Next in my blu-ray collection is the ALIEN Anthology. However, I’m only going to review ALIEN, because I’m reviewing horror, and the first one plays like a horror film, whereas the other installments felt more action and science fiction. It’s a strange line I’m dancing on, and I can’t even really define it yet. I, however, feel that the films reviewed so far are good representation of the horror genre.
Besides the content of the film, the Anthology also comes with Director’s cuts, or ‘special editions’ of each ALIEN movie, as well as the theatrical cuts of each film. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a huge, very extensive making-of collection for each individual film. In that, you will learn everything you never knew about the films, these special making-of featurettes take you from script to theatrical release. All four of them are fascinating to watch. So there’s a lot of technical stuff and such I won’t be talking about because it’s covered in those making-of featurettes, and I want to push you ever so gently in the direction of watching them. Another nice thing is there’s a viewing option in the Director’s cuts or ‘special editions’ that a logo of some sort will pop up in the corner of the screen to let you know what is new footage not available in the theatrical version. So which ALIEN am I reviewing? The original or the Director’s cut? I’ll be honest, since I had this collection originally on DVD all I’ve watched is the Director’s cut. That goes the same for when I bought the entire set on blu-ray. So I can’t very well remember the original and what’s been added or not. So I guess this review is somewhat in between the two cuts of the film.
I consider ALIEN to be sacred, the best of the alien/horror genre out there (and its sequel is the best sci-fi-action film I’ve ever seen). It’s the film that every alien/horror film has strived to be since. ALIEN was one of the first, if not the first, mainstream horror film to give the audience a kick-ass female protagonist in Ripley (even though the Ripley role, and all the roles, were considered uni-sex as they could be played by a man or a woman). And she’ll have plenty of time to show us in the next three sequels (not including the fifth installment being batted about Hollywood right now which will pretend like the last two installments to the series never happened and will, therefore, be a straight up sequel to ALIENS).
Few things scare me, many things disturb me, but few things out-and-out scare the pants off of me. When it happens it is usually due to a cheap, loud-noised, jumpscare. This movie, however, really got under my skin. Unfortunately, anything I say here is due to a tainted experience. I saw the film at a very young age and a lot of the imagery stayed with me, but most of everything else, the dialogue, the plot, etc. was over my head at the time, but the scares I remember.
Few things equal the relentless terror and unexpected pants-peeing that can be found in the chestbursting scene. Nothing prepares you for it in the entire film up to that point. It just suddenly happens. One of my favorite movie moments, actually, is the chestburster scene. I just wish I could either remember what the experience was like as a child, or not seen it until I was a teenager (don’t remember much about my childhood, but I remember a large portion of my teenage years) so that I could have a truly honest reaction to that scene. So graphic and shocking.
The biggest difference between the two versions of the film is that the Director’s Cut brings back a scene from the cutting room floor. The scene where Ripley finds all of her crewmates stuck to the wall in a large room and burns them all after Dallas begs for death. I’m not sure on the origin of this, but I do remember, being much younger than I am now and seeing that scene. It could have been added in for a television version of the film, or maybe it was some special show about ALIEN, I don’t know. All I know is that before the Director’s Cut, I’d seen that scene. Here’s why it’s important.
In the sequel, ALIENS, we learn that the reason they cacoon the humans instead of killing them (mostly) is so that they can be facehuggered and pop out another Xenomorph, growing their numbers, so they can be unstoppable. But to get a facehugger, first you need an egg, and before you can get an egg, you need to have a queen to birth that egg. Well, in ALIEN, there is no queen alien, just the one. Additionally, there are no other eggs on board the ship. We have a couple of possibilities on this one.
Possibility #1: Ridley Scott shot that, as it was part of the script, but realizing it didn’t do anything to move the story forward (in fact, this scene during the big Ripley-Xenomorph hide and seek game, really brings the intensity and pace down). He cut it out.
Possibility #2: For run-time purposes, this could have been edited out because it is a bit of a stand-alone scene that can be erased and have no effect on the film as a whole.
Posibility #3: The idea wasn’t to impregnate them with other Xenomorphs, just the idea that the Xenomorph doesn’t kill you at first. It’s only after a slow, painful, process that you actually die.
Possibility #4: Somehow they knew that a Queen would be in ALIENS, and they didn’t want to give anything away. This is the one that makes the least sense.
I’d like to believe it’s #1, seeing how Ridley Scott has said several times that the theatrical cut of ALIEN was everything he wanted, making it actually a Director’s Cut. However, in the search for more money, they added stuff that was earlier deleted, slapped the word ‘Director’s Cut’ on it, and make a few extra bucks off of people that will own both (suckers like me). Ridley Scott even says in the video introduction to the Director’s Cut that the theatrical cut is, he considers, his Director’s Cut.
However, don’t let me reviewing just the first in the series keep you from watching the other ones. As I said earlier, ALIENS is the best sci-fi/horror movie out there. ALIEN3, gets blamed a lot for killing the franchise (seeing how it ends, though, I’m thinking that was gonna happen one way, or another). But the Special Edition of ALIEN3 is actually pretty good as the additional scenes explain some character motivation, and just generally make it feel like a better movie. ALIEN RESSURECTION is just plain awful in the Special Edition, as it was in the theatrical cut.
I should also mention how much I love the score to ALIEN, it’s minimal, really minimal. Yet, something about the notes it hits, or the musical instrument used to hit those notes (probably a synth something-something), I find excellent every time I watch ALIEN.
So pop this one in your blu-ray player, turn out the lights, turn up the volume, and enjoy ALIEN.