copyright © Jedo Dre 2011

There is so much great about Alien that it is hard to know where to start. Let us start with the title screen. Against the background of outer space the word Alien is very slowly formed, setting right from the start the tense pacing of the film.

The film is about a crew of a spaceship dealing with a hostile alien encounter. The movie is actually built on a relatively cliché horror movie formula. However, it does that formula very well and layers some really interesting material on top of it, which makes this movie unique. For example like many other horror movies, it resorts to a lot of jump scares, which may be a cheap tactic, but the jump scares are done well. The movie also follows the formula of separating a group of people and killing them one by one, but the way this plays out and the reasons for the separations feel fairly sensible.

Not everything in the storyline makes sense and it is not a perfectly smooth ride, but the blemishes are very insignificant.

Furthermore, Alien is one of the most original looking films and its looks hold up well even today. The mock up models of the main space ship unfortunately look like plastic. The inside of the ship on the other hand looks awesome. The light off-white design of living quarters mixed with dark industrial corridors looks very nice. The old CRT computer screens and the mechanical keyboards do look outdated but, not only do they fit well with the overall design, the austere small screens with their static and few colors also add to the overall creepiness and claustrophobic mechanic feel of the environment.

The alien designs were done by the wonderfully insane H. R. Giger. His designs are very unique and nightmarish but at the same time believable and natural looking. When you see an alien move inside an egg it looks very real. The alien mechanics and designs are sexualized. One of the writers for the movie claimed that the story symbolizes rape. I do not know just how consciously the male writers were integrating that subject matter into the film, but if you look at the design and at H.R. Geiger's work on which the alien design was based, there are very clearly human sexual organs involved.

Sadly, the technological limitations mean that while the design of the creatures is cool, when those creatures move, it looks bad and in some cases unintentionally funny.

And the sound design, oh the sound design is responsible for about 40% of the creepiness factor of this film. Chilly space-music with little to no rhythm is mixed with various sound effects that are not always caused by anything specific on screen but that nonetheless integrate themselves into the visuals very nicely.

All the Little bits contribute to this movie's unforgettable atmosphere. There is a brief scene where the characters just quickly go over the composition of the alien planet before they go outside. Was the scene really necessary? No, but is a great way to establish atmosphere. The distorted shaky images of the helmet cams, the cramped conditions and the creepy sound effects combine to make a most intense film.

The actor performances feel very real. It is believable right from the start that the crew members are people who have been working together before. In fact, I read that the director actually made the actors spend time together so that when filming started they would be well acquainted. However, a minor complaint is appropriate about the lack of shock or surprise in the crew members when some of the messed up events take place.

Sigourney Weaver plays the part of the intelligent strong woman officer who tries to stay calm and stay in control of the situation. She was an important ingredient in this film. She made it into every subsequent Alien movie and for a good reason. My favorite actor besides Sigourney is Yaphet Kotto as one of the mechanics. He feels the most natural, like an actual worker of the ship.

This film is not perfection. Not all of the scenes may be strictly necessary and not everything looks timeless and not all dialogue has a purpose and the performances are not Oscar worthy, but taken as a whole, Alien is such an interesting and effective film that it can be rightfully called one of the best movies of all time.