Lisa Marie Bowman had chosen her favorite scene from Dario Argento’s Suspiria as her latest “Scenes I Love” post and it’s quite the scene. I will match her choice with a horror scene which remains one of my favorite scenes in film history. It is also a scene from one of the best scifi-horror films ever made and, I would dare to even say, one of the best films ever created. The scene I speak of comes from Ridley Scott’s classic and iconic film Alien.
Anyone who has ever watched this classic scifi-horror will always gravitate towards talking about one particular scene. The scene is the first time the crew of the space tug Nostromo gets together to a meal as a group after the crisis which saw one of their own crew members attacked by an alien creature. This scene started off quite normal. Professionals enjoying food and good company. It’s through Ridley Scott’s direction and the exceptional performances of all involved which elevates the scene to one of the greatest. Through the scene’s depiction of normalcy we start to get a sense that something may not be right even before Kane begins to cough and have convulsions. For me it was a prolonged shot of crew member Ash during the banter around the table. His expression is all subdued smile then for just a split second we see him glance at Kane eating and being merry but he knows something is wrong and about to happen.
Even if people didn’t pick up that moment from Ash it still created a subconscious effect on the audience so that when Kane did begin to cough and convulse uncontrollably the audience was already on the razor’s edge. When the climactic event which punctuates this scene finally occurs the surprise on all the actors, especially that of actress Veronica Cartwright, has gone done as in film history as a classic. It helped that their reactions were quite genuine. Even knowing that the chestburster alien would pop out it was not being told that fake blood would squirt out that made their reaction of surprise and disgust so real. The extended version of this scene even had Cartwright slipping and falling as she screamed in horror at all the blood which had splashed on her.
One last thing which made this scene one I love and also one which I think makes it one of the greatest scenes in film history is that it was done in one take and that single take came out perfectly. This is a scene that has influenced many filmmakers since but its effect has never been fully replicated.