4 Shots From 4 Films: Alien, Beyond The Darkness, Fascination, Zombi 2


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, we’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to look at some of the best years that horror has to offer!

4 Shots From 4 1979 Horror Films:

Alien (1979, dir by Ridley Scott)

Beyond the Darkness (1979, dir by Joe D’Amato)

Fascination (1979, dir by Jean Rollin)

Zombi 2 (1979, dir. Lucio Fulci)

International Horror Film Review: Alien 2: On Earth (dir by Ciro Ippolito)


Don’t get too excited about that title.  Yes, I know that it says Alien 2: On Earth, which would suggest that this is a sequel to the classic sci-fi horror film that we all know and love but …. well, we’ll get to it in a moment.

First, let’s talk about the movie….

HEY, EARTH!  YOU’RE GETTING INVADED AGAIN!

This time, it’s not flying saucers.  It’s not pod people.  It’s not the monsters from Cloverfield or A Quiet Place or Battle Los Angeles or Skyline or any of those films.  Instead, this time, you’re getting invaded by little blue rocks.  These rocks may look pretty but, if you hold them long enough, something will spring out of them and cause your face to explode.  Sometimes, the creature inside the rock will even hug onto your face for a while.  I guess maybe you could call it a face hugger, assuming that you had enough money to settle the copyright suit that would follow….

Famed cave explorer Thelma Joyce (Belinda Mayne) has been having horrific visions, largely due to the fact that she’s psychic whenever it’s convenient for the plot.  Could her visions have something to do with a spacecraft that has recently returned to Earth with all of its inhabitants missing?  (The implication is that the spacecraft was captained by a man named Dallas and had a warrant officer named Ripley, though that’s never specifically stated.)

Oh, why worry about all that ominous outer space stuff?  After all, Thelma and her husband Roy (Mark Bodin) have already got a full weekend planned out.  They’re going to get together with a group of friends and explore a cave!  It sounds like fun.  Of course, on the way to the cave, one of their friends finds a blue rock and decides to take it with him.  Hmmm….there’s no way that could backfire.

Once everyone’s in the cave, Thelma tells Roy that she has a feeling that something awful is about to happen.  Roy laughs off her concerns.  I mean, is Thelma supposed to be a psychic or something?  Oh, wait a minute….

Can you guess what happens?  If you think that Roy, Thelma, and their friends end up getting trapped in the cave with an alien that’s looking to dissolve all of their faces, you might be as much of a psychic as Thelma.  Needless to say, everyone picked the wrong weekend to go underground.

This Italian production from 1980 is, in many ways, a typical low-budget exploitation film.  There’s a lot of gore (including a pretty nifty beheading) and the film ends on a properly (and somewhat humorously) dark note but it takes forever for the movie to actually get going.  Fans of Italian horror will be happy to see Michele Soavi show up as one of the cave explorers and, if nothing else, the film does feature an effective sequence involving a survivor running down the streets of an eerily deserted city.

That said, this film is best-remembered as an example of just how shameless that Italian film industry could be when it came to ripping off more successful films.  Alien 2 had nothing to do with the original Alien but, because Ridley Scott’s film was a huge hit, the film was marketed as being a direct sequel.  Because the word “alien” existed long before any of the movies using it as a title were ever released, 20th Century Fox’s efforts to sue producer/director Ciro Ippolito for copyright infringement were just as unsuccessful as Ippolito’s later attempt to sue the makers of The Descent for, in Ippolito’s opinion, ripping off his story of cave explorers getting ripped apart by a strange creature.

So, no, this is not technically a part of the Alien franchise …. unless you want it to be.  That’s the fun thing about watching an unofficial sequel like this.  You can decide for yourself whether or not to accept it.

Finally, keep watching the skies and don’t pick up any blue rocks!  To quote the film’s final title card, “YOU MAY BE NEXT!”

