In space no one can hear you scream
Today is October 13th
Today’s films are 1979’s Alien and 1986’s Aliens
Alien isn’t just a space horror film, it’s the space horror film. Alien isn’t even just the space horror film – it’s amazing science fiction, it’s amazing horror, it’s beautiful and genuinely terrifying. The Nostromo is a believable and cramped setting perfect for the terror awaiting its crew. The atmosphere is perfect. Speaking of the crew – writing and acting are both great but casting was the genius here. Each crew member is as real as the rest of the film, none seem like models who somehow ended up with a job on a space tug. And then there’s Ripley. Just as Alien sets the standard that other space horrors are judged by, Lt. Ripley sets a standard for female heroes. Keep reminding yourself that this is a film from 1979. It has aged perfectly and could be released today with no changes.
James Cameron’s Aliens is often compared to Alien. It’s a comparison that sparked angry arguments in our apartment tonight. The fact that people argue and disagree is evidence that both films are very good and have plenty to love about them. Both films are scary but Aliens adds action as a genre. This puts us in to apples and oranges territory. How do you compare a horror/sci-fi film to an action/horror/sci-fi film? In all the ways I think of films quality-wise (directing, cinematography, acting, writing/story etc.) Alien is the better film in all these ways. The problem with this conclusion is that it’s very unfair to Aliens. I spent the entire last paragraph gushing over Alien, how could Aliens compare? Even if you think Alien is the superior film (and I do), imagine that Alien was never made and Aliens just came out of nowhere. We’d be singing Aliens‘ praises without caveats to its predecessor. No one would question the action/horror balance, no one would object to the directing, cinematography, acting, writing/story etc. It would finally get the respect it deserves. But the world we live in is one where Aliens will always live in the shadow of Alien even if you think it eclipses it.
The solution to the Alien or Aliens question is to instead just go with Alien and Aliens and save your hate for the other sequels.