Alien (1979) – Cheap Thrills & Stupid Deaths Ruin Ridley Scott’s Would-be Masterpiece…
Most critics regard Ridley Scott’s Alien as a masterpiece, and in terms of creature design, atmosphere, performances, cinematography and direction, it’s hard to disagree.
The problem is, the deaths of Nostromo‘s crew are rubbish, bog standard slasher movie stuff. The original Scream got a lot of mileage out of Halloween and it’s contemporaries, and Alien‘s characters make some of the worst stalk n’ slash mistakes this side of the Friday the 13th franchise. Let’s take a look –
Death #1: Kane (William Hurt) –
Cause of Death: Chest bust open by dick-headed alien.
“I’ll be right back…” moment: Kane is first one into the egg chamber of the derelict space ship, and rather than wait for the others, goes exploring by himself. He takes a tumble, falling over like a pensioner round the side of the bingo hall after one too many shandies, and finds himself face to face with an egg.
Stupid Death? Absolutely. If I saw that egg start opening, I’d be back up the rope and launching myself into space in the escape pod before the facehugger got chance to pop out. I certainly wouldn’t be sticking my face anywhere near it.
Death #2: Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) –
Cause of Death: Skull-fucked by alien’s second set of jaws.
“I’ll be right back…” moment: Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) reverses her sound idea of working in teams to kill the alien, and sends Brett off by himself to find the cat.
Stupid Death? What could be stupider? Brett, unarmed, ambles away into the bowels of the ship in search of a cat. He is unconcerned by finding the shedded skin of the creature, which would suggest the alien is slightly bigger than it’s first appearance out of Kane’s chest cavity.
Death #3: Dallas (Tom Skerritt) –
Cause of Death: Made jump by alien hiding in the shadows.
“I’ll be right back…” moment: Dallas commendably takes up the challenge of following the creature into Nostromo’s air shafts to flush it out.
Stupid Death? The Captain goes down before the ship in an act of misplaced heroism. Dallas is hardly Captain Bligh, but three words – PULL RANK and DELEGATE.
Death #4: Ash (Ian Holm) –
Cause of Death: Bludgeoned with a fire extinguisher until his head comes off, then incinerated.
“I’ll be right back…” moment: No way. Android Ash stays nice and snug on the ship while those stupid humans investigate the derelict spaceship, and keeps well out of any bug hunts once the alien is loose on Nostromo.
Stupid Death? Definitely not – Ash is so smart, he even tries killing Ripley with a metaphor. Ash tries reinforcing the chauvinistic glass ceiling by literally choking jumped up, ball-busting Ripley’s ambitions with the emblem of sexism, the porno mag.
Death #5 & Death #6: Parker (Yaphet Kotto) & Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) –
Cause of Deaths: Head caved in by alien’s jaws & something horrible involving its tail.
“I’ll be right back…” moment: Not exactly – the pair go off together to fetch coolant for the shuttle.
Stupid Deaths? Although they’re together, they’re hardly watching each other’s backs, making it very easy for the alien to divide and conquer. Parker has a clear shot, but can’t take it because Lambert is frozen with fear. It’s insinuated Parker & Lambert are sleeping together, so Parker is extra reluctant to torch his lover.
Viewing Alien again recently, I was also staggered by the amount of times Jones, the ship’s cat, provides a cheap scare, or entices a character to do something foolhardy.
Alien is still a great movie, but after all the hard work going into the film’s design, it is cheapened by the lack of imagination in the B-movie deaths.
Posted on 16/07/2012, in A, Entertainment, Film, Horror, Movies, sci fi and tagged Alien, Harry Dean Stanton, Ridley Scott, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, William Hurt, Yaphet Kotto. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.