 

Music Video of the Day: Alien by Die Antwoord featuring The Black Goat (2018, dir by NINJA)


Happy World UFO Day!

For reasons that I’m not really sure about, World UFO Day is celebrated on two separate days.  It’s celebrated on both June 24th and July 2nd!  There used to be an official World UFO Day website that undoubtedly explained the whole thing but that site is now apparently offline.  Well. here at the Shattered Lens, we celebrate World UFO Day in June because, come July 2nd, we’re usually too busy stocking up on illegal fireworks to deal with any intergalactic visitors.

(For the record, I will be celebrating World UFO Day by cleaning out my DVR.)

So, today is Happy UFO Day and I picked this video because … well, actually, the song isn’t really about UFOs.  It’s about someone who feels like an alien because they don’t fit in with the rest of the world.  I think we all know what that feels like.  As for the video, there’s really no proof that the main character is from outer space.  Would visitors from outer space really want to come to Detroit?

But you know what?  I like the song.  And I like the video.

Maybe you will too.

Enjoy!

Film Review: Alien (dir. by Ridley Scott)


AlienPosterToday is 4.26, also known as “Alien Day”, and named after the planet in James Cameron’s Aliens (LV-426 / Acheron). It’s a celebration of the entire Alien Franchise, but I’m only focused on the first film as I finally saw it in the theatre in 2017.

This isn’t so much a review as it’s just my history with Ridley Scott’s Alien. You can find actual reviews all over the internet, and I know very few people who didn’t enjoy the movie. This piece assumes you’ve seen the film and are familiar with it. There are also spoilers within, though with a nearly 40 year old film, I’m not sure if it can be classified as such.

When I was little, my older brother and I shared a room in my grandmother’s house. Below our bunk beds was a open space that contained a set of boxes and each box contained a collection of our toys – board games, knick knacks, things like that. If you needed something, you went under the bed to fetch it. Only thing is, I always reached into those boxes with my eyes closed.

I have a vague memory of when my older brother received 3 toys that affected the way I looked at things. The first was a board game for the movie Alien. On it, you had a map of the Nostromo, about 3 Astronaut pieces and one for the Alien. I can’t recall the exact nature of how it was played, but I do remember it having to do with finding a way to reach the Narcissus – the escape ship – before the Alien reached your character. Each player also had their own Alien they could use to hunt the other characters before they could escape.

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The Alien Board Game. Fox marketed toys for Alien (an R rated film), possibly fearing the mistake they made with Star Wars.

The second was a movie viewer. I had to do some hunting around the net to find it, and thanks to The Toy Box, I was able to locate one. These viewers (made by Fisher Price and by Kenner) were really popular, especially after the Star Wars boom. You loaded it with a tape and it would play out a scene. For the Alien tape my brother had, it would play out the egg opening face hugger jump sequence. I rewound that too many times, and perhaps it’s the reason I’m afraid of spiders. I don’t really know for sure. The tape used below goes through most of the film’s plot, so if you haven’t watched the film by now, consider yourself spoiled.

The last toy was the reason I never went into the toy boxes. My brother owned an 18 Inch tall Alien figure, complete with a glow in the dark headpiece and a functional second set of teeth. It was one of the scariest things I’d seen as a kid.

All of this was thanks in part to Star Wars. With the mistake Fox made in giving the merchandising rights for Star Wars to Lucas and Lucasfilm, Ltd., they missed out a major chunk of revenue. So when Alien was set to launch 2 years later, they greenlit an entire toy line for the film, even though the movie was rated “R” and the toys demographic couldn’t really see the movie without parental supervision. For the time, that was a pretty amazing thing.

Back in the early 1980s, my father invited my older brother and I to his place to see Alien. I was about six or seven years old at the time, with my brother a few years older. My parents worked nights, so we pretty much lived with my grandmother. He was always into movies and he acquired a RCA Videodisc Player, along with that film and First Blood. Although I was sick, I still went and watched it. I vomited twice during the playthrough, but it was so worth it.

