What is your opinion of the movie Alien?
It's my second favourite movie.
Everything about it is great. The small ensemble cast, the slow pacing, the gorgeous sets, the claustrophobic setting, the script, the acting, the directing. Everything.
The plot is incredibly simple, which is what makes it great. It's a really tight, well-structured, well-implemented movie. That's why it is so loved by so many.
It would never get greenlit now. It is too slow, to cerebral, and the creature is too hidden. Oh my god, can you imagine that? They don't give you a good view of the beast! In a horror movie! How is it supposed to be terrifying if we don't see the entire creature in broad daylight? Are we just supposed to use our imaginations or something???? End of sarcasm. Grrrr!
The lack of explanation is a wonderful thing. Where did it come from? What was the creepy alien ship and its dead pilot? What are its capabilities? These unanswered questions made it scary. What kind of idiot would destroy the horror of a horror franchise by explaining everything away (and doing it very very very badly)??
The design of the creature is perfectly nightmarish. Its look (from wonderfully creative HR Giger), its behaviour, its life cycle. And as Dan Holliday says, the way the alien uses humans in its life cycle is is perfectly Lovecraftian. It's the idea that there are terrifying, unfathomable forces out there that are completely oblivious and indifferent to us insignificant humans.
There are only two things I don't like:
While this shot absolutely terrified little teenager me when I first watched it, by today's standards it is pretty silly. Aww, wanna hug?
The single best example of a Lovecraftian-styled horror film (and likely the greatest horror film of all time). It will NEVER be surpassed. It can't be because it literally introduced the BELIEVABLE body/horror alien to the entire world. Everything after it is now a copy. This doesn't mean that there are no new directions in horror, there are. But nothing can touch it because it fused Lovecraftian style (minimal exposure) of a terrifying, unstoppable monster (part robotic, part biological) of such total inhumanity that anything that is made now will forever be compared to the Xenomorph.
In fact, everything made SINCE then has been compared to it. I remember when "The Thing" and "A Nightmare On Elm Street" came out in the 80's. Both of them leveraged Lovecraftian techniques (from the body horror in "The Thing" to the minimal exposure when Freddy's arms stretched across the dark alley, scraping the walls). I remember reviewers and people I know comparing it to "Alien" and asking if it was worse.
That's the thing. It made a route and then cauterized it, forever preventing ANYBODY from coming as close. You can't do an utterly alien monster without people saying, "Yep. Alien." You can't do a body-rape creature without someone saying, "Nope. Ridley Scott did that." You can't do ANY kind of monster or any kind of Lovecraftican horror now without being compared to Alien. The best you could do is something orthogonal (ghost stories like "Sinister" or "Insidious" or human horror like "Saw" or "The Purge"). But if you do monster or alien or body horror or anything even remotely resembling even a portion of "Alien", you will forever be behind it, with it as your measuring stick.
I happen to think Alien is quite good, my second favourite horror film after Eraserhead. The movie does a good job of characterizing everyone without really delving into their backgrounds; come to think of it, we don't really learn about the characters, even Ripley, but they certainly feel real due to the things they converse about and their reactions to the events that follow when shit inevitably hits the fan.
The setting also serves to establish horror, in that its proportions are labyrinthine (or at least it feels that way), which means that the eponymous alien could be anywhere at any given time, and it is demonstrated that no amount of space is enough to keep you safe (except maybe the vacuum of space, that is), because a large space could mean the alien blends in with the surroundings, and a small space could mean that you're trapped with no means of escape.
The design of the alien itself is also neat; it simultaneously looks humanoid, insectoid, and reptilian, but is also identifiably none of those things, and it also looks biological and mechanical in equal measure, which I find makes it even more terrifying than it already was because it can blend in easily in such settings like an abandoned factory or the cover art of an industrial metal album.
Thus far, Alien has been the only movie from which I feel a strong sense of cosmic horror, that in this movie's universe humanity is insignificant and it has to contend with deleterious and uncaring forces that will happily incorporate them into their life cycles. I can only think of one other work of art to evince such a feeling in me, and oddly enough it's not a movie, but an album, The Seer by Swans (though I strongly suspect this is because I've yet to read the works of Lovecraft).
Also, I'm really fond of Ian Holm's performance. I won't say much on that matter, assuming someone reading this answer hasn't seen it yet, but I'll just say this for now; Holm seems unnatural, yet perfectly at home on the Nostromo, and his character adds such a disturbing hitherto unforeseen dimension to the plot that both his character and the movie as a whole has gained a substantial amount of depth.
I do have some nitpicks though:
- there are some camera angles where the chestburster is obviously a puppet.
- There are some shots where an obvious Ian Holm dummy is an obvious Ian Holm dummy.
- I concur with Dale, that scene with Ripley in her underwear was gratuitous.
Otherwise, a fantastic science fiction/horror film that should not soon be forgotten.
There is an extensive interview with the writers on how they came up with the concepts, their meeting Geiger, all the way up to the release, it is very insightful.
Put simply, Alien is the horror flick that nobody saw coming. Not even the creators. There had never been a concept of gestating a larvae stage chest popper inside a human. One that would grow faster than the crew could think of a way to kill it. And they could not escape it. Leave it to Ridley Scott to roll it all up in well done directing and production.
The last time I looked, Rotten Tomatoes had it at 100%, but that was awhile ago. That alone tells you it was a special movie.
I recall my teenage brother would not turn the lights off that night. It has also has an effect on my dreams as well. My wife wakes me up from my dreams sometimes because I start screaming and moaning in fear as I run out of bullets, and the Xenomorphs are still coming at me.....
This is still my all time favorite movie. No other horror movie has ever approached scariness for me.
Still one of the absolutely best horror movies of all time. Even today when I rewatch it, parts creep the hell out of me. The scene where they're looking for the cat "Here kitty kitty" still scares me.
And, I think what makes Aliens so great is that they did NOT try to make a horror movie. They made a "Marines in Space" movie and did a kick-ass job of it. By NOT trying to do a "bigger and badder" horror movie, they succeeded in a great sequel.