Director: Ridley Scott
Screenplay: Dan O'Bannon
Starring: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto
Original UK Release: 1979
Alien fills one with as much wonder as it does pure, unadulterated cosmic terror.
It’s only his second feature, but Ridley Scott’s direction is that of a seasoned professional. Dan O’Bannon’s screenplay is carefully structured to evolve from slow burn science fiction into a gothic horror movie in space, with a tight state of tense and controlled editing.
Derek Vanlint’s photography is pitch black and soaked with atmosphere, the compositions are stunningly captured with a depth of focus and attention to artifice, from the vast expanse of the exterior shots to the winding internal mechanisms and facets of the Nostromo ship.
There’s a lot to be taken from the film, and what Alien can be read to represent is the inherent nightmare of man's fear of birth, the invasion of the body through means of literal rape and sexual infection. H. R. Giger’s design work and Les Diley’s art direction elevate this concept further through the garish, organic visual structure to the crash alien spacecraft.
Its frightfully seductive layers depict the corridors as birth canals and gaping organ openings, draped in a darkness absent of life, compared to the light and industrially padded Nostromo which is slowly stripped of life as the crew are picked off. Its purity and sterility made unclean by the infection of the alien. Jerry Goldsmith’s score presides over everything with a haunting grace and Holst-like beauty, forever lost in the abyss.
Sigourney Weaver eventually steals the film as the final girl gone rogue, fighting against the monstrous enemy that is stalking her. Its eclectic cast Skerritt, Stanton, Hurt, Holm, Cartwright and Kotto vary in age and origin but never in their utter commitment to their stock roles made appealing through the will of their devoted and petrified performances.
It’s a masterful, perfectly constructed beast of genre cinema.