Titan Books is releasing Tim Lebbon’s Alien: Out of the Shadows, an official Alien novel and Book #1 in a trilogy, tomorrow, January 28th; and in honor of the occasion the author has provided us with his “Top Ten Alien Moments.”
I’m a lifelong Alien fan, but when I was asked to do this feature, I decided to approach it without watching the films again. That way the scenes I pick are the ones that have truly stuck in my mind, not the ones that I pick up on after watching one of the movies again.
As such, the bulk of these scenes come from Alien and Aliens although I do like Alien 3 more than a lot of people; Alien: Resurrection, although very entertaining, is my least favourite of the four movies. (I’ve also restricted myself to the original Alien films, as I don’t think vs. Predator and Prometheus are pure Alien.)
So here we go… my top ten moments from Alien movies. And as I’m notoriously rubbish at making up my mind –– just try having a meal with me; I take ages choosing from the menu –– these are in no particular order:
First Contact (Aliens)
Full of bluster, ready to get it on, absolute bad-asses, the Colonial Marines descend the staircases towards where the colonists of LV426 are having a ‘goddamn town meeting’ beneath the reactor. Confident and immortal, they don’t expect to be beaten in their first contact. They start getting a bit twitchy when they see the extruded mess down there … that nightmarish Gigeresque alien architecture, like the inside of a giant termite hill. And then all hell breaks loose. It’s filmed beautifully, skipping between real-time views of the action and the Marines’ helmet-cam views seen back in the control vehicle––panicky, confused, terrifying. Ripley and Gorman look on aghast as the Marine unit is attacked and taken down one by one … and Burke sees the beginning of his plan coming to fruition.
Space Jockey (Alien)
The whole section of Alien when they’re approaching and then entering the crashed ship is filled with wonder and awe. A lot of that is down to the scenery and artwork, the staggering concepts, and the stunned reaction of the crew members. All of this is perfectly summed up when we first see the mythical Space Jockey, fossilised into the seat where it died. It’s so other, so alien, and yet so obviously another version of what they are––astronauts––that it still sends a chill down my back every time I see it. There’s deep history implied there, and a whole universe that we don’t know about. When the Nostromo crew members move away and the camera stays on the Jockey’s face, light shifting, eye sockets almost seeming to move … shudder!
Need I say more? One of the things I loved most in Alien was the banter between crew members. You got to know all these people in such a short period of time––they were real people, real characters––and the same can be said of the Marines in Aliens. This scene is after incredible tension has been relaxed and everyone’s sitting down having a last meal together before going back to sleep. John Hurt plays it beautifully, confused and disturbed but so pleased to be back at the table. And then the first coughing fit … and in seconds calmness has turned to terror, and we get the first sight of the cute little xenomorph we’ll all come to know and love.
Dallas in Air Shaft (Alien)
Another masterful exercise in tension and terror. We all know what happens now, but anyone watching the film for the first time would surely think that Dallas would be one of the last survivors, if not the eventual killer of the alien. But no … full of confidence, he enters the conditioning vents to flush the thing out. And there’s a wonderful piece of character work here, when he decides that actually enough is enough and he wants out. But it’s too late.
Dropship Crash (Aliens)
They’re readying to take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure. But then the dropship lifts off with a surprise on board, and the terrifying crash is as effective now as it was when first viewed. The reactions afterwards are great, too, with the Marines flipping out and Ripley concerned only for poor, wise Newt. They mostly come at night… mostly.
Water Alien (Aliens)
The alien is a beautiful monster. That might sound odd, but just take a look at it. When you realise where Giger’s inspiration comes from, perhaps it’s a natural reaction, but they have never seemed so graceful and deadly than in this scene. Newt has slid away from Ripley and Hicks and finds herself below some floor decking, chest-deep in water. Ripley and Hicks find her, tell her to step away so that they can cut through the decking … and while they’re cutting, an alien rises from the water behind Newt, tail and arms waving, silent, almost balletic in its movement. Terrifying and amazing.
Tunnel Trap (Alien 3)
Ripley and the convicts in Fiorina 161 are readying a trap for the alien. Using fire, they’re going to direct it through a series of tunnels and corridors and into the giant smelting apparatus; then they’ll destroy it in molten metal. It takes a while to set up. Tension rises. Then the alien attacks, screams echo down corridors, and we get an alien-eye view as it chases victims, hunting them down. A flare is dropped, and the volatile fluid they’ve been spreading to assault the alien explodes. It’s truly a scene out of hell.
(As an aside, I think the best trailer for any of the Alien movies was Alien 3, and it might just be my favourite movie trailer of all time).
Underwater Aliens (Alien: Resurrection)
Just because it’s such an amazing set-piece! In truth, I’m not even sure whether the swimming aliens look menacing or silly, but when they’re out of the flooded rooms and into the cooling tower, the action really hots up. I love the alien dodging the bullets, and just how cool is Ron Perlman?
That dribble of milky blood down his temple … his twitchy, disconcerting movements as he malfunctions … the rolled-up magazine to choke and suffocate Ripley … then his head knocked off, and Ash thrashes around and around, spurting android blood everywhere. Is it the end of Ash? Maybe. Maybe not. Read my novel to find out!
The Egg Chamber (Aliens)
Terrifying. Ripley is running with Newt, and suddenly everything goes quiet. She looks around in terror, and for a while we don’t see what she does. All the horror is on her face, and when we finally see, we realise why she’s so stunned. It’s the queen, laying those horrible eggs one after another. She faces up to Ripley, and maybe there’s some acknowledgement of Ripley’s mothering instincts. When Ripley shows the queen a blast from the flamethrower, the beast hisses at her ‘troops’ to withdraw. The aliens fall back. And then that sickly, squelchy sound of an egg curling open, and Ripley knows the queen will never let her leave that place alive. This for me is the ultimate expression of Ripley’s strength––head tilted to one side, ‘Yeah, okay, queenie; I know just what you’re trying to do.’ Then she lets rip (see what I did there?) with the flame thrower, pulse rifle, and grenade launcher. The queen is not amused.
Alien: Out of the Shadows, which bridges the gap between Alien and Aliens, is an all-new original adventure for Ellen Ripley, revealing untold secrets from the series.
The massively acclaimed Alien franchise is one of the most successful of all time, beginning with the first film in 1979. In a dramatic twist, this novel will return us to that time, to Ellen Ripley, and to never-before-revealed secrets of the Weyland-Yutani Corporations… secrets that lead into the events of the second film, Aliens… and beyond!
Officially sanctioned and true to the Alien canon, Alien: Out of the Shadows expands upon the well-loved mythos and is a must for all Alien fans.
Tim Lebbon is the New York Times bestselling author of the movie novelization of 30 Days of Night and The Cabin in the Woods. He has also written many critically acclaimed horror and dark fantasy novels, including Dusk, Fallen, and The Island.
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