In space no one can hear you scream.
“The biggest problem, of course, was: What’s the alien going to look like? I mean, you could screw around… trying to come up with something that wasn’t all nobs and bobs… When I went into Fox for the first meeting, they had a book there by H.R. Giger: The Necronomicon. I took one look at it, and I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life” – Sir Ridley Scott.
With Halloween just weeks away, it would be cool at this point to just break away from the usual SF themes explored in this Blog, and delve into something darker and more sinister. The cold and cruel depths of outer space seems like an all-too-obvious choice in which to set horror movies. A quick glance over the last 35 years since Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi shocker: Alien reveals that the challenge was met with some gruesome, sleazy and downright odd specimens!
It doesn’t matter that E.T. (1982) – with its endearing portrayal of a harmless but lost, dopey-looking alien – overtook Star Wars to become the Highest Grossing Movie Of All Time. No, audiences clamoured for beasties with a bit more bite, preferably with acid for blood…
A whole spate of low-budget video nasties offered a range of horrendous xenos (of the cheap and nasty kind!) and delivered a standard mix of gore, dimly-lit scenes and a copious supply of invariably loud and incredibly dumb humans whose chances of survival were just as miniscule as their “acting” abilities.
Let’s rummage through the bargain bin of bug-eyed beasties and see what this SF/Horror hybrid really looks like! So, anyone fancy a bug hunt?
“Giger seems to be painting aliens, but the closer you look, the more you realise he’s painting twisted versions of us” – Clive Barker.
The term: “xenomorph” was first used in connection with the weird cyclopean entities of It Came From Outer Space (1953). With their spacecraft having crashlanded in the Arizona desert, these aliens could take on human form, but in the rare glimpses of their natural forms, they were truly terrifying.
Possibly the grandaddy of sci fi-horror beasties would have to be It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958). Having gone to the trouble of creating a genuinely scary-looking “Terror,” the creature still hid in the shadows for maximum shock effect (not to mention to make the most of a miniscule budget!) It! holds a special place in this Post, being widely regarded as the primary influence behind Ridley Scott’s vision.
Alien (1979) is justifiably considered to be the pinnacle of SF/Horror; not only does it capture the claustrophobia and debilitating loneliness on a space freighter in an unknown sector of the galaxy, but it also can be treated best as a traditional haunted house story set in deep space. The biomechanoid design of the xenomorph by the late great H.R. Giger has stood the test of time as one of cinema’s greatest creations. The Swiss surrealist artist derived his unique style from his own nightmares; how fitting then that he has gone on to disrupt the sleep of many others!
And ya know what? Harrison “I’m Han Solo/Indiana Jones, get over it” Ford turned down the opp to play Captain Dallas(!), while Peter “walking carpet” Mayhew lost the chance to don that infamous xenomorph suit.
“I find that hard to believe,” said Ripley incredulously.
“You still don’t understand what you’re dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. It’s structural perfection is matched only by its hostility” – Ash.
During the mid-80s, there were hordes of downright despicable carnivorous aliens on bloodthirsty rampages in SF movies, at a time when slasher flicks were dominating the shelves labelled: “Horror” in every video rental shop. Despite this serious lack of variety, this blogger nevertheless confesses to have rented out (almost thirty years ago, of course) some of these cheap and (below) average Alien clones on too many weekends to mention. Among them, the likes of Star Crystal and Titan Find would get
screwed up played in my long-suffering VCR.
Actually, these rip-offs were just as ridiculous as they were unlimited. To illustrate this extreme situation, take for example: Galaxy of Terror (1981) (aka Planet of Horrors) produced by Roger Corman, and then Forbidden World (1982) (aka Mutant) produced by (yes!) Roger Corman – very confusing, especially considering how their equally shoddy production values made them virtually undistinguishable!
Interestingly enough, considering the tacky nature of the special effects, more or less the same team responsible for Titan Find (1985) would reunite shortly after for another marauding monster vs. hapless humans thrill-fest. Only this time the effects were supervised by an FX Master: Stan Winston, and a certain James Cameron was onboard to direct the Mother of all Bug Hunts: Aliens (1986).
It’s ironic to think that the only true rival to Alien came in the form of its own sequel! (There is too much to say about this veritable Classic, so will deliver a Post devoted to this some day soon).
Has it really come to this conclusion? That in order to make a really enjoyable SF/Horror monster movie you had to have either Scott or Cameron’s direction?! Or Giger’s superior design?! Admittedly, back in the day, there was a certain charm… then, but now that brand of garish and outrageous action/horror cannot exist outside the 80s, and the enthusiasm once readily mustered for them can never be replicated…
Well, it’s getting late, and it’s a heckuva long way back to Earth, so…
Back to the old freezerinos.