It is a franchise beloved by horror fanatics and science fiction aficionados alike. Having spawned dozens of video game, novel and comic book spin-offs and with merchandise cramming shelves since the first film’s release in 1979, it’s only fair that there finally be a day on the calendar dedicated solely to everything and anything ALIEN!
Happy Alien Day, folks.
April 26th, 2016 marks the inaugural celebration day for everyone’s favorite deep space bad ass, Ellen Ripley, and the countless xenomorphs she’s faced. The date was selected in honor of LV-426, the planet where Ripley first encountered the Alien Queen and her children. So let’s raise a toast to all those who we’ve lost, both android and human alike, and celebrate one of the most ambitious films to ever reach the silver screen!
Before I delve into the amazing goodies being offered across the internet on this momentous day, let’s first take a look back at the legend of Ellen Ripley and this amazing franchise.
Alien hit the silver screen on May 25, 1979, exactly two years after Star Wars obliterated box offices across the globe.
Just the second film of Ridley Scott’s soon-to-be illustrious career, Alien tells the story of a ship called Nostromo that receives a mysterious signal from an abandoned alien spacecraft. The ship is dead, both inside and out. A chamber of eggs is discovered on board the ghost ship and from these eggs, we are introduced to the face huggers, which aren’t nearly as cute as their name would lead you to believe. These aliens quickly grow to towering eight foot monsters that make light work of the Nostromo crew.
Alien was everything Star Wars wasn’t- dark, ugly and vicious. The film has been described as “sensually hideous”. There aren’t many horror films in the cinema canon that provide as many visually striking memories as the film that introduces us to a whole new species of alien and the terrifying planets they invade and inhabit.
It’s impossible to heap enough praise onto legendary artistic maestro H.R Giger for his contributions to the film. The Swiss surrealist is the most important man behind the scenes of this franchise by a long shot. Giger once said, “I wouldn’t like to spend a year and a half of my life on something that did not amount to anything”. Rest assured, the late great visual magician need not worry about that!
Working alongside Giger were Rob Cobb (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Abyss, Total Recall and Firefly) and Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius (TRON, The Abyss, The Fifth Element), two acclaimed artists in their own right. Cobb was in charge of the design of the Nostromo while Moebius was tasked with the costume design and space suits. The collaborative work of these three geniuses took the film’s premise and transformed an otherwise creepy outer space terror tale into an aesthetic masterpiece.
“We were going after claustrophobia,” Scott stated when discussing the feel of the film. That worked hand-in-hand with the design of the Nostromo, the ship that Ripley and crew manned, as well as the derelict alien ship that unleashes hell upon our comrades. Upon reviewing the film for the umpteenth time recently, one can’t help but fight the urge to loosen one’s collar during many of the journeys through the corridors and bowels of the ship.
The cast of this film is perfect in every way, a true testament to the belief that good storytelling and direction is what truly drives a motion picture. There are no mega million dollar actors here, just world class performances by all involved. Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt and Veronica Cartwright are particularly fantastic.
Ladies and gentlemen, you are reading about the single most awesome science fiction/horror film to ever grace the silver screen (with honorable mention to The Thing, but that is an article for a different day!)
The death of Kane (Hurt) is one of the most well-known scenes in modern cinema and for this writer’s money, you’d be hard pressed to find a more starling horror scene in the last fifty years.
When a film makes as big a boom at the box office as Alien does, it isn’t a matter of when a sequel will come out, more a question of how many, and to date, we’ve had three direct sequels to the 1979 masterpiece.
Aliens (1986) picks up fifty-seven years after the first film. Ripley wakes up from quite the hyper sleep on a medical space station that is currently orbiting Earth. Her nightmarish recollections of what happened aboard the Nostromo are met with eye rolls and scoffs. It doesn’t take long for the colony living on the planetoid from the first film (LV-426, hello April 26th!) to go missing and suddenly Ripley is elbow-to-elbow with a crew of Colonial Marines from the spacecraft Sulaco to investigate. A young girl named Newt is the lone survivor of this wiped out colony and all Hell breaks loose shortly after the Marines land on the planet. This film is one of a very few throughout the history of film that is considered better than the original by many film buffs and while I love both films equally, I won’t argue with anyone who says this is the superior film experience. Not only do we get one of the coolest scenes in the franchise (the alien rising up ominously behind little Newt draws a scream from just about anyone who views the film for the first time) but we also get to see Ripley go head-to-head with the alien queen and manages to defeat the monster by shoving it into an airlock. Ripley and Newt, along with Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn) and the broken android Bishop (Lance Henriksen), go into hyper-sleep for their return to Earth.