I’d come to find out years later from my Mom that my Dad really didn’t need to invite us. He was just too scared of the movie to watch it alone. According to family legend, Alien was a date movie for my parents, and halfway into the film, my Dad (along with most guys, I’ve heard), was using my Mom as a shield. Mind you, this was a guy who kept multiple firearms in the house and knew how to use them.

Alien was the brainchild of Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. Having worked on Dark Star for John Carpenter, O’Bannon wanted to create another space film, but with a more serious tone. They came up with the story, inspired by 1958’s B-movie classic It! The Terror From Outer Space and decided to roll with it. The feel for their story would be more like a set of space truckers hauling ore and picking up a stowaway space possum in their cargo.

And that’s Alien in a nutshell. A crew of seven astronauts heading towards Earth in their mining vessel are awakened from hyper sleep when their spaceship – The Nostromo – picks up a distress signal from a nearby planetoid. They are given orders to investigate the signal, but when one of them is incapacitated by an alien life form, it brings trouble to the rest of the crew once they all return to the ship. Can they survive?

The casting for Alien is damn near flawless. There isn’t a single person that feels out of place. The characterization for everyone is straightforward, from the wisecracking pair of Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Kotto to the very systematic Ian Holm as the Nostromo’s Science Division expert, it doesn’t take long for one to get to know them or at least wonder if they’ll make it through the story unscathed.  Whether it’s Veronica Cartwright’s Lambert, who is nervous and jittery mid way through the film (and with good reason) or Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley who sees the potential threat before it gets out of hand, everyone here plays their part well.

Ridley Scott was a young director brought on board to create the film. Now, normally, this is where the movie would be made and that really would be that. Scott’s visit to an art gallery in Paris would change the make up of the movie, according to the behind the scenes documentary. What set Alien aside from other space/horror fanfare were the influences of two major artists at the time, Jean Giraud and H.R. Giger.

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Concept Art by Jean Giraud, a.k.a. Moebius.

Having seen his work in France, Ridley Scott felt that Giger had to be brought on board. Giger agreed to use some of his designs for the film and actually helped create the entire Space Jockey set. For the late 1970s, Giger’s look – elongated bones with sexual undertones – had to be a shock to audiences. Giraud, known to many fans as Moebius, was one of the greatest illustrators to have lived. Giraud was previously brought on to work on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s adaptation of Dune, but after that fell through, he ended up working with Scott for a bit, mainly coming up with the designs for the suits in the Nostromo. Together, both their designs would be used to bring something entirely new to audiences at the time. Also on hand was Carlo Rambaldi (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Dune), who helped design the Alien’s mouth and motor features. In the effects department, Dennis Ayling, Nick Allder, and even Batman’s Anton Furst had a hand in setting the atmosphere for the Nostromo and LV-426. The result is a sense of claustrophobia. The Nostromo’s hallways aren’t the immaculate ones you’d find on board the Enterprise or the roomy ones on the Millennium Falcon. They’re tight, dimly lit with an obvious function over form factor to them. It’s a space rig.

With older monster films, the creature usually is just one form. Giger’s Alien had three distinct forms used, which has always made me curious for the initial audience reactions. The first encounter is with a the Facehugger, an arachnid like creature with a tail that restricts the breathing of its potential victim. Add to this the notion that it uses molecular acid for blood. How do you even fight such a thing? Imagine thinking this is the “big bad” you’re going to see throughout the movie. Scott was particular in having the advertising reference as little as it could about the Alien itself (though the toy line kind of ruined that).

