Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Sunday Scene: Alien

It has been quite a while since I did a Sunday Scene. I could come up with an excuse and say that I've been really busy (which is true-ish), but then it doesn't take too long to write these anyway; so who am I kidding. Anyway, on with this weeks scene.

Given that I'm really excited about the release of Prometheus in a few weeks, I decided that I could watch all four Alien films first, and I started this week with Alien (review to follow soon). A fantastic film that is full of wonderful scenes, but there is one in particular that I think has gained a certain notoriety; of course I mean the chest-burster scene.

Poor Kane (John Hurt) was daft enough to look directly into an Alien egg and received a face full of face-hugger for his troubles. After the parasite has fallen off, Kane seems fine and just wants some food before the crew go back into hyper-sleep. Poor Kane never gets back to sleep, because the thing that was implanted inside him now bursts forth in dramatic style.

The scene is wonderful for several reasons. It is the point in the film where everything starts to go horribly wrong; up to this point there are some clashes of personality between the crew, but from now on there is open hostility between them. It also consolidates the sexual horror of the Alien life cycle. Kane essentially has his face raped by an alien thing, and in this scene he gives birth (John Hurt's words). The chest-burster itself is very reminiscent of a very specific part of the male anatomy.

What really sells the scene is the reaction of the cast. There is a moment of real shock and surprise, as they are as horrified as the viewer. A persistent rumour is that none of the cast knew what was about to happen. Not quite true. They had all seen the chest-burster so they knew what they were reacting to, never mind that there was a guy under the table with the thing on the end of stick to poke it through dummy John Hurt's chest; and of course they all knew the script. What they didn't know was that there would be mini explosive pellets under Kane's shirt that would help the bursting effect, and they weren't prepared for the amount of blood that was going to be used. So when the initial thrust of the chest-burster happens, the reaction of the crew is completely real, and that really seals the scene.

Immediately following the bursting we see some of the different responses from the crew. Parker immediately grabs something to attack the thing, but Ash doesn't want it touched. Indeed, as the alien scuttles away, everyone looks horrified apart from Ash who looks curious more than anything.  I know he's the scientist and should be curious, but it looks more ambiguous than that. Excellent scene from an excellent film; everything about it is so visceral, and here's hoping that Ridley Scott will be as visually astonishing in Prometheus.