Out of My Mind: Xeno Xeno!

Greetings everyone.  Today we’re talking about the xenomorphs from the Alien franchise.

When the Alien series started, it started off really strong.  The first movie is still considered one of the best horror movies ever made even after all these years.  Unfortunately, some of the later films kind of took the terror out of the alien creatures, but we’ll get to that.

The creature in the first Alien movie was designed by the late H.R. Giger.  The alien monsters that would later be known as xenomorphs combine the horror of the unknown with the savagery of a wild animal.  If you can imagine The Thing From Another World taking control of a lion, then you’re on the right track.

1979’s Alien takes place in the far off future year of 2122.  Unless the year 2122 has already passed by the time you’re reading this, in which case I must say the following:  Ha Ha!  You’re reading a blog post from a guy that died over a hundred years ago!

Anyway, the film starts with the crew of a ship called the Nostromo responding to a distress signal on their way back to Earth.  The distress signal takes them to a moon called LV-426.  The crew finds a bunch of alien eggs, one of which hatches a creature that fans of the series refer to as a “facehugger”.  For those of you that have never seen these films, they are nowhere near as cute as they sound.

The facehugger proceeds to earn its name by leaping at one of the crew, breaking through his helmet, and getting a deathgrip on his face.  The rest of the crew take their crewman back to the ship’s medical bay.  It’s here that they learn that the alien creatures have highly acidic blood, so they can’t just cut the facehugger off the crewman’s face.  It seemingly becomes a moot point when the facehugger dies and the crewman recovers with no memory of the incident.

Not everything is what it seems however, as the crewman later keels over and dies.  A small alien creature bursts out of the crewman’s chest and flees before the rest of the crew can catch it.  Incidentally, fans of the series call these things “chestbursters”.  I would make fun of the lack of imagination there, but this is from a movie about alien life forms called Alien.

The crew start hunting for the creature, but by the time they find it, it has grown into its final form.  The crew proves to be no match for the creature, as it’s black…chitin?…allows it to hide from them easily.  It picks them off one by one, until they have no choice but to abandon ship.  The last surviving crew member, a woman named Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver), manages to make it off the ship and kill the creature.

Even though this film made a really great horror movie, 1986’s Aliens went for more of an action movie feel.  The movie has Ripley rescued by the company that she worked for.  They manage to convince her to return to LV-426 with a division of space marines.  They end up fighting a bunch of the alien monsters before being confronted with the alien that laid all the eggs in the first place.  A queen alien, if you will.

The finale of the movie has Ripley using an exosuit to fight the queen.  This is easily the most iconic scene in the entire franchise, and I recommend watching this film just for this scene alone.  Ripley manages to defeat the queen, and she enters into cryogenic sleep with the rest of the survivors on their way to the next sequel…I mean Earth.

1992’s Alien 3 starts with the ship that the survivors were on crashing into prison colony.  Ripley is the only survivor of the crash, apart from a facehugger that managed to stow away unnoticed.  The facehugger latches onto a dog, becoming the most beast-like form of the alien monster in the series so far.  The prisoners and crew are unable to fight back because there are no weapons on the colony.

As they try to catch and kill the alien, Ripley learns that she somehow has an embryo of an alien queen inside her.  The company that Ripley worked for wants to remove the embryo so that they can sell it as a biological weapon.  This is because all corporations in movies are both stupid and evil.  The dog-like alien manages to kill most of the prisoners, but Ripley is able to kill the creature.  She then sacrifices herself to kill the queen growing inside her and prevent it from being used as a weapon.

This led the owners of the franchise into a bit of a problem.  Ripley was undeniably the star of the series by this point, so they couldn’t very well make a sequel without her.  1997’s Alien Resurrection solved this by having the new Ripley be a clone of the original.  Of course, the company that cloned her only wanted the alien embryo that was inside here, because of the whole “stupid and evil” thing.

Like with Aliens, this film was more of an action movie than a horror movie.  The fact that the clone of Ripley had powers and abilities beyond any of the regular human characters didn’t help.  The film also features the most human-looking alien yet, and the most disturbing scene of it getting sucked into the vacuum of space.  Now that I think about it, shooting the monster into space seems to be the go-to solution for killing a xenomorph.

The next few films in the franchise were crossovers with the Predator series.  I’ll talk about those films more when we get to the Predator films, but I will say that the films were…decent.  Unlike with the crossover films of the Universal Studios monsters, at least both sets of monsters get a good amount of screen time.

2012 had what I can only call a “stealth prequel” with Prometheus.  This film centers around an all-knowing race called the Engineers.  I would make a “no, not the Engineer from Hellraiser” joke, but I don’t think I remembered to include him in that post.  Oh well, the Engineer of the Cenobites was really more of a minor character anyway.

The crew of the science vessel Prometheus find an Engineer, who proceeds to kill most of the crew.  An archaeologist named Elizabeth Shaw manages to survive and defeat the Engineer by throwing an unknown biological creature at it.  The end of the film shows a chestburster break free from the Engineer’s chest, showing that this film was apparently an origin story for the xenomorphs.

2017’s Alien: Covenant takes place ten years later on board the colonization ship Covenant.  The ship receives a transmission from a nearby planet, and goes by to investigate.  Keep in mind that this movie takes place before the first Alien film, so you can’t really call these people idiots for doing this.  As if par for the course, most of the crew die before they can kill the xenomorph.  The ending has an android crew member that is implied to be harvesting xenomorph embryos for some dark purpose.

The Alien franchise, to me, is the perfect example of a futuristic horror series done right.  The creatures in these films are more menacing than most other science fiction horror hybrids. The fact that they are basically wild animals makes them even more intimidating, since they can’t be reasoned with.  Even the sillier films like Resurrection still manage to get the right elements in.

Now it’s time to shove our xenomorphs out into the cold vacuum of space.  Tomorrow, we’ll talk about another extra-terrestrial horror series: Predator.


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