JUMPSCARECUT: Alien (1979)

Year: 1979
Directed by: Ridley Scott
StarringSigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Ian Holm, John Hurt

Written by Rhys Bowen Jones

29 years on from its original release, Alien continues to be a masterpiece of sci-fi and horror. At only his second directorial effort, legendary director Ridley Scott put himself firmly in the Hollywood spotlight with both a critical and commercial success in the shape of a terrifying space adventure.

Alien stars a then relatively low-key cast, but today it’s a veritable who’s who of classic actors. John Hurt, Ian Holm, Harry Dean Stanton, and, of course, Sigourney Weaver. Weaver plays the now iconic role of Ellen Ripley, an officer tasked with the job of somehow saving the day from a horrifying, powerful creature which has found its way onto their ship, the Nostromo, in arguably the film’s most iconic sequence. As the crew of the Nostromo begins to be picked off, Alien becomes a tense survival mission as they attempt to escape the creature’s wrath.

Criminally left unwatched until I was 19 years old in university, I’d genuinely avoided watching it despite knowing I should because I’d heard how scary it was. When I eventually bit the bullet late one night, the film lived up to its billing as a harrowing experience. What begins as a mysterious sci-fi, exploring a moon in the far reaches of space, becomes an unrelenting, thrilling experience that I have genuinely never forgotten. It’s well-written, it subverts expectations, it has outstanding production design, lighting, and sound design, and Ridley Scott meticulously balances the tension in order to maximise the impact of its numerous and plentiful scares.

You cannot write a review of Alien without talking about the actual alien. The Xenomorph. To this day, the Xenomorph has no equal as the most feared, and best design creature in film history. Nothing in Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or Predator can hold a candle to the Xenomorph. HR Giger’s creation is the most iconic thing to come from an iconic film because of its individuality and impactful design that’s equal parts horrifying as it is fascinatingly unique. The mouth within the mouth; the freakishly long, phallic cranium; the slightly humanoid elements (bi-pedal, five fingers) heightened to be so obviously, uncomfortably alien make it unforgettable. Add in its towering height over its human prey and it’s enough to scare even the bravest souls. There’s a reason the Xenomorph hasn’t changed much beyond some in-universe evolvements (the Xenomorph Queen in ‘Aliens’, the weird baby alien in ‘Resurrection’, the white baby aliens in ‘Alien: Covenant’), but the principal Xenomorph never changes because Giger nailed it. Creature designers have tried for years to come even close to the iconic creature and no one has managed it.

In rewatching the film, I thought I’d conduct a short experiment to see how much the Xenomorph is actually on screen. Give or take a few seconds where I had to restart the stopwatch, it came it at less than 4 minutes of screen time. 4 minutes! 4 minutes for it to make one of the biggest impacts we’ve ever seen in horror film history. That takes skill, and it takes the combination of all sorts of factors – building tension, perfectly timed jump scares (I’ve been irrationally scared of vents for the last 6 years since I first watched Alien), and the audience believing in the Xenomorph as a threatening entity, which they surely did – working for it to have such an impact.

Alien is incredible. It has stood the test of time for very good reason and remains as terrifying today as it surely was on its release. Despite the abundance of horror films in the market these days, Alien still stands tall as a scary-as-fuck film, and one of the all-time best scary-as-fuck films, at that.

Quoth the Alien, in space, no one can hear you scream. I’m sure the people of Nottingham heard me scream that night.

RHYS’ RATING:

5

 

Introducing JUMPSCARECUT 2018

This October we’re excited to be sharing our teams favourite horrors, scary films and spooky stuff throughout the entire month! Each day we’ll be sharing a review from a member of a team, ranging from cult classics to modern horrors, and we’ll also be doing some spooky stuff over on Twitter!

We’ll be kicking off our month long event with Abbies’ review of Mandy tomorrow! Other films you can expect to see on our site this month include Halloween (both the original and upcoming sequel!), Hereditary, The Conjuring 2, Suspiria, Alien, and LOTS more.

If you’re diving into the world of horror this October, be sure to let us know!

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October is going to be a very busy month here at JUMPCUT what with out London FIlm Festival and Grimmfest coverage alongside JUMPSCARECUT and the new releases heading our way this month. Be sure to keep an eye on our social feeds for all the latest from