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Only Lovers Left Alive – 8

February 4, 2015 Leave a comment

Director – Jim Jarmusch

Cast – Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Anton Yelchin, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Jeffrey Wright

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

When I think of indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch I do not think of the horror genre, so when I learned that he filmed a flick referred to as a “crypto-vampire love story” I was stoked to see what he could do. Starring Tom Hiddleston, who replaced Michael Fassbender, Only Lovers Left Alive is a dramatic experience that may be a little light on the horror, but is nonetheless one of the best horror films of 2014. It moves slowly, but the subject matter and acting performances were so engaging that I hardly took notice to that. Instead, I left with a new appreciation for Jarmusch’s talents.

In the abandoned sprawl of Detroit lives Adam, an underground musician who has lived as a vampire for centuries. With depression kicking in as a result of his displeasure over mankind’s insidious downfall, his wife Eve, living across the world, reunites with Adam. What happens next displays the beauty, and troubles, of eternal love.

I am not a fan of vampire films. I am also not a fan of “horror” films with very little horror. Only Lovers Left Alive is both, and I really enjoyed it. Jarmusch writes and directs this piece, and his story begins with a heavy emphasis on Adam’s character. We learn that throughout the last few centuries Adam has played a role in the careers of famous scientists and musicians, but these days he is withdrawn and suicidal. He has a strong contempt for the world that the humans, who he refers to as “zombies”, have made for themselves and feels that they have missed their apex by squandering opportunities for advancements in education and science. His life as a musician is his escape from such disparity, however he finds himself at odds over recognition and his fans discovering his terrible secret. He befriends Ian, a young musician whom Adam pays to attain rare instruments and handle his odd requests, which are bound by a confidentiality agreement. For the first 39 minutes Adam’s character is established, then Eve walks back into his life.

Their reunion is heartfelt, tender, tame, and never feels forced. Married for centuries, they have spent the latter years halfway across the world from each other. This couple is unlike the typical vampire, who ventures out at night to drink the blood of the living. Instead, they drink the “good stuff” from local suppliers, fearing that fresh human blood has been contaminated by poor diet and the degradation of their environment. Yeah, it sounds like social commentary to me too. It takes a long while, but conflict finally arises at the 80 minute mark, which means you could have watched all of REC before anything juicy happens. I did not necessarily balk at this because simply put, this is not that type of film. Sources say that when Jarmusch was approached about adding more action to the film he instead removed all of the action that was already in it (which took place early in the film). This does not mean that Only Lovers Left Alive is without horror. There are a select few scenes of horror, and while they do not hit overly hard I found them pretty effective. This is first a dramatic melodrama and then a horror film, so keep that in mind.

They snack on Type O Negative blood popsicles.

I have seen other viewers mention that “nothing happens” in the movie, and I understand where they are coming from. This is especially understood when you consider that this is a two-hour movie. I must say that a lot does happen in the film, but the developments are mild and therefore the flick feels like it does not offer much. That could not be farther from the truth. We watch a relationship that has stood the test of time, which includes moments of weakness, depression, despair, and heartbreak. That is hardly uneventful.

Jarmusch’s direction is top-notch, and played a huge role in keeping me engaged during this “slow” film. His atmosphere is incredible, and as a film junkie he did his best to employ different lenses and lighting to make this digital (due to budget reasons) film appear acceptable to his liking. I loved the sets used for Adam’s home, which was adorned with vintage guitars, amplifiers, and framed photos of history’s most notable minds, who he apparently had an influence on over time. Next come the acting performances, which are some of the best I have seen in recent time. Hiddleston is perfect as Adam, Tilda Swinton meshes wonderfully with him, and together they create one hell of a couple to view. The supporting cast also deliver good performances, with actors Anton Yelchin and John Hurt getting more screen time than the possibly underused Jeffrey Wright. So how is Jarmusch’s execution of the horror? It was good, but keep in mind there isn’t a whole lot of horror here. We see one major death, and most of the good stuff occurs off-screen. Much to my surprise, though, the death was shocking nonetheless and that’s because I knew it was coming. Jim’s execution was THAT good.

