The horror genre has become cliché. It’s just the same fucking movie over and over again. Sometimes you get an original flick, like 28 Days Later, with its mid-movie twist of like-I’m-gonna-tell-you. But for the most part, it’s pretty much the same movie, remade fifty time. That was the whole premise of Scream, the film that quantified the genre rules by outright stating them.
The fact is, if someone manages to define genre rules, it’s officially cliché. This is especially bad when it comes to horror, which, for the most part, relies on the unexpected.
Even the monsters have become cliché. No matter what film you’re talking about, there are only a few options for antagonists: Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies. No one’s come up with anything more unique. Okay, there are also serial killers, but that’s not from anyone’s imagination, those already exist. The most unique thing anyone’s done with serial killers is give them super-murder-powers, but they’re still just serial killers.
The unoriginality of horror films doesn’t really surprise me though. I recently tried a bit of a thought experiment to come up with a new horror monster by starting with a base fear. Obviously it would be something that wants you dead, for some reason. Biologically those reasons could only be for reproduction or nutrition. Otherwise why would they give a fuck? They would be fast, and stealthy and basically the perfect warrior, and typically attack in massive numbers. To a certain extent, this fits zombies to a tee. Zombies are based on a basic primal fear, one that is likely universal in the truest sense of the word.
But perhaps one could take the zombie model and throw it in a new direction, like space. Unfortunately, that has also been done, by Ridley Scott in Alien.
The Alien franchise spans a total of four movies, not counting the crossovers with the Predator series, and the comics and novels I don’t care about.
The first Alien film was a straight up horror film and feels like a cross between a zombie film, and a slasher film. One lone antagonist slowly picking off our heroes one by one, whose origins basically stem from a human. This creature was born from one of the characters, who doubles as his first victim. The alien also adopts some characteristics from its host. For instance, its bipedal, and very intelligent. These are characteristics that can change depending on who birthed it, as revealed in Alien3. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The first thing worth mentioning about Alien is the design of the creature itself. We can thank H. R. Giger for this work. This is the film that made Giger famous. At least I think it did. If he made anything before then, I’ve never heard of it. But Giger really is a unique artist, and the image he gives to the aliens looks extremely and appropriately alien. It’s not often you see a creature design that unique. More often than not, aliens look either human, nearly human, or like some type of earth animal crossed with a human. But the alien in Alien looks uniquely alien…wow that is a weird sentence. Anyway, I can’t think of anything on earth that looks quite like it. Maybe some type of insect, like a beetle, but just barely. Also, it’s completely terrifying.
That is some scary-ass shit right there. Then again, that might just be because I see it in context. Who knows, maybe the aliens are like the Daleks; if you knew nothing about them, and just saw an image of them with no explanation, you’d think they’re cute and cuddly. After all, look at that head! It doesn’t look scary, it looks like a giant cock. Which makes sense because the alien design was based on one of Giger’s earlier works called Necronom IV, which appears to be the image of a man whose head was turned into a cock and who’s cock grew so large it wrapped around and touched the back of his head, all while being transformed into some type of machine…it’s actually a pretty fucked-up image, and no, I’m not going to post it here, look it up yourself. So actually, I think the alien is objectively scary. Giger was the perfect choice to design something to scare the fuck out of you, or at the very least, confuse the shit out of you.
Actually looking at more of Giger’s work I keep thinking the same thing over and over again: What the fuck am I looking at!? Seriously, take a look at this gallery of Giger’s work. Half the time, I can’t tell if what I’m looking at is supposed to be human, or is supposed to be anything. It’s just weird. Is it supposed to be a commentary on the human condition? Some sort of political satire? Or is it just supposed to fuck with my head?
Well, I guess that answers that question.
The one thing that annoyed me about the first Alien movie was the character of Lambert. You might remember her as the annoying one who cries constantly throughout the entire fucking movie. I get the feeling the crew of a deep-space hauler don’t get much training for these sorts of situations. Which makes very little sense considering this kind of shit, encountering aliens on the frontier of space, should be expected, even if it’s just as a footnote on the last day of training. Okay, one might not expect them to slaughter your fellow crew members, but that’s beside the point. She’s still an annoying bitch. You’d think they’d be made of stronger stuff. I have no doubt modern sailors could handle that kind of shit without whining, and freezing up when their crew-mate says to fucking move, and their training certainly doesn’t account for leaving the planet and encountering aliens.
