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Horror Education of the Week: ‘Alien’

Alien. The amazing 1979 film directed by Ridley Scott and written by Dan O’Bannon.

A simple yet brilliant story.

An extraterrestrial creature makes its way onto a spaceship, the Nostromo, via incubating inside one of the crew members, Kane. After bursting through Kane’s chest, the alien rapidly evolves and ultimately stalks and kills the crew one by one. In the end, the strongest character, Ripley – a woman – is left standing.

Alien is yet another masterpiece worthy of micro-dissection for its themes and concepts. Like last week’s article, there is no way to give justice to this film while keeping it at a decent length. However, here are a few quick notes on the strongest theme within Alien

– When the original story for Alien was written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, the two put off developing characters – writing all of them as generic males.

– When the script went to casting, a note was placed on it stating – “The crew is unisex and all parts are interchangeable for men or women.”

– Sigourney Weaver was ultimately cast as the lead character, Ripley.

Alien has the same horror film draft idea of a killer killing its victims one by one and leaving a lone female for the end.

– Making Ripley a strong character from the start is what pushed Alien to the next level. There was no gaining the courage through multiple defeats.

– Ripley is independent and tough. She is the first to protest bringing Kane back on board after the facehugger has attached itself. Ash is the one to override her authority and open the hatch.

– The sexual imagery of Kane being attacked has been said to be comparable to male rape with the chestburster scene like a violent birth.

– The idea that the sophisticated computer is called ‘Mother’ is also interesting. Ripley must turn to her for advice on what exactly is happening on the Nostromo.

– When Ripley discovers the plot to collect the alien specimen – and that all lives are expendable – she is attacked by the android Ash.

– Ash is an extension of Mother – and when Ripley finally conquers him after their struggle, it can be interpreted as a separation from the maternal. Without her breaking away, she cannot in a sense ‘grow up’ – and become the hero she is meant to be.

– After Ripley escapes the self destructing Nostromo, the same concept for the last scare of a horror film comes into play.

– In contrast to the vulnerable damsel-in-distress taking a shower, when Ripley disrobes and the alien reveals itself to be onboard the shuttle – Ripley is not crippled by her nakedness.

– In fact, Ripley is empowered by being barely clothed – as she is able to crawl into a space suit and blast her nemesis into the abyss.

– This strong female concept is also what took this cleverly crafted story and gave it even further depth.

– This concept changes slightly in the sequel, Aliens, which we will look at next week…




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