The film was directed by superstar director James Cameron and featured a fantastic cast that had a little more star power than its predecessor, bringing Paul Reiser, Bill Paxson, Biehn, Henriksen and William Hope into the fray. Aliens grossed $180 million worldwide and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Actress (Weaver) and winning for both Sound Effects Editing and Visual Effects.
1992 brought us Alien 3, the directorial debut of David Fincher. The film faced numerous road blocks and fared about as well as a third installment in a franchise usually does. A fire on the Sulaco leads to an escape pod with the second film’s survivors being launched from the ship. Ripley is the sole survivor when the pod crash lands on Fiorina “Fury” 161, a prison refinery planet. Of course, what would an Alien film be without a face hugger?! Of course a face hugger also survives the crash landing and soon a giant xenomorph is tearing the inmates on the post-apocalyptic planet limb from limb. If that weren’t enough to keep Ripley busy, we also learn that she has an alien queen growing inside of her! How does one stop an alien outbreak when the queen is growing inside you? Throw yourself into a furnace as the mini queen begins to tear through your chest, that’s how!
Alien: Resurrection (1997) isn’t as bad as many critics will want you to believe, but it certainly ranks as the fourth best film in the franchise. Starring Winona Ryder, Ron Pearlman and Brad Dourif, the film takes place 200 years after the third installment. Ripley (and her unholy alien baby) are cloned! The baby queen alien is surgically removed from Ripley with the hopes of breeding aliens to study on the spaceship USM Auriga. Well wouldn’t you know that the aliens escape and Clone Ripley (Ripley 8, as she is known in the film, also contains some alien DNA in her!) must band with a group of mercenaries to destroy the Auriga before it reaches its destination- Earth. The ship ultimately crashes to Earth, with the aliens destroyed (?) while Ripley 8 and the android Annalee Call (Ryder) survive in an ancient transport ship.
Rumors of a fifth film have been brewing for just about two decades now. The project has changed hands more often than a deck of cards as the film has sat in pre-production purgatory since shortly after the fourth film’s release. The biggest and most promising on the prospective film came from director Neil Blomkamp’s (District 9, Chappie, Elysium) Instagram feed in February of 2015. Blomkamp revealed tantalizing artwork for his idea of a fifth film and acknowledging that he is interested in directing, with Sigourney Weaver firmly on board. The film is ‘on hold’ currently and while I believe it will happen eventually, it seems the Prometheus vehicle will be given a chance to run a bit more of its course before Weaver has a chance to lave up her alien stomping boots again.
Now for the merchandise and special events related to Alien Day. Oh, the merchandise!
20th Century Fox has partnered with The Alamo Drafthouse to re-release Alien and Aliens as a double feature at over twenty theatres across the United States. Check the Alamo Drafthouse website for showing near you!
Mondo Tees, arguably the coolest shirt company this side of LV-426, has an incredible line of merchandise available for the big day. Most of this merchandise will actually be available at the theatres on 4/26/16 as well! Including shirts, sweaters and pins, do yourself a favor and risk paying a bill late in order to snap up some killer swag!
The Twitter account @AlienAnthology is also joining in on the fun. A 24-hour long trivia contest, with a new question asked every forty-two minutes and thirty-six seconds (42.6 minutes), will give fans the chance to win some awesome Alien prize packs. Answer as many questions as you can and don’t be shy about showing off your winnings to us here at Terror Time! Good luck!
Finally, I’ve saved the absolute coolest item of all for last. Reebok is releasing the Alien Stomper Sneakers worn by Ripley in the original film. Be still, my heart. Mid-top versions worn by android Bishop will also be available at Reebok’s website.
There are so many awesome things going on for this killer day that you’d be wise to simply search through Google and find as many ways to celebrate an amazing franchise as possible. Countless other sites are undoubtedly celebrating the day. So cheers to all you Alien fanatics out there and here’s to an out-of-this-world April 26!
You can find more of Justin’s work on his site at MangledMatters