the atmosphere becomes one of complete vulnerability, and arguably the set-up for a sexual fantasy. But amongst the defining themes at its core, Alien has become one the greatest sci-fi horror films of its genre, still referenced relentlessly within pop culture today, and at the other end of the spectrum, even Pixar’s Toy Story.

Fig 6




  1. Hi Josh,

    I see that this review and '2001' have appeared in quick succession, so I will just comment on this review, with the comments applicable to both :)

    Both this and the previous review are really well written and considered - well done! You are using the quotes to support your discussion well; now you need to apply a similar principle to the images, as at the moment they tend to just 'float' within the for example, when you write about the facehugger, you could tie it in with the image like this,
    'The film is laden with this kind of sexual imagery in a variety of ways, from the phallic, organic textures that line the walls of the ship, to the more obvious Facehugger anatomy akin to that of human genitals, as seen in figure 5'.
    An example from your previous review would be the image of Anthony Hopkins...although you are talking about Hannibal Lecter, there is no way of your reader linking the image to the piece of text it refers to, until you get to the bibliography; at that point in the text, it is just some random man's face! Always assume your reader knows nothing about the films you are talking about...
    My other comments are with regard to your bibliography - have another look at the referencing guide here, for details on how to set it out correctly.

    Basically, in your image list, you need more information, such as the medium [Film still] for example, also the director, if it is a still, production company etc...
    Your text bibliography needs to include an article title, if there is one, the date the online article was accessed etc. Make sure you know which bits should be in brackets, and which bits should be italicised.

    Looking forward to reading your next review!

  2. Hey Josh Just popping by to say Hi and I will be your creative partner for this project! Looking forward to your work :D