Overall, Only Lovers Left Alive is a sure that is sure to please those who enjoy a good story in a dramatic horror film. It is also amazingly well-shot, making it a visual treat I suggest you check out.

Rating: 8/10

…Additional Stills…

Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron – 8

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Director – Victor Cook, Tad Stones

Cast – Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, John Hurt, Doug Jones, Peri Gilpin, Jim Cummings, J. Grant Albrecht, James Arnold Taylor

Release Year – 2007

Reviewed by John of the Dead

The animated Hellboy series continues after Sword of Storms with Blood and Iron, an equally enjoyable piece that once again gives us Hellboy & co. kicking supernatural ass in animated fashion.

We follow the crew as they investigate a large mansion purchased by a friend of the senator who funds the paranormal ass-kicking force. The mansion holds much significance to Professor Broom, who in 1939 defeated the powerful female vampire Erzsebet Ondrushko at that very mansion, and he joins the crew to ensure the the mansion is still safe. When it becomes apparent that someone is trying to bring Erzsebet back from the dead, Hellboy & co. aid the professor in finishing unsettled business after over half a century of waiting.

I really enjoyed this storyline, adapted by Kevin Hopps from Mike Mignola and Tad Stones’ story, thanks to it involving Professor Broom to a much higher level than usual. Told in the past and present time we follow Broom as he fought to vanquish a woman who believed that bathing in the blood of young beautiful women would keep her young. Of course, this dilemma was ultimately left unsettled and Broom saw the need to investigate the mansion before the senator’s friend turned it into a ghost-themed hotel. I loved watching the storyline develop with constant flashbacks to the events that Dr. Broom saw occur at the mansion, events that are now occurring all over again. Each of our characters was used positively, especially our main characters in Hellboy, Professor Broom, Liz Sherman, Abe Sapien, and newcomer Oliver Trombolt. There is plenty of action written into this piece, which I assumed would be so, and it was great in giving us numerous antagonistic character for Hellboy and his troops to destroy, including: ghosts, wolves, witches, harpies, a giant werewolf, and Erzsebet herself in several different forms. In addition to this Kevin Hopps defied cliches often associated with animated films and gave us fantastic dialogue that aiding in presenting and developing the characters so positively.

Directors Victor Cook and Tad Stones did a great job with this one, giving us awesome visuals, great sets, and the usual enjoyable elements associated with these Hellboy films. The vocal acting performances are great, and much like Sword of Storms Hellboy, Liz, Abe, and Prof. Broom are voiced by the same actors who portrayed them in the Hellboy live-action flicks, making this piece all the more enjoyable for that reason. And the action? The action was fantastic and consisted of awesome looking antagonists and plenty of brutal confrontation in this epic battle between good and evil.

Overall, Hellboy Animated: Blood and Iron is an awesome animated flick sure to please fans of the Hellboy series thanks to it giving us all of the same sweet elements found in the live-action films.

Rating: 8/10

Frankenstein Unbound – 6


Director – Roger Corman

Cast – John Hurt, Raul Julia, Nick Brimble, Bridget Fonda, Catherine Rabett, Jason Patric, Michael Hutchence, Catherine Corman

Release Year – 1990

Reviewed by John of the Dead

A close friend of mine had been hounding me for quite some time to give Frankenstein Unbound a watch due to it being the zaniest of all the “Frankenstein” movies, and he was darn right about that. The final film of Roger Corman’s directing career (after a hiatus of almost 20 years), this film gives us an awesome take on Frankenstein lore thanks to a cheesy adaptation of Brian Aldiss’ novel of the same name, complimented by Corman’s ever-fun direction that did what it could to make this flawed effort an enjoyable watch.

John Hurt(Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army) stars as Dr. Joe Buchanan, a bright scientist who while creating a more destructive yet environmentally safer “atomic bomb” inadvertently opens a portal that sends him from present day 2031 America to 1817 Switzerland. As he wanders the streets of a small village he comes across a young Dr. Frankenstein, who he is very much aware of due to Frankenstein’s legend, and soon finds himself enthralled in a deadly game with Frankenstein and his monster.

