Saturday, June 20, 2009

Day 120: Alien:The Director's Cut (1979/2003) - Rank 4/5


When screening this film for an event, I found myself pondering: "What are the differences between the original and the 'director's cut'?" I was curious to see if they would pop out at me (forgive the pun) during viewing, but nothing major ever caught my attention. Ridley Scott's sci-fi/horror yarn remains as gripping and as effective as the first time I saw it. I've always appreciated the first Alien film because it's the perfect blend in two schools of thought in the horror realm. Some horror films take a more psychological approach to scares - the "less is more" mentality. Show as little of the creature as possible and what the audience imagines will be more frightening than the actual product. The second way of thinking is: show the audience so much that they want to turn away.

That second rationale was becoming big in the late 1970's and early 1980's as Rob Bottin, Rick Baker and other wizards put practical effects back on the map. "The Thing," "The Fly" and others are all prime examples of showing the audience all they can bear. "Alien" is the perfect harmony between the two. It exploits the natural claustrophobic fear that comes from being trapped within a given space with a creature that keeps to the dark. Most of the actual killing takes place off camera and so the viewer is left to come up with something horrific in his mind. But at the same time, while the alien is minimally used for many shots, the scenes that it is present in are equally terrifying, for it's a fantastic design and a damn good suit. So it reaches that perfect middle ground between the psychological and the visceral.

Speaking of the visceral, that was the primary change that I noticed in the film - a scene where Dallas and a couple other crew members are cocooned to the wall and Ripley finds them. While both gruesome and informative (in the sense that it gives you a little more background information on the biology of the organism), I didn't see where it was necessary. However, it didn't subtract from the film either - merely eye candy. To Mr. Scott, I then say, "Hat's off" for he used enough discretion to merely tighten his film and remix the sound when called to make a recut, as opposed to making the same mistakes that other directors have made (the Star Wars Trilogy, Cinema Paradiso) in chopping up the original so badly that it makes the revised product almost unwatchable.

Watch the Trailer.

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