Although it's not the first sci-fi thriller, Ridley Scotts' "Alien" has managed to become one of the scariest, are-you-afraid-of-the-dark, thrillers. For a film before the green-screen animation kick, I was very much scared after watching it. This only proves that you don't need all the special effects to affect your audience. I'll admit that some of the electric components in the film looking cheesy but, used to seeing highly developed electronics in film, I'm sure they were high-tech in 1979.
Some of Aliens' scenes reminded me of the original "Star Wars" trilogy. The two cash-cow film series share many of the same looks and feel - the millions of unused, sometimes flickering buttons and CRT computer screens. If I was around in 1979, I would have been blown away with how manually detailed this movie is. Today, most detail is done on a computer. For someone in 1979, I image it was one of a few times they had seen so many computers at once.
The deep space setting and the ease of getting lost forever adds a creepy affect to the film. Alien defiantly makes you feel safer being on Earth. What sets this apart from other sci-fi alien movies: an example being "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" or the original "War of the Worlds," is a combination of pacing and never really showing the full creature. In many movies, I like to refer to "Signs," the horror aspect is lost because the creatures are shown too soon. In alien, we don't see a full body shot until the last 10 minutes of the movie. The other shots of the creature only show its enormous head or its drool-dripping mouth right before it kills you. The excellent pacing is successful at making you both anxious and jumpy; never knowing what will happen next and what will be around each corner. Perhaps slightly better than its sequels, Alien keeps you both intrigued and frightened, and it will teach you to stand back when a mysterious egg opens before you eyes.
Made during an era where a half-naked bimbo being chased isn't required to stimulate audiences, "Alien" stars the very masculine Sigourney Weaver as our main character, Ripley. Although the "Alien" trilogy claimed many years in her acting career, she gives a excellent performance in each movie (even though not many others do). Ripley is joined by six other crew members: Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Kane (John Hurt), Ash (Ian Holm), Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) and Parker (Yaphet Kotto). After waking from there hyper sleep, the crew find themselves horrible off course and picking up strange SOS signals from an equally strange planet. Although not a part of procedure, the crew is ordered to investigate. It is on this mysterious planet where the crew member Kane comes across an unusual, parasite-like organism which manages to attach itself to his face. Not knowing what to do, the rest of the crew puts Kane into isolation, closely monitoring him for any changes. The next morning, the organism has vanished (but not for long). Wondering where it went, the crew decides to carry-on with their everyday activities. During a dinner scene ( I recommend not eating during this) the disappearing creature reappears, this time projecting through Kane's stomach, breaking through his ribcage and ripping out of his body. Taking the form of a large worm-like "thing," the blood-covered crew, still in a state of shock, watch the baby alien disappear into the bowels of the ship. For those who are not familiar with this scene you may have seen the parody in Mel Brooks' "Spaceballs." The remainder of the film is spent finding this alien, even though some crew members have there own agendas. It's like a game of cat and mouse between the crew and this mysterious organism, the only question is who's next and where.
Even though British director Ridley Scott is known as one of the top directors, "Alien" is his first film that explores the genre of sci-fi. Having been successful in "Blade Runner" , Scott has managed to stay away from this style of movie. But not for long. His upcoming, "Alien-ish" (not all details known) film, Prometheus, should tell us whether he is still the sci-fi visionary that set the bar of sci-fi films.