Last weekend at SXSW 2017, Ridley Scott teased the audience with three extended new sequences from Alien: Covenant. The legendary director got cheers when he told the room that his mantra "has always been to scare the living shit out of you" — and if the reaction from the hyper-freaked out critics in the room is any indicator at all, it sounds like we're in for a pretty wild ride with what could very well be the most terrifying sci-fi/horror movie of all time. Mission accomplished, Ridley.
Before we get to what the critics had to say about those key sequences (one of which completely changed the game for the entire franchise), take a look at the new international trailer for #AlienCovenant, which features a fair chunk of new footage.
If that trailer has its moments of horror, it's only the tip of the icemorph — here's a (relatively spoiler-free) round-up of how the critics responded to the three extended scenes from the first half of the movie aired at #SXSW.
The Verge: "A Hard 'R' Which Makes 'Alien' Look Like A Disney Channel Movie"
In a review which somehow amped up my excitement for Covenant even further than the brilliant trailers and that ominous 'Last Supper' prologue, The Verge heap praise on the all-out assault of gore which the alien unleashes on the crew:
"The tone of 'Covenant' is full-on, breakneck horror, taking what the original film did and amping it up by a factor of 10 ... In the second sequence, Scott takes the gloves off [when] two infected members [of the crew] have alien creatures burst from their bodies in horrific, grisly ways that make the original Alien chestbuster scene look like a Disney Channel movie.
I’m not being hyperbolic there; audience members moaned out loud during the screening. 'Covenant' is going to be an 'R.' A hard 'R.' A hard 'R' that will probably have a director’s cut Blu-ray that will be filled with so much extra blood and grisly gore that you’ll probably wish you could unsee it."
Variety: "Fountains Of Blood Had Fans Screaming In The Theater"
While Prometheus was only a mild box office success, Variety predicts that the universally strong reaction to the scenes previewed at SXSW sets up Covenant as a true return to form, both artistically and at the box office:
"Judging from the Austin crowd, 'Covenant' is now poised to be one of the biggest hits of the summer. The reaction among the fanboys (and girls) was uniformly enthusiastic, with screams and hoots erupting in the theater.
After 'Prometheus', Scott has returned to form. Set on a deserted planet, a space crew is under attack by alien forces. These creatures reveal themselves by erupting from the mouths of their host bodies in fountains of blood — a terrifying sequence that brings to mind the original 'Alien' meets 'Jurassic Park.'"
Bloody Disgusting: "Incredibly Tense And Gory, 'Covenant' Could Be Something Really Special"
Bloody Disgusting breaks down how the black spores we see being trodden on in the Covenant trailer result in the birth of the "neomorphs," although they have a minor quibble about the CGI work on the aliens themselves:
"If you were afraid that the film wouldn’t be scary, let me put those fears to rest. [The new] neomorphs are the result of the local ecosystem being mutated by the accelerant/black goo. Over time, pods started to grow on the trees and the ground, and release a spore when disturbed. These spores infect several members of the Covenant crew by entering the body through the ear and nostrils. The spores cause the growth of the Neomorphs inside the infected hosts.
Some spotty CGI aside, [the attack sequence] was an incredibly tense and gory scene that elicited some great reactions from the audience. If the film can keep this type of intensity up for the duration of its runtime then I think we really could be in for something special."
The apparent focus on the horror elements brings the Alien series back to its roots, and feels like an admission of sorts that Prometheus became too lost in its confused philosophical musings to actually deliver the kind of scares the audience has come to expect (not that the birthing scene wasn't utterly horrific).
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Paired with the confirmation that Daniels (Katherine Waterston) is not Ripley's mother (not everyone in space is related — this ain't Star Wars, yo), it feels undeniably as if Scott has completely refocused. It's a great omen that those three Covenant sequels he had promised/threatened have a genuine reason to exist and could further expand the fascinating (but heavily enigma-shrouded) lore of the Alien universe.
As ever, though, don't get too attached to the crew of the Covenant — if Alien has taught us anything over the years, it's that only Ellen Ripley is invincible.
Alien: Covenant hits theaters May 19.
Does Covenant have a shot at matching the pure, unbridled horror of Alien?