A fresh look at older movies. Movies critiqued on their own merits, how they've held up over the years, and what makes them great, or not so great now. All films reviewed on Second Screening are at least 15 years old. And while many may not be a-list films, they certainly do merit another showing. Also, you'll find retro and current subject matter in various "Top 10" lists. Also, see how movies match up when they go head to head against each other. So get ready to rewind, rewatch, and review.
In the future, a space mining vessel picks up a distress call and the crew investigates. What they discover is a life form of pure terror.
The crew of the Nostromos are awakened from hypersleep to discover their orders have been changed. The company they work for wants them to investigate an SOS signal they've picked up in the vicinity. The ship descends upon a small moon and three of the seven crewmen investigate. They discover a derelict spacecraft that had crashed there some time ago. While investigating they find a cargo hold containing thousands of eggs, roughly three times the size of a football. One of the crewmen, Kane (John Hurt) gets too close to an egg, and the egg opens, where some form of parasite latches onto his face. Immediately the others rush him back to the Nostromos, where they bring him aboard despite 2nd in command Ripley's (Sigourney Weaver) protest as it would violate quarantine protocols. Yet Ash (Ian Holm) seems to disregard her order and opens the hatch anyway.
Try as they might, they cannot remove the organism from Kane's face. It seems to be breathing for him, and any attempt to forcibly remove it causes it to tighten its grip around Kane's throat. The real problem lies when they try and surgically remove it. Just a mere incision causes the organism to bleed. Only its blood is a concentrated form of acid that eats its way through several decks.
Some point later the parasite dies, seemingly from natural causes, and Kane checks out ok. What no one realizes, is the thing implanted an embryo into Kane as part of its life cycle. While the crew enjoys dinner, Kane suddenly goes into a seizure as an alien creature bursts from his chest. It scutters away where it finds a dark and quiet place on the ship and begins to grow. As the crew begins to hunt for it, it begins to hunt them. One by one it kills them. The remaining crewmen try and devise a way to deal with the Alien, yet Ripley grows ever more suspicious of Ash, who doesn't seem quite right.
From start to finish, Ridley Scott establishes the dark and brooding atmosphere of this film. The claustrophobic nature of the Nostromos, the isolation of being alone in deep space, and the idea of a xenomorphic creature blend together to create an unsettling feeling all throughout the film. The alien itself, inspired by the works of H.R. Geiger, is one of the most terrifying, yet original monsters to ever hit the big screen. From its frightening visage, to its inhuman life cycle, and its amoral nature, the Alien is truly something straight out of our collective nightmares.
The pacing of the film is like that of our own frightened heartbeat. Slow at first, establishing characters and plot, but increasing beat by beat as more and more people get killed. Fear, desperation, and panic set in, not just with the crew, but with the audience as well. And if an unstoppable alien isn't enough, discovering what Ash is, and why he's doing what he's doing only adds to the feelings of despair and hopelessness.
Over 30 years later, this film still holds up. The effects are still tight, the actors all put in incredible performances, and it can still cause today's audiences to jump out of their seats. Whether you've seen it a hundred times it still entertains. And if you lived under a rock and never seen it, you owe it to yourself to enjoy a fright as well crafted as this.
The Alien franchise has grown with several sequels, comics and video games, as well as match-ups against another on screen creature, the Predators. Outside the phenomenally successful Aliens, directed by James Cameron, the rest of the series is real hit and miss.