I can’t say that I always prefer it, but I really liked going into this film without any idea of what the plot contained. I read no plot summary nor asked my buddy what the film entailed (although I assumed it had to do with Frankenstein), and that made for a fun and fairly exciting experience, especially when I was thinking “what the hell?” during the film’s opening sequences taking place in a futuristic society. The idea of a brilliant scientist mistakenly transporting himself to a far off land centuries in the past was a bit “out there” for me, which immediately alerted me to not take this film very seriously and just let it go its course. I really enjoy when history is thrown into horror films, and it was great to watch Dr. Buchanan marvel at the young Frankenstein and talk science with him, as well as him coming across with Mary Shelley (who was still an unmarried Mary Godwin) and speaking with her about how her future book would impact the world. Dr. Buchanan was used as a very positive character, and Frankenstein along with his monster played out their antagonistic roles, although the film’s one big fault was that the other characters were not used to full potential. Despite the importance of Mary Shelley to the Frankenstein story she only appeared sporadically during the first two acts, as did Frankenstein’s mistress – someone who could have been used to provide much conflict but was instead merely used to minimal levels. Because of this poor character usage the film did feel a bit bland at times and out of pace, however I was glad to see that Frankenstein’s monster delivered some good gory kills, and plenty of them for that matter, which was a nice touch when you compare this film to the other much less gory efforts involving this series. Overall, I enjoyed this zany story and found it an interesting way to give us Frankenstein and his lonely and maniacal monster.

Roger Corman(The Masque of the Red Death, Pit and the Pendulum, House of Usher, Tales of Terror, The Little Shop of Horrors) did a fun job directing this piece, giving us a cheesy experience with his ridiculous visual FX, live-action usage of a well-executed monster, and plenty of funny kills at just the right times. Corman showed that he still had what it took to deliver a fun watch after his long hiatus, and in addition to that he employed fine actors who excelled in their roles – including those who were not used to full potential. Some may not like Corman’s usage of the monster, portrayed by Nick Brimble, due to him not being of a truly serious variety but often comical at times, although he did manage to deliver some good carnage and tear off a few limbs here and there in hilarious fashion.

Overall, Frankenstein Unbound is a fun flick marking the return (and departure) of a directing icon who made the most out of a zany storyline that came with a few flaws. The storyline should be enjoyable for those of you who seek something “different” from the genre, and Corman’s direction results in some insane monster antics and plenty of gory dismemberments to make for a mostly-positive film that I say you check out if you feel like taking a chance on this one.

Rating: 6/10

Hellboy II: The Golden Army – 9

December 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Director – Guillermo del Toro

Cast – Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, John Alexander, James Dodd, Seth MacFarlane(voice), Luke Goss, Anna Walton, Jeffrey Tambor, John Hurt, Brian Steele

Release Year – 2008

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy remains one of my favorite superhero movies to date, and while he outdid himself with his follow-up film, Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro continued his Hellboy saga with Hellboy II: The Golden Army.  The last time I had seen this film was when it debuted in theaters back in 2008, so I was itching to see if this film was as fun as I remembered it to be…and it was.  Continuing the awesome elements of the first entry, this sequel is equally as enjoyable as its predecessor, and comes with some good horror action as well.

When a long-standing truce between mankind and the mythical creatures of our underworld is compromised by a vengeful elf, Prince Nauda(Luke Goss), Hellboy(Ron Perlman; Alien: Resurrection, The City of Lost Children, Cronos) and his team must combat the elf and his minions before he resurrects the most powerful weapon of all time…The Golden Army, an army of indestructible robots banished to a faraway place to never be used again.  As Hellboy aims to stop the elf and save humanity once a gain, he learns of humanity’s ingratitude towards him and the other “freaks” he works with, leaving him to fight for a world that now despises him.

I knew that I was going to enjoy this film going into it the very first time I saw it, leaving Guillermo del Toro(Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone, Cronos, Mimic, Blade II) as one of the few directors that I completely trust to give me a good watch every time.  This time the storyline takes a few more twists and turns, which is usually the case with a sequel given the original film must spend its runtime setting up the story.  I really loved the idea of the Golden Army in this film, and the background history involving the truce between the humans and the mythical  beings that surround them in secrecy.  The dialogue between all of the characters involved is fantastic, and definitely aids in selling the film to the viewer and assisting the pacing for this nearly two hour film.  We get numerous twists, turns, and developments as well, which come in all angles including Hellboy, Abe Sapien, Liz, as well as a new and unique character, Robert Krauss(voiced by “Family Guy”’s Seth McFarlane).  All in all, the storyline is great, but what else would you expect from an iconic writer?

