In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream
Back in 1979, 8 words revolutionised the face of horror. With a simple premise, a suffocating tension and an intriguing mystery woven throughout the narrative, Alien is one of those rare films that manages to effortlessly perfect every scene to create one of the best horror films ever made.
The story begins with a shot of the vast expanse of space. Dwarfed by the endless sea of darkness, a single vessel playing host to a small crew intercepts a strange transmission from a nearby alien moon. Deciding to investigate the source of the signal, the crew wind up on an alien planet where things quickly turn from bad to worse as the crew fight for survival against an unknown, alien entity.
In its simplest form, Alien plays out like a slasher set in outer space. While it would be easy to pass off Alien as a cliche riddled copycat, the allure here comes from the tension and this film is quite simply a masterclass when it comes to building an uneasy suspense without overbearing the story or the characters inhabiting the world. This horror builds tension throughout its run time too, refusing to relinquish the suffocating dread hanging over every scene making it such a compelling watch. While it lacks significant jump scares and truly terrifying moments, its the aforementioned tension that makes this such an exhausting, incredible horror to watch.
In the discussion about strong, female characters, Sigourney Weaver as the heroine protagonist Ripley must surely be near the top in this category. Her performance typifies the great work put into crafting this film and the way she manages to mix terror with a gritty determination is certainly commendable, making the journey her character takes all the more satisfying and groundbreaking to watch. The rest of the cast do well too but there’s always a niggling feeling that a lot of these guys are disposable making it difficult to really empathise with anyone other than Ripley.
As mentioned before, every component here is crafted to perfection and the sound design is no exception. The musical score nails the tone and mood of the film with a perfectly balanced blend of silence and terror-inducing music to really heighten every emotion conveyed within the film. The aesthetic of the ship is certainly unique too, driving home the feeling of isolation with its hexagonal doors and black and green computer screens. Even to this day though Alien holds its own and although some of the sets do look a little dated, it doesn’t take anything away from this one.
To this day there’s never been another horror film quite like Alien. From the deliberately designed xenomorph to the way the story slowly uncovers each terrifying development before the climactic ending, Alien is quite simply a masterclass in terror and will easily go down as one of the best horror films ever made.