31 Days of Halloween: Alien

This was my first entry in the 31 Days of Halloween canon. Because I didn't write anything for the series in 2012, I contributed a second piece on You're Next as well.

Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is more loved by the UTG staff than Halloween. With the arrival of October, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a plethora of features and special announcements we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day, including the one you’re about to read.

31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring daily feature that will run throughout the month of October. The hope and goal of this column is to supply every UTG reader with a daily horror (or Halloween themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you’ll follow along at home. If you have a suggestion, contact us and we may include your favorite scarefest in an upcoming column!

Day 6: Alien (1979)

The year is 1979. One of science fiction’s greatest directors has just released the most notable space horror of all time. Alien has bursted its way onto the silver screen with full force.

From the start, Alien wraps you in an eerily silent sense of suspense. Slow camera movements and a muted soundtrack guide you through the halls of the space vessel Nostromo. As the crew awakes to find an off-course recon mission on their itinerary, suspense grows, ever-mounting, until the infallible John Hurt (Kane) is brought back to the ship with a parasite in tow. It’s attached to his face.

The face is the most vulnerable part of a human being’s identity. Facial expressions convey emotion and meaning far more than body movement or speech ever could. Masking this with a crab-like space creature of unknown origin is quite possibly the most frightening and emotionally predatory concept ever conceived in horror history. If the Facehugger isn’t the poster boy for practical effect monsters, perhaps it shares the role with its offspring, the Chestburster.

This creature’s début is one of legend. During the first moment of joy since the crew awakened from Cryosleep, the Xenomorph chooses to rear its ferocious little head, tearing through the abdominal skin of the Facehugger’s once-host. In the making of the film, it’s revealed that the majority of the cast was not informed of what was to happen in this scene. This allowed the actors’ true reactions to be captured on film. The screams Lambert issued were quite genuine.

The practical effects used to bring H.R. Giger’s creature designs to life were inventive and extraordinarily convincing. The Facehugger in its egg was imitated by a chicken breast and its underbelly/insides were made up of oysters. The Chestburster used a complex RC puppet, that while a bit corny by today’s standards, proved effective for its time. The head of the adult Xenomorph was also a system of remote controlled parts, ingeniously assembled into a terrifying array of teeth, glistening gums, and a lightning-fast second set of jaws.

chestburster gif alien

What remained of the 117 minute film consisted of a chase throughout the Nostromo. First tracking the beast the killed their comrade(s), then fleeing from it to escape the same fate. The rate at which the creature grew was staggering and intimidating. Its ability to stalk and prey on the crew in unfamiliar territory made it a dangerous and unexpected foe. Tight spaces, darkened halls, and blaring alarms quickens the heart rate as each of the crew are hunted down, one by one. The bodiless MU-TH-UR counts down a self-destruction protocol that cannot be reversed. Jones the cat provides some feline empathy to keep the viewer compassionate and caring while a fully-grown Xenomorph is on the loose, eager to kill.

Alien set the precedent not only for space horror, but creature-based horror as well. H.R. Giger’s monsters inspired multiple films, spin-off adaptations, and effects designers for years to come. The ripple effect has yet to fade and neither has director Ridley Scott. His contribution changed my life and love of film as well as countless others.

More of my entries from the 31 Days of Halloween series: