WHERE THIS EVIL HAILS FROM: the Alien series, but I’m talking specifically about Alien (1979)
WHY THIS EVIL MADE ME FILLE THE FEAR: I saw this movie for the first time kind of “late,” but when I finally did I think I may have fallen out of my chair out of sheer feminist bliss. I couldn’t believe this movie existed and had existed for years already. Sigourney Weaver radiated androgyny in a way I hadn’t seen before and she commanded attention and respect by me (and anyone who was watching) with her performance and that rad curly do. So, in this sci-fi/horror future world what does a character like Ripley have to be afraid of? Well, one disgusting, huge, slimy alien apparently.
I used to find this movie crazy scary for a lot of reasons. Space is one of the best/classic settings for horror. What’s scarier than being isolated in a machine you are completely reliant on that could easily fall apart at any second? Add the fear of your shipmates going bananas at any moment and add the fear of your own mind/body betraying you. THEN, add the fear of aliens. And by which I mean, anything unknown that invades your safe zone. Maybe it’s disease, maybe it’s monsters–anything invasive is profoundly scary. You’re already vulnerable and in harms way by flying around in a tin can so the fear of your fragile safety being compromised is for reals. Imagine that intense and constant fear is there then all of the sudden your fears are realized when the most grotesque and monstrous alien shows up and not only invades your safe space, but wants to bust out your chest.
There are two parts to this scariness of this monster. The more upfront and obvious aspects like the slow, haunting movements, how the camera never shows the whole creature, the shadowy hiding places, the sleek, super black, organic-yet-not-human slimy skin, the noises that comes outta that thing and the double mouth, of course. The detail in the design of the different versions of the aliens comes from a mish-mash of art/myth. Artist H.R. Giger is credited for inspiring the design for the full-grown alien that I honestly don’t care to think about for too long. *shudders*
HOW THIS EVIL STILL DOES: New layers of scariness! After seeing Alien a bunch of times and just loving everything about it, I found a book in the library by accident about feminist theory and Alien. I did five cartwheels and then read it cover to cover. It explained that the more subtle part of this alien is the threat it poses to Ripley as a women. Though she’s clearly a very capable, athletic, smart scientist who loves a no fuss routine in the morning, one of the last scenes reminds her and all of us watching that despite all her strong (read: masculine) features, the alien finds her one big weak point (read: being a woman) and prays on it. Now, I know this isn’t news to a lot of you, but at the time I found this idea of subtly suggesting that being a woman just inherently makes you vulnerable whether you want it to or not was so profound. When I watch this movie now, I love it because it’s just the bomb, but also because it was one of the first movies that helped me understand that a monster/thing to fear was more of a concept than an actual alien.