Hello Geeks and Ghouls, Famous Monster here. Well, it’s finally October and you know what that means? Breast Cancer Awareness 5Ks? Good guess. Pumpkin Spice Lattes? Delicious, but no. Halloween? YES. Horror movies? DOUBLE YES!
Welcome to 31 Days of Horror, where I’ll cover at least two noteworthy horror films a day for the entirety of the month. That’s 31 Days of Horror and 62+ scary movies perfect for a cold, dark October night. Be sure to visit Geeks of Doom every day this month for a double-shot of chills and thrills!
Today’s double-shot features a creature that gestates inside a living human host and has concentrated acid for blood, and gelatinous space aliens that have a penchant for snatching bodies. Actually, both of these films feature space aliens that LOVEVeronica Cartwright, apparently. After the jump, I’ll be discussing Ridley Scott‘s 1979 film, Alien, and Philip Kaufman‘s 1978 remake, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
The commercial towing spaceship Nostromo is on a return trip from Thedus to Earth, hauling twenty million tons of mineral ore, and carrying its seven-member crew in cryostasis. Upon receiving a transmission of unknown origin from LV-426, a nearby planetoid, the ship’s computer awakens the crew.
Acting on standing orders from their corporate employers, the crew lands on the planetoid to investigate the distress signal, which is being broadcast from a derelict alien spacecraft. Capt. Dallas’s (Tom Skerritt) rescue team discovers a vast chamber filled with leathery eggs, and when crew member Kane (John Hurt) takes a closer look, a face-hugging creature bursts out of an egg and attaches itself to his face.
Over the objections of Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), science officer Ash (Ian Holm) lets Kane back on the ship. The acid-blooded parasite detaches itself from Kane, who appears to have fully recovered from his otherworldly encounter. During dinner, an alien erupts from Kane’s stomach and escapes. Later, the full-grown Xenomorph starts stalking the remaining crew, pitting Dallas and his ill-equipped, unexperienced team against a killing machine that is the perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility…
That Creepy Scene:
Hands down, the most unsettling scene in Ridley Scott‘s 1979 film is Lambert’s (Veronica Cartwright) death. As the Xenomorph appears, Lambert is frozen with terror and cannot flee, despite Parker’s (Yaphet Kotto) shouting. Parker tries to assault the Alien but is instantly overpowered. The hostile organism impales his skull with its crushing inner-jaws. After killing Parker, the Alien turns its attention to Lambert, who is sobbing pitifully in the corner.
What happens next is truly horrifying. The Alien slowly creeps closer, sliding its tail between Lambert’s legs. Before we see what happens, the camera cuts to Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) running through the ship’s corridors. We hear Lambert, via Ripley’s headset, panting and breathing rapidly. Lambert cries a chorus of “No!” and “Oh God!” off-camera when suddenly a bloodcurdling scream cuts through Ripley’s headset – and then silence.
When she reaches the coolant storage room, Ripley finds Lambert hanging from the ceiling, naked. The grotesque details of Lambert’s fate are unknown, but the scene was originally intended to be a bizarre sodomy/rape sequence, though Scott decided not to film the scene and leave it up to the viewer’s imagination… which is exactly why this scene is so disturbing.
Ridley Scott’s Alien is my all-time favorite film. As a child, I was horrified and fascinated by Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger’s design for the titular beast. The Xenomorph was influenced by an aesthetic Giger termed biomechanical, a fusion of the organic and the mechanic. From the first moment it appeared on screen, the Alien became an iconic movie monster with its elongated, cylindrical (and extremely phallic) skull.
The Alien’s mouth contained a second, inner set of pharyngeal jaws located at the tip of a long, tongue-like proboscis – a terrifying, phallic weapon that could stab and penetrate human flesh. As Ash (Holm) notes in Alien, “You still don’t understand what you’re dealing with, do you? The perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.”
The Derelict is another prime example of Giger’s fusion of the organic and the mechanical. The asymmetrical, horseshoe-shaped vessel has vaginal passageways and phallic horns – an overall design that feels less practical from a engineering standpoint and more biological in nature. With its curved, rigid passages and tubed tunnels with bone-like outcroppings, the Derelict feels alive.
As a kid, I had so many questions about the Space Jockey and the Xenomorph – most of which were left unanswered. What was that elephantine fossilized creature growing out of the telescopic chair? How did those eggs get there? What laid them? Even after Scott’s 2012 quasi-Alien prequel, Prometheus, most of those questions remain unanswered – though the Queen Alien (created by Stan Winston) would appear in James Cameron’s 1986 sequel, Aliens, and alter the creature’s life cycle from Giger’s original design.
Alien is, to me, the definition of horror. It’s a B-movie dressed up as an A-Movie – with some of the most impressive sets ever created for a film and one-of-a-kind art direction and production design utilizing H.R. Giger’s unique style. It’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre in space – a monstrous beast stalks the members of a spaceship one by one, it just doesn’t get any more ‘drive-in movie’ than that.
With terrific performances by Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, and John Hurt, and the fresh approach to filmmaking by then up-and-comer Ridley Scott, Alien is a film that should be seen by everyone – preferably at a young age so the chest-bursting sequence can have a lasting impact on their adult life.
I’ve probably seen Alien and Aliens at least 200 times (each) in my life – and every time I watch them I find something new to appreciate and obsess over. If you don’t own the Alien Anthology on Blu-Ray yet, you really should – it’s one of the most gorgeous, spectacular remasters out there. It completely validates the Blu-Ray format, honestly. A phallic space beast penetrating the chest of a dazed space trucker has never looked so good…
Directed by Philip Kaufman (The Outlaw Josey Wales), the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers stars Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Veronica Cartwright (Lambert!), Jeff Goldblum, and Leonard Nimoy.
The plot involves a San Francisco health inspector and his girlfriend who discover that human beings are being replaced by gelatinous space aliens. The duplicates, who appear to be perfect copies of those they mimic, are devoid of any human emotion and attempt to install a tightly organised, conformist society.
Kaufman’s Body Snatchers completely validates the concept of remakes, matching the original 1956 film’s horrific tone and Cold War Era paranoia, but exceeding it in execution. Who can forget the chilling, guttural scream that escapes Donald Southerland’s mouth as he points directly at the camera…
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