As expected, del Toro’s direction is top-notch, and he expertly sells each scene with unique visuals and awesome camerawork.  The production value for the film is very high, and the CGI used is incredibly well done.  Surprisingly, some of the scenes that I thought were CGI were actually half CGI and half live-action, which I was astounded to learn given just how hard it must have been to film those scenes with the live-action actions involved.  We get some incredible looking characters and villains, which only add to the viewer’s enjoyment of what is going on before them.  As a child del Toro spent many years creating monsters and goblins with pen and paper, so it comes as no surprise to me that he would give us such cool looking creatures to marvel at.  As with the first film, we get great performances from all those involved, especially that lovable red beast we call Hellboy.  Ron Perlman’s return to the series came as no surprise to me, because I figure that despite the hours of make-up work it takes to “become” Hellboy, he loves the hell out of that character.  This being a sequel, the film is able to take off quicker due to it not having to introduce the characters all over again, and because of that we are introduced to more action and fight scenes.  The action sequences were awesomely executed, and came with epic sets that carried many dangers of their own due to their surroundings, which only added some sweet tension to what was already going on beforehand.

Overall, this is an awesome sequel to one of the coolest superhero films out there.  Guillermo del Toro once again delivers a tight screenplay that makes this near two hour film flow beautifully, and his direction is top-not as usual, giving us awesome visuals, great action, and superb execution of all elements involved.

Rating: 9/10

Hellboy – 9

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Director – Guillermo del Toro

Cast – Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Rupert Evans, Selma Blair, Karel Roden, Jeffrey Tambor, Doug Jones, Brian Steele, Ladislav Beran, Biddy Hodson, Corey Johnson

Release Year – 2004

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Anyone familiar with the comic book scene has to know of Mike Mignola’s highly successful and equally awesome “Hellboy” series.  When I first heard that this story would be turned into a full-length feature film I was beyond stoked, and when word came out that it was horror director Guillermo del Toro(Cronos, Mimic, The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade II) himself writing and directing the film my mouth dropped, and I cannot say that I have fully recovered from the ordeal.  One of the most underrated superhero stories of all time, Hellboy delivers heavily on excitement and a loveable character with more balls than all other superheroes combined.

During the final days of WWII before the collapse of the Nazi empire, Hitler’s obsession with the occult lead him to conjure up dark forces to aid his dying cause.  The Allied forces managed to obstruct Hitler’s plan to use black magic, but not before a young demon made his way into our world.  The Allies deemed this demon “Hellboy”, and he has since worked for a secret sect of the US government as their front line defense against attacks from the supernatural.  When a mysterious and well-hidden artifact within a museum is stolen by creatures not from this world, Hellboy’s usual ass-kicking antics get the job done at first, but a sinister plan from an ancient evil with ties to Hitler’s occult holds the power to bring on an apocalypse of Biblical proportions.

Nearly all of us can relate to superhero stories and films, especially if you grew up in the comic book or graphic novel scenes.  While Hellboy may not be seen as the type of superhero that Batman or Superman is, I see him as a superhero because he does the right thing, and he kicks a lot of ass doing it.

Guillermo del Toro’s screenplay is air-tight, and despite coming in at a two hour runtime his film flows and moves smoothly without any delay or slow scenes.  The bulk of his storyline comes from the “Seed of Destruction” storyline, but el Toro throws in elements from the “Right Hand of Doom” and “Box Full of Evil” short stories as well, as well as several shout-outs to “Pancakes” and “The Corpse”.  He has always mentioned Hellboy as his dream film, and it is obvious that the guy is a fan with how well this film turned out.  From the get-go we are thrown into the unique storyline of Hellboy’s origins, which I found fantastic due to the mystique involved given Hitler’s influence on the matter.  Anything involving history will grab my attention, especially if it either rewrites history or shows us elements of history that are lesser-known to the general public.  I am also a fan of the supernatural, so when you mix both the supernatural and history, especially WWII history, you have my devout attention.  From then on out we are given the awesomeness that is Hellboy, and in more ways than one.  We watch him battle the supernatural with his slew of awesome weapons and diabolical wit, which includes many unique and horrifying villains sure to please those looking for a superhero film with a strong element of horror.  What surprised me about this film was the other way in which Hellboy is awesome…he has a heart.  There is always a romantic element thrown into every superhero film, but I really was not expecting one in this film simply because of how badass Hellboy is.  I mean, he is a demon for crying out loud.  Nonetheless, we are given a well-written love element involving Selma Blair(Can’t Hardly Wait, Scream 2, The Fog remake) as Hellboy’s love interest which adds a nice human touch to this awesome superhero.  Thankfully, the awesomeness of this storyline does not end there, and we are given several other positive characters that add to the film’s enjoy ability.  For a film to run for two hours there has to be several elements to keep the viewer engaged, and Hellboy’s friends do just that.

The biggest reason behind this film’s very positive rating is the fact that del Toro’s direction is as good as his screenplay.  I mentioned earlier that for a film this long to keep the viewer engaged there would have to be several elements required to do so, and del Toro’s visuals do the trick.  Right from the get-go we are thrown into his visual masterpiece that includes numerous incredible sets and incredible camerawork, as well as awesome looking heroes and villains.  His execution of every fight scene is invigorating, and was so well done that I never noticed just how little blood the film shows until after the climax, when I noticed the film was PG-13.  He gets great character performances from all, and I applaud him heavily for stubbornly fighting for Ron Perlman(Hellboy II: The Golden Army, I Sell The Dead, Cronos, The City of Lost Children, Alien: Resurrection, Blade II, The Last Winter, The Island of Dr. Moreau – 1996) to land the role of Hellboy.  Perlman was perfect in every aspect there is, including his physical features as well as his ability to show emotion and sarcasm.  We also get a great performance from John Hurt as Prof. Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm, the man who raised Hellboy, and Selma Blair did a fine job as Hellboy’s love interest.  I do feel that a few characters were miscast, although their performances were as good as they could have been.  Rupert Evans played a strong supporting role as John Myers, but I never found myself giving much of a damn for him.  I do not really blame it on how his character was written, although that could be the case.  The other actor I felt was miscast was Jeffrey Tambor as Tom Manning.  I have loved Jeffrey Tambor(Hellboy II: The Golden Army) ever since he gave us the hilarious George/Oscar Bluth in “Arrested Development”, but I felt that he never really fit into his role in this film.  Nonetheless his and Rupert’s performances were good, so they did not detriment from the film in the end.

Overall, this is an awesome film that finally gives us a superhero with a strong element of horror and an even higher level of ass-kicking.  Fans of Mike Mignola’s comic series should be pleased with this film given Guillermo del Toro’s respectful treatment of the series, and Ron Perlman’s iconic performance as Hellboy.  A unique story and incredible direction make this a hour film an incredibly engaging watch that I recommend to all.

Rating: 9/10

The Skeleton Key – 7


Director – Iain Softley

Cast – Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, Joy Bryant, Maxine Barnett, Fahnlohnee R. Harris

Release Year – 2005

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I have always been very iffy on the horrendous sounding idea of a PG-13 horror flick.  Why?  Well, most of them just downright suck!  There can be a number of reasons for this, such as the lack of kills(aka “fun”), and other content that would help provide great horror to the viewer.  Now I have always kept an open mind to PG-13 horror because I am a devout believer that a great script and proper execution can give you a great and horrific PG-13 watch without all the goodies that come with a Rated-R film.  Thankfully, this film proves my case and winds up being a great PG-13 horror film that did its job so darn well that I did not notice this flick was PG-13 until after its awesome climax. Yes, I am serious.

The Skeleton Key stars a pretty Kate Hudson as Caroline, a hospice worker who decides to quit her typical money-grabbing hospice job and look for something more sincere to the patient.  She comes across an add in the local newspaper for a live-in hospice worker needed to assist an old women named Violet(Geena Rowlands) with her mute(due to a stroke) and dying husband.  Caroline interviews, and despite her convictions over the odd situation she accepts the job.  Soon after moving in she notices strange occurrences around the old southern home, and things get even weirder the more she is around the strange old woman whom she answers to.  Her curiosity gets the best of her and she begins to investigate by finding a way into a sealed off door deep in the attic of the home.  It is then that she learns the horror behind the evil that lies within the home, and things are just getting started.

Be it as it may, this flick had me hooked.  Director Ian Softley(haha, Softley) did a seemingly perfect job setting up this film’s atmosphere with a very spooky looking home on both the inside and outside, as well as even more spooky looking sets surrounding the home.  For a guy not known as a horror director he did a fine job with this location and used it to the fullest of its abilities.  I mean, how else could a PG-13 horror flick be spooky?  It is all about execution, and he executed just fine.  This flick paced very well, and I was very happy to see that its runtime was nearly an hour and 45 minutes, 15 minutes longer than the usual PG-13 horror standard of 90 minutes.  Now, there have been great Rated-R horror flicks that clock in at 90 minutes, but they come with great horror and sweet kills that leave you fulfilled in those 90 minutes.  Most PG-13 horror flicks seem to be aimed at teens and take too much consideration into the attention span of the teen audience and keep the film around the 85-90 minute runtime.  This flick shows that it never had much of a desire to appeal to the young and dumbfounded teens out there and decided to first give us a horror film with REAL development, and because of this film’s lack of Rated-R content it had to take a little while to get it all in there, and I am glad it did.  We do not get many great scares in this film, unless you are a fan of the “person-appears-out-of-nowhere” scares(pfft), but great mood setting and camera angles provide some nice chilly moments which were enough to keep me interested.

Story-wise this film really excels.  We get some great conflict for Caroline thanks to the seedy personality of Violet whom we know not to trust, but must wait for more development was to WHY we should not trust her.  I find these situations fun and tension-inducing, especially if written and executed properly as they were in this film.  Writer Ehren Kruger is no stranger to the horror genre, he wrote the adaptations for both The Ring and The Ring Two prior to this film and it shows that he has a knack for this genre.  The twists and turns thrown into the story were all engaging and never came off as silly or needless.  Of all the positive buzz I have heard about this flick I must say that 90% of it is in regards tot his film’s climax, which I can absolutely understand.  This film’s ending sequence is one of the coolest and most well written twists endings I have ever seen in the horror genre.  At first it may come off as a cheap cop-out ending if you pay little attention to what is going on, but a further look into things will show just how great this ending is.  I speak from personal experience in saying that I at first saw this flick’s ending as a cool twist but nothing special.  I was fooled, but not wowed.  Now after viewing this film a second time since my initial 2005 viewing I can say that there was so much more I did not notice.  It would be a shame if I went into spoilers with this film, but I must say that the final twist comes with much meaning towards the hoodoo mentioned earlier in the film regarding the “children at the party“.  If you don’t get it, send me a message or email me through this site and I will be glad to explain what went on.  Trust me, when fully understood this flick’s climax is haunting, utterly horrific, and geniously written.  This only adds to the fact that this PG-13 flick was not made to appeal merely to the teen audience, because if it were it would not have come with such a complex and awesomely written climax.

Overall, this is a cool and positive watch that I recommend to all fans of the horror genre.  This flick comes with amazing atmosphere, sets, great execution, awesome writing, positive performances, and a clever ending.  I especially recommend this to all those who believe that PG-13 horror film cannot be a great watch, just make sure to turn off any and all ignorance before heading into this one, a tainted mind is cancerous in this genre.

Rating: 7/10

Alien – 10

December 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Director – Ridley Scott

Cast – Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto

Release Year – 1979

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Alien is the best example of Hollywood doing things right and putting out an excellent film that will really scare the hell out of you. The theatrical release had it’s fair share of cuts from the film, but Ridley Scott’s “director’s cut” of the film is quintessential of true horror and should be a staple for all horror filmmakers who aim to make a “serious” horror film(for non-serious/fun horror I suggest you look up Peter Jackson or Lloyd Kaufman, haha!).

