August 18, 2005


Continuing the Sci-Fi Canon Project, Jacob and I watched Alien last night. It was excellent. It was scary as all fuck and extravagantly unpleasant, without being the kind of movie that will still keep me up at nights two years later.

Typical hostile-contact stories go something like: large crew of heroic explorers finds alien race, embarks on epic space battle from comfort of own ship using lasers and whatnot, glorious triumph and/or crushing defeat wrought by combined forces of entire human race or political entity thereof. Alien goes more like: small crew of tired bitchy tow-truck drivers doesn't want to deal with this shit, gets bullied into it by ship computer, winds up with one lousy alien on own ship and can't even fucking handle the stupid thing seven on one, and, to make it worse, gets no help and will probably get no recognition from the rest of the human race for any of this crap. It's not space opera. It's much more satisfyingly realistic, which is saying something when we're talking about 8-foot-tall exoskeletoned aliens that reproduce by wrapping around people's faces and shoving eggs down their throats. Speaking of which, that's gross. Jacob found a trivia page online last night that said that H.R. Giger had to keep changing his designs for the movie because they were "too blatantly sexual". I do have to wonder how much more blatant they could possibly have been.

And yet, and yet, I didn't wake up screaming from nightmares last night. I've put some thought into why. For one, it wasn't a "this could happen to you" movie. This could only happen to you if you were out landing on frozen planets and poking around wrecked ships. The monster doesn't come out of the municipal water supply or the bedroom closet, it comes out of the middle of fucking space. If it were going to be in my kitchen, other people would know about it before I would. For two, the real horribleness depends on the setting: miles of dark claustrophobic corridors and cluttered engine rooms, too few people, too little light and no good weapons. Fine. Try it on Earth, bitch. Here we have floodlights and open space and the National Guard. This leads me to number three, which is that the monster can actually be killed. It's an animal that'll die if it's badly injured, not some kind of undead supernatural force against which there's no known defense. You just need a big enough gun. Four, there's no question of it having reasons for trying to kill you. You're just a big blob of tasty flesh standing in its way. If you get away from it, it'll find some other blob of tasty flesh. It's not going to track you down wherever you are for some kind of vendetta.

Hence my dreams last night, which, while admittedly Alien-themed, weren't nightmares. I just dreamed that we (the usual unclear dream "we") had to reopen and reclose an airlock door over and over because we kept accidentally bringing in something that was supposed to stay outside. It didn't do anything, it just wasn't supposed to come in. Open, close. Aw, crap. Open, close. Damnit! Open, close. Oh, not again. Open, close. Can you fucking do this right for once? And so on. Not restful, but not terrifying.

The Sci-Fi Canon is redeemed, and the project goes on.

Posted by dianna at August 18, 2005 10:09 AM

Speaking of just needing a big enough gun, we should watch Aliens: The Bigger Gun. In which our hero returns with the Marines and everyone shoots between five and more than five aliens. Unfortunately for the Marines, there are many, MANY more than five aliens. One of the characters in the movie meta-summarizes its own plot by calling it a "bug hunt." Truer words were never spoken. A less-scary but still fun installment in the quadrilogy.

Posted by: Jacob at August 18, 2005 10:18 AM

Also, have you seen Terminator and/or Terminator 2? If not, they should be part of the Canonification.

Posted by: Jacob at August 18, 2005 10:23 AM

In reference to this movie being less nightmare-inducing due to its totally bizarre setting, I just had a really vivid image (daydream?) of Alien 7 (or whatever fucking number they're up to): TERRAfied, or Terra Terror, or some such cheese title.

Imagine one of THOSE coming out of your closet at night or out from under the bed or waiting for you in the bathroom in such a way that you don't see it till you open the medicine cabinet, get out your toothbrush and toothpaste, apply toothbrush and toothpaste, replace toothpaste in medicine cabinet, start brushing your teeth, finish brushing your teeth, floss, rinse with Listerine (for the directed 30 seconds), ignore the nail-biting-someone's-gonna-get-you-squeaky-violin music emanating from everywhere, and close the medicine cabinet. THAT'S when the slimy bastard is suddenly visible in the bathroom mirror (was it hiding in the shower? under the toilet? who the hell knows!?), timed perfectly with an obnoxious orchestra hit. THAT'S when the camera pans in such a way that all that you get to see of the carnage is a little blood splat on the mirror or flowery wallpaper.

AVP had a brief scene of Aliens In the Kitchen, I think, and it did the job.

Posted by: Erik at August 18, 2005 10:36 AM

It's not actually called The Bigger Gun, is it? Please tell me it's not. Let's rent it, and Ts 1 and 2 also. I haven't seen any of them.

Upon re-reading this entry, I'm fairly sure that it's my most senselessly profane blog post yet. Can I get a prize for this?