Just when you’re comfortable with the possiblity of facehuggers crawling around, the movie switches gears and introduces us to the Chestburster, a phallic snake of a creature (thanks again to Giger). . The scene was fantastic. Although the cast was told what was supposed to happen with Kane (John Hurt), they weren’t completely filled in on how it was supposed to occur. It was a two part process. The first involved trying to hold down Kane, and the second was setup with John Hurt in the table to have the “push through”. So, when Kane lets out that one big scream, everyone’s reactions are real. You can see that both Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Dallas (Tom Skerritt) are completely stunned. Veronica Cartwright (and her character Lambert) caught the worst of all this and also had the best reaction. When the Chestburster appears, the effects blood pumps caught Cartwright full on and it was all kept on film. I’m told that the scene in its initial run had people curling in their seats, standing to move to the back of the theatre (for some distance) or walking out altogether. What I wouldn’t give for a Time Travelling DeLorean and an Opening Night movie ticket to that.

So now, there’s a snake running loose on the ship. The film spares very little time before our newborn becomes an adult. Mostly sleek and skeletal, the adult Alien is the stuff of nightmares, but thanks to Scott, and Cinematographer Derek Vanlint, we don’t see much of the Alien until the last act of the movie. Like the Batman, we only see it pounce, and that’s a testament both to the lighting used and the editing of shots. Scott’s close-ups on the Alien’s mouth and forehead doesn’t give anyone enough time to fully make out what it is entirely. Credit also goes to Bolaji Badejo, who portrayed the Alien. At 6’10”, Badejo was perfect for the creature sense of stature and movement, particularly with Harry Dean Stanton’s Brett having to stare up at him in shock.

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The production wasn’t without an issue here or there. Giraud’s suits – which had a samurai feel to them – had problems with the ventilation, so some of the actors nearly experienced exhaustion while working in them. This was later remedied, of course.

Alien remains one of Jerry Goldsmith’s best scores, though it’s also a simple one. The music isn’t so much horrific as it just classical. The music in Alien isn’t really used to imply any kind of horror (save for perhaps one sequence), but perhaps that’s a good thing. The music lets the movie do the talking instead of throwing zingers. There’s very little I can say about the score outside of that.

Alien would go on to spawn seven extra films, though personally, only James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012) are the two worth seeing. Alien 3 (1992) is beautiful, thanks to David Fincher and Cinematographer Alex Thomson, but also kind of damaged the timeline.

So, turn out the lights, settle in with the food of your choice and enjoy Alien Day.

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The Space Jockey. Much of Giger’s designs looked like bone.

* – A thank you goes out to Kevin Carr of Fat Guys At the Movies. He once featured It! The Terror From Outer Space years ago during the weekend Live Tweets he used to host. It was a treat to watch.

Here the official trailer for Alien: Convenant!


I kind of wish this trailer didn’t open with everyone grinning like a bunch of missionaries preparing to leave on their first trip to the Amazon rain forest but otherwise, Alien: Convenant is looking pretty promising.

In theory, no movie should be scarier than an Alien movie.  Hopefully, Ridley Scott will return this franchise to its former glory.

Scenes I Love: Alien


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We found out tonight that the great Sir John Hurt passed away at the age of 77.

For some their memory of him was in the role of the Elephant Man. For the younger set it might be as Hellboy’s adopted father Professor Broom. Some might even remember him as Chancellor Sutler from V for Vendetta. They were all great roles, but my very first memory of him is from a film that helped shaped my love for horror and sci-fi. It was a film that was influenced the impressionable mind of a pre-teen.

This film is and will always be Ridley Scott’s haunted house in space sci-fi horror film, Alien.

Sir John Hurt as the doomed crew-member Kane would make such an impact in my impressionable mind as a child not when he first appears on-screen, but when the titular creature makes it’s first appearance in what I can only describe as an explosive birthing scene.

Rest In Peace good sir.

Have Yourself A Terrifying Little Christmas … With The Trailer for Alien: Convenant!


AGCK!

Ridley Scott returns to the Alien franchise and, if this trailer is any thing to judge by, it looks like 2017 is going to be a scary one indeed!

Alien Covenant will be in theaters on May 17th!