Of course, the idea with this character was for her to mirror the audience. Which seems a bit redundant, and a bit insulting, but also, a bit accurate, since the movie is scary as hell.
For the second Alien film, creatively and confusingly titled, Aliens, director James Cameron abandoned the horror motif in favour of a bombastic action-adventure. Ripley, the sole survivor of the first film, joins a team of space marines to the planet visited in the first film, which has since been colonized, and recently taken over by the alien menace. The marines are led by a Lieutenant who’s fresh out of officer training. Which tells me the brass didn’t really give two shits about this mission.
My favourite character is definitely Vasquez. She’s the only badass on the team, and she’s also very funny. She does a good job of subverting the whole damsel-in-distress trope that all women in film were a victim of back in the day. Ripley also subverts this trope, but in a slightly different way.
The most annoying character: Hudson. He starts off as a snarky, sarcastic cunt, then when shit hits the fan he turns into a whiny bitch. He’s whinier than Lambert! Fucking marines, don’t they have higher standards than that?
Anyway, the whole film is about them trying to get off the damn planet once they realize there’s no one to save, because almost all of the colonists have birthed aliens. Which is a problem because there were a little over 150 colonists, which means there are a little over 150 aliens. Hence the title.
It’s a real survivalist story, and ends with Ripley trying to save the colony’s sole survivor, a little girl named Newt…that’s a nickname by the way. She goes through quite the effort here, and that really bugs me because of how the next movie, Alien3 opens.
You see, only four people survived the initial evacuation of the colony. Ripley; Newt; one of the marines, and professional blank-slate, Hicks; and Bishop, the robot. But during the trip home, their giant warship had some sort of fire or something, and jettisoned the cryo-tubes holding the survivors. Then at some point, some shit broke, or several shits broke, damaging everyone’s pod, except Ripley’s. So, yeah, Newt’s dead. That’s some fucking bullshit. I don’t care what anyone says. It basically means the entire finale of the second film was completely pointless.
You know, quickly reading a bit about Alien3, I notice that the original proposals didn’t include Ripley at all, and centred around the wallpaper from Aliens. Honestly, since I first saw these films, I forgot all about Hicks. Vasquez and Hudson, you remember; Gordon and Apone, their leaders, you remember. Hicks is about as memorable as a piece of paper, and yet he’s the sole survivor. I just have to get this off my chest: That’s stupid. The sole survivor should be someone with more personality than a sheet of drywall.
Anyway, the original proposals were a lot more interesting than the final product. Some big conspiracy bullshit and an epic space war tying it all together, with the ending leading directly into Alien4. There was even one idea about it taking place on a space station that’s basically a city ship for a rustic small town; and ideas of viruses turning people into aliens directly, making the zombie comparison more apt, and introducing alien cows and mosquitoes. Try to imagine what that looks like.
All great ideas, but what Alien3 ended up being was nowhere near that awesome.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked Alien3, I thought it was great. But reading what it could have been, makes me disappointed in what we got.
The film seems to try to call back to the first film, being about a small number of people ill-prepared to deal with an alien picking them off. The film takes place on a penal colony housed by a religious cult, full of rapists and murderers.
The alien this time was birthed from a dog, which means it operates a bit differently, being a quadruped and apparently faster and more aggressive.
The prison colony has no weapons on hand, so they have to be a bit more clever in how they kill it. In the first film, they had a few weapons, most notably flame-throwers. So the stakes have been upped. Also, it’s revealed Ripley is now host to an alien. Apparently it happened when she in stasis. Which confuses me because there was no facehugger in the chamber with her, and I would have thought if it was breached in any way, it would either kill her or wake her up. How do these chambers work anyway?
Aw, fuck it! The alien in Ripley is actually a queen, which means it can birth thousands of little facehuggers. Hold on! Perhaps I’m an idiot, but are we sure this makes sense? In any other insect hive, specifically those on earth, is the queen genetically unique? I just thought it was like any other insect, just specially chosen for breeding. I guess the aliens really are different.
So Ripley now wants to die, but the leader of the prisoners says, “Not until we kill this alien.”
So they kill the alien, and Ripley takes a dive into some molten steel. Meaning she dies with the last of the aliens and the series is over.
Or at least that would be true in a perfect world. But as everyone probably already knows, this is not a perfect world. Of course there was a fourth Alien movie. One that was unnecessary, unappealing, and straight up bad…and is probably more appropriate to talk about some other time.