As is tradition, I lent my love of horror and science fiction to Under The Gun's 31 Days Of Halloween. My piece on Alien 3 was published this week.
This year's series is dedicated to the memory of our late friend and colleague Justin "JP" Proper, who is responsible for the existence of UTG's film department.
Anyway, Alien 3 is a good one, but critically panned. I weighed in on David Fincher's directorial debut.
Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the UTG staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of features and special announcements we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.
Now in its fourth year, 31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring feature that will run throughout the month of October. The 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.
This year, the entire 31 Days series is dedicated to the memory of our friend, Justin Proper. We wouldn’t have a film department without him, and he specifically helped pioneer our involvement in the horror genre. Rest in peace, JP.
Day 5: Alien 3 (1992)
“This is rumor control. Here are the facts.”
Star Wars laid an early claim to a lived-in science fiction. A timeline with as much grime and rust as there was polish. The Alien universe took that a step further. Dark, foreboding landscapes set the stage for the entire saga, leaving little for visual indications of hope or peace. H.R. Giger’s monster lives on in Alien 3, David Fincher’s directoral début.
Leading in, a credit sequence pays homage to classic Alien title sequences and the suspense. As credits creep in, interstitial flashes of doom appear before our eyes. The survivors of LV–426 are not safe aboard the Sulaco. Not in the slightest. A breach is made in one of the stasis pods, resulting in an ejection of an EEV and crash landing on Fiorina 161, a planet affectionately referred to as “Fury” for its horrendous weather conditions and historically violent tenants. Fury is a prison planet, where the prisoners are men and Ellen Ripley is yet again the sole survivor of an alien attack.
Visually, Alien 3 makes for the most interesting yet. The use of light and shadow that makes for a suspenseful Alien movie was taken multiple steps further, set up in beautiful shots. No longer are we confined to labs and space freighter corridors. We’re treated to tunnels, scrap heaps, and slimy vaults.
The production of Alien 3 began as Fox pushed filming forward after numerous delays and without a completed script forfeiting ideas that never came to be included. One, by William Gibson, who envisioned a space station-shopping mall hybrid where Hicks played the lead while Ripley remained in a coma. Another, by John Fasano and almost-director of the film Vincent Ward, opened on a monestary-like satellite with beautiful and ornate wooden features. These and several more scripts were thrown out, leaving behind only traces of their story in the world that we see on film today.
The best of the final product is not found in its story, but in its cast. From movie legend Charles Dance to eighth Doctor Paul McGann–as well as returning favorites Lance Henriksen and Sigourney Weaver–the people inhabiting Fiorina 161 are often the most intimidating creatures on screen. The inmates maintaining the derelict refinery are cold, vile, and–despite their religion and wish for harmony–violent, angry beasts with no idea what they’re up against. Yet, we’re rooting for them. We’re not with them, per se, but in this fight, we’re certainly on the same team.
“In an insane world a sane man must appear insane.”
Golic, played by Paul McGann, is a minor character with a profound purpose. A sadistic woman-killer who is an outcast amongst his prison peers finds something in the monster that strikes his fancy. Unlike Weyland-Yutani, Golic idolizes the monster for its depravity and terror—not its use as a weapon. This is terrifying. If there is one thing a Xenomorph doesn’t need, it’s an ally.
The monster found in this installment features a distinct variation from its predecessors. For the first time, we learn that the Xenomorph inherits traits from its host. Instead of the tiny chestburster that made its début in Ridley Scott’s feature, we’re treated with a four-legged beast—erupted from the stomach of a butcher-ready cow, suspended from the ceiling. This new method of birth, known now as the “bambi-burster” makes an already dangerous creature much more terrifying. This Alien is faster and much more agile than its relatives.
Ripley carrying the new queen was a clever twist. It’s not so much a reveal as it is a slow realization, but it provides depth and an anticipation that maybe–once the beast on Fury is dead–the fight still won’t be over. Undertones of rape play out from start to finish. Maybe that’s a bit on-the-nose with all of the rapists running about the refinery, but a decent comparison to the way the Xenomorph has forced its way into Ripley’s life in so many awful ways.
In the end, the most obvious theme that courses throughout Alien 3 is the pervasive need for something to believe in. For the inmates, God is their light, their saving grace and guide. For Golic, the monster, his “dragon” is his deity. And for Ripley? Somehow she holds onto hope. Despite her lifetime of tragedy, she clings to the idea of a universe without the beast. She’ll do anything to make that happen.
For all its faults, and through all of the hassles plaguing the film’s production, Alien 3 came out alright. The story isn’t the most compelling, but it is solid. David Fincher’s debut won’t be remembered as one of his best, but it is an underrated gem of science fiction and an appreciably salvaged entry in the saga of Alien.
More of my entries from the 31 Days of Halloween series: