In space, no one can hear your opinion: How ‘Alien’ is still the perfect blueprint for horror

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Andrew Prouse, Staff Reporter

In 1979 the original Alien film was released. Director Ridley Scott and actress Sigourney Weaver created the perfect horror film.

Alien shows filmmakers how to perfect the horror genre. The film is a masterclass in suspense. Cinematography, acting and sound are three of the biggest factors in what make Alien so great.

American film critic Roger Ebert identified what he believed to be one of the film’s biggest strengths. “One of the great strengths of ‘Alien’ is its pacing. It takes its time. It waits. It allows silences,” Ebert said. 

This application of silence is at its peak at the climax of the film. Ellen Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver) has escaped the spaceship in an escape pod. She begins preparing to go into cryosleep, believing she has escaped the Alien. 

This is one of the times in the movie where there is no sound. No music, no electronic sounds and no sirens. The previous scene took place in the main spaceship. Constant sirens blaring from the ship. The silence is deafening. 

Silence creates an atmosphere of anxiety. The camera sits back and watches Ripley do her preparations. This scene carries on for a long time. The longer the silence persits the more uncomfortable it is. The camera slowly starts to zoom in toward Ripley and what she’s doing. 

Then an arm shoots out from the wall with a loud screech. The alien reveals itself to have been hiding inside the wall of Ripley’s escape pod. 

Alien does not have many jump scares. However, the scares are all earned. Modern horror films like those of the “Conjuring” series, throw jump scares at the audience left and right. With no real build up, these scares are cheap and not memorable. 

Scares in “Alien” are built up, slowly building in tension and anxiety. Then when you don’t expect it, the alien attacks from the shadows, killing one of the crew members, making it seem inevitable that Ripley will die as well.

Another factor that makes “Alien” the perfect horror movie is how the movie executes “the final girl” trope. The “final girl” is a trope among horror movies. The films usually have a girl or woman being the final person alive against the killer or monster. Typically the final girl escapes by luck or someone coming to rescue her. Ripley is different, she survives because of her intelligence and survival skills. 

Simon Dillon from cinemania discusses why Ripley is the best final girl. “There are many things I love about Ripley that fly in the face of traditional gender assumptions. For a start, she mostly makes decisions based on logic, not emotion,” Dillon said. 

Ripley stays alive because of her intelligence and appeal to logic. Ripley is the final girl because of her own doing, not luck. She also defeats the alien with a thought out plan. She tricks the alien into a position where she can launch it out of the airlock.

Ripley and the alien are the perfect combatants for the perfect horror film. From an atmosphere of anxiety and the fear of the unknown. To the perfect final girl, Alien is a masterclass of suspense and fear.