Posted by: Dianna at August 18, 2005 10:43 AM

Oh jesus. Erik, you stop that right now. I have enough problems with monsters in my bathroom already. There's the shower curtain which has to be kept closed so mildew doesn't accumulate in the folds (though let me tell you, now that I've got this image in my head it's going to be a red-letter day every day for that mildew), there's the mirror cabinet which swivels 360 degrees so that you can't see what's behind you unless you align it just perfectly, and there's the 1920s plumbing that goes thump somewhere under and behind you every time you turn on the water, but waits just long enough after you turn the knob for you to lean over and put soap all over your face so you can't open your eyes.

What's AVP, and why did you have to talk about this?

Posted by: Dianna at August 18, 2005 10:50 AM

Oh, oh, Alien Versus Predator?

Posted by: Dianna at August 18, 2005 10:52 AM

It's not actually called The Bigger Gun. But everyone has guns and they use them with wreckless abandon. It's much more an action movie than a horror movie. But it's fun!

Posted by: Jacob at August 18, 2005 11:59 AM

I was nervous about everyone using their guns with abandon, but I'm relieved to see that it was wreckless.

Di, didn't we see T2 together at an incredibly formative age? I could have sworn. Maybe it was just me & Mom.

Posted by: katie at August 18, 2005 12:05 PM

AVP where the aliens have been deep underground ALL ALONG. in antartica. that movie is wicked stupid.

i like the alien movie with winona ryder. i think it's the incongruity of it all.

Posted by: michele at August 18, 2005 12:06 PM

Argh. I fixed that typo once, but it must have come back when I left to start a column. It makes my eyes hurt just to look at it.

Posted by: Jacob at August 18, 2005 12:08 PM

Terminator 2 is Titantic for cool people.

I'd go into it, but I have to go to surprise dentist's appointment now.

The original Terminator was nice and gritty, but for some reason all the intangibles just reeked way too heavily of the 80's. And not in a good way, like in Die Hard.

I highly recommend the original Highlander as well, for one simple reason: The Kurgan. Everything else about the movie is just fanboy trash, but that guy is one of the most delightfully awesome villains ever.

Posted by: poot at August 18, 2005 12:12 PM

Can can you complain about bad 80s reek and laud The Kurgan in the same sentence?
Anyway, I certainly appreciate grit in a movie, but I don't think it's the be all and end all of style. The entirely appropriate 80s-punk-dirt cool from Terminator just wouldn't have fit in the bright flashy chrome glitter of the early 90s T2.

Posted by: Jacob at August 18, 2005 12:39 PM

That's an interesting perspective to take on The Kurgan. My scifi buddies and I were more of the opinion that he represented the pure chaotic force of destruction, and rather transcended the times. It's just a trick of light and shadows that he *seems* to blend in perfectly with every epoch we see him in. Compare this to the protagonist (antihero though he may be,) who immediately becomes an outcast in his own time upon becoming immortal, and then quietly tries to stay out of history's way, collecting antiques for a living.

As for T2: do not be fooled by my somewhat odd comparison to Titantic. T2 rocked. It's just that it was plagued by a lot of the same pre-release woes (budget, delays, bad rep) and wound up being vindicated.

Of course, vindication through actual quality is too subjective to rely upon. They both made a crapload of money.

Posted by: poot at August 18, 2005 03:51 PM

Blend in perfectly with the times? In the highlands, The Kurgan wears a giant skull on his headand rides a massive horse. In the 80s he's a nasty punk who is immediately recognizable as bad news. He sticks out like an evilly sore thumb! Not that it's a bad thing... IMHO, both The Kurgan and McCloud avoid anacronism, but both of them are just a little off.

Posted by: Jacob at August 18, 2005 06:04 PM

So, on a slightly different note... any plans to rent it and give it a perusal Dianna? It's got swords! And Sean Connery!

And a very satisfying interaction between those two things.

(evil grin)

Posted by: poot at August 20, 2005 12:02 PM

I despised the second Alien movie, but I saw it right (as long as it took to go to the fridge and the bathroom) after I saw the super amazing first one. This sounds familiar, I think i've written this before.

Posted by: jason at August 21, 2005 12:27 PM

wow, i have not been on ch for a while. anyway, i must chime in that Aliens is in fact one of the MOST terrifying movies i've seen. then again, i saw it when i was 8 and hadn't had much horror movie exposure, what with my mom keeping me from all things pg-13 and above (i didn't even get to see "pretty woman" until i was in high school, b/c of the "immoral message". apparently my mom thought i would go right out and start walking the streets, hoping that i, too, could be swept off my feet by richard gere. yuck.) anyway, i slept with my face in my pillow for a week straight, terrified of waking up to something bursting out of my stomach. ewww, i'm getting grossed out just thinking about it. blech!!

Posted by: erica at August 21, 2005 01:00 PM