While it is often said that the second film is the best it is fair to say that the original film in the Alien series is the scariest and most atmospheric. Ridley Scott created a true landmark in cinema with a film which expertly blends dark science fiction with the lingering dread prevalent in the horror genre.
The story follows the crew of the Nostromo who land on a mysterious planet and find a derelict ship full of alien eggs. What follows is a string of horrific events which lead up to a tense and terrifying climax. The most interesting thing about the story is the way it is structured. When looked at closely the plot is much like that of a slasher film albeit with a greater focus on story and character. It follows the done to death formula of having the characters picked off one by one until finally the protagonist goes up against the villain and kills him. Unlike a typical Friday the 13th film, however, this is an engaging story with a few surprising twists up its sleeve.
Considering what was available at the time it is impressive just how good the visuals are. Special mention goes towards the Alien which was not CGI. But a guy in a suit which is far more eye catching than the computer generated rubbish that appear in some of the later films. The alien Facehugger is on the same level as the Alien suit. Again this is more impressive than later films because here it is an animatronic which is by nature more convincing than anything computers can conjure up. It is interesting to note that the Nostromo’s design has a closed in and claustrophobic atmosphere which accentuates the tension of some scenes. The alien eggs are another thing that looks far better here than they did in later sequels.
The crew of the Nostromo are far more relatable than those of your average horror or science fiction film. Unlike in a slasher film you can feel sympathy for the victims that fall prey to the killer. The protagonist Ellen Ripley is played to perfection by Sigourney Weaver who shows that good science fiction films don’t have to have a male lead. Right from the start it is clear that she is probably the best character in the series. Ian Holm was well cast as Ash the ship’s science officer. His calm and mysterious nature leads up to a grim revelation which makes him one of the film’s most interesting characters. Congratulations go to Veronica Cartwright who won an award for her role as the emotionally weak and slightly irritating Lambert. Despite having fairly limited screen time I think it is quite clear that John Hurt is one of the best actors of the entire cast.
Alien is an entertaining and terrifying experience. With its grand sets, remarkable Alien and relatable characters it is a hands down must see for fans of the science fiction and horror genre. No matter how good or bad the others are this will always remain the scariest and most chilling of the Alien films and Ridley Scott will always be the best director.