The plot follows a commercial mining ship named “Nostromo” as it is heading back to Earth from a lengthy expedition. The crew intercepts and SOS signal on a nearby planet and are contractually obligated to investigate the matter. A three man crew sets out from the Nostromo and begins trekking the unknown planet in search of the signal. They locate a huge, strange looking ship with an alien lifeform still in it’s driver’s seat. The life form has been petrified over time and features a strange opening in it’s ribcage, as if something projected out of the lifeform’s body. After searching some more one of the crew members finds some weird pods on the ground and curiously prods one of the pods, forcing it to open up and send an alien creature through the fan’s helmet and onto his face. The crew immediately bring him back onboard at the behest of Ripley(Sigourney Weaver), who believes the person should be quarantined given they have no knowledge of the whereabouts or capabilities of the lifeform on the crewmember’s face. This proves to be a horrible mistake and an alien is now on the loose within the ship’s long and seemingly never-ending levels and compartments and is killing off the crewmembers one by one. The plan is to get off the ship on one of the escape pods and blow up the ship, however this “perfect creature” proves to be a more formidable foe than our characters anticipated…and they are paying with their lives.

Ridley Scott struck gold with this film and gave us not only one of the greatest horror films of all time, but a film that is listed by many as being one of the greatest overall films ever! His direction in this film, which was only his second full length film,  is superb and definitely foreshadows his career as being one of Hollywood’s best. Mr. Scott went on to direct Legend, Gladiator, Hannibal, Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men, Kingdom of Heaven, American Gangster, and Body of Lies, pretty impressive for a guy who got his big break doing a horror film eh?

Where Mr. Scott really succeeds is his use of atmosphere in this film. The low lighting and brilliantly designed sets portray the “alone” and “desolate” feelings our characters feel when they realize they have a bloodthirsty alien on the loose and there are nowhere near being saved by anyone. His use of camera angles and wide pans envelop the viewer and keep you on the edge of your sear if not in fear then in complete awe at the use of the film’s special effects and atmosphere. Releasing in theaters in 1979 Alien was delivered to the public during the Star Wars frenzy and provided not only the same amazing visuals but true fear, the opposite emotion most of us feel when watching Star Wars. Is Ridley Scott the Anti-Lucas? Hehe.

The pacing of this film is amazing and once again shows off Ridley Scott’s talent as a director. The first hour of the film moves quite slow as far as plot yet you never really realize it and before you know it that whole hour has gone by, without you ever feeling bored or uninterested. His movement of this film is a big reason behind this film’s epicness given that most films with great plots take quite some time to develop the film and can honestly get boring here or there. I would totally forgive this film if I had boring stages but it honestly does not and never let us off the hook from suspense. From it’s chilly musical score to the faint beating heartbeats you hear to the final monotonous countdown this film sets you up for panic and pandemonium without having to show you much. Ladies and gentlemen…THAT is true horror!

The characters in this film were enjoyable and believable as well. I personally scoffed at the idea of Sigourney Weaver as the lead given her usual lack of emotion but she fills her “Ripley” role perfectly not only in this film but it it’s three sequels as well. However aside from Sigourney Weaver I must say that my favorite character in this film would be the alien itself. Not only is it much hotter than Sigourney Weaver(HAHAHAHA!) but the idea and design of the creature is freakin amazing! Surrealist artist, sculpter, and set designer H. R. Giger designed this infamous creature and even went on to win an Academy Award(and “Oscar” for you numbskulls) for this film under the “Best Achievement for Visual Effects” category. I honestly find this “alien” to be one of the scariest looking creatures in all of horror cinema. It’s thin, sleek looking figure with it’s long tail, elongated head, and infamous mouth inside it’s mouth really scare the crap out of me when I think about ever seeing one of them in real life. The biology of this creature is fascinating as well. The species survives by hatching from an egg, wrapping onto the host’s face,  and delivering an embryo into the host via the person’s throat. The embryo develops in the person’s body pretty quickly and when it reaches what I’d say to be “puberty” it rips out of the person’s ventral cavity(the front of your body) and then quickly matures into a full adult, ready to kill. Freakin sweet!

Overall, this is an amazing film that I recommend to all humans and not just horror fans. Aside from being a great horror film, this film is a great film itself and opened the door for true horror to enter the Hollywood scene.

Rating: 10/10

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