- Tom Skerritt as Captain Dallas
- Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley
- Veronica Cartwright as Lambert
- Harry Dean Stanton as Brett
- Ian Holm as Ash
- Yaphett Kotto as Parker
- John Hurt as Kane
Alien is a classic hybrid of science fiction and horror that brought a lot to the table upon its release. The claustrophobic and horrifying influence of this chilling film can be felt on many a horror flick, but I don’t think anything has ever matched its shocking and frightening power. With the talented Ridley Scott at the helm and Sigourney Weaver entering cinematic history with her performance as Ripley, Alien still holds up as one of the most effective horror films I’ve ever seen.
Set in the future, the commercial spacecraft Nostromo is returning to Earth. The ship is controlled by a sophisticated system code-named Mother. The crew comprises of Captain Dallas, Warrant Officer Ripley, navigator Lambert, engineer Brett, Science Officer Ash, second engineer Parker and Executive Officer Kane. The crew of seven are in hyper sleep but Mother picks up what seems to be a distress signal coming from a nearby planet. Although many of the crew are doubtful of what to do, according to the laws of the company, they must answer the signal. Upon landing on the planet, the ship is temporarily broken and in need of repair. Dallas, Lambert and Kane set foot on the planet in an attempt to find the cause of the distress signal. What they find is a strange ship apparently abandoned, but filled with multitudes of egg like objects. Unfortunately for Kane, one of the eggs hatches and a strange creature attaches itself to his face. Fearing for him Dallas and Lambert bring him back to the ship where Ash lets them in. Ripley is infuriated by this as it could jeopardize their safety or bring harm to any of them. After a while the creature seems to vanish and Kane appears to be fine. But during breakfast after the ship has been fixed and is in orbit, the real horror of the situation arrives. Kane convulses violently before dying as the creature emerges from his chest and flees into the bowels of the ship. With the beast on the loose and safety in danger, the crew attempt to kill it. But as bodies hit the floor and the alien grows rapidly into a terrifying creature, it all comes down to Ripley to survive the carnage and kill the alien.
The first thing to praise about Alien is the direction. Ridley Scott balances the interesting characters and the encroaching carnage with certainty and skill. The pace of Alien is magnificent as suspense builds and builds before erupting into terror and horror. The visual design of the Nostromo is second to none as well as the Alien itself, a horrifying creature that bleeds acid, has a double jaw that can pierce skulls and the ability to blend into its surroundings. A tense atmosphere of ghoulish uncertainty gives Alien a slow-building but effective backbone that brings many fears to light in disturbing fashion. We have the fear of bodily intrusion as the Alien lives inside a host before hatching, the fear of the unknown thing stalking the members of the crew and we have the fear of entrapment as the layers of the spaceship become a prison for the crew as they do battle with the creature. Jerry Goldsmith’s ambient score is a terrific asset in Alien’s already impressive arsenal, bringing that humming menace and gradually building terror to the forefront as the alien turns the ship into its personal hunting ground.
The effective cast brings a refreshingly adult sensibility to the film and it’s really refreshing to see grown ups instead of screaming teenagers running around. Tom Skerritt brings weariness to Captain Dallas, as he realizes that bringing Kane back onto the ship was a bad idea. The real revelation of Alien is Sigourney Weaver as the tough Ripley. Weaver brings inner vulnerability, grave authority and determined strength to the character as she gets in touch with the warrior inside in order to eliminate the threat posed to her. Ripley would go on to become an iconic character in the science fiction genre and rightfully so because of Weaver’s talent and power in the part. Veronica Cartwright is suitably wide-eyed and scared out of her wits as Lambert, while Harry Dean Stanton is sarcastic as Brett, a blue-collar worker complaining about company procedure. Ian Holm brings a quiet sort of uneasiness to Ash, who is concealing many secrets beneath his humane demeanor. Yaphett Kotto is great as Parker, Brett’s sparring partner and fellow mechanic, while John Hurt brings something devastating to the part of the tragic Kane and enters cinematic history as a result.
Haunting and horrifying, Alien is one of the best science fiction/ horror films out there and its impact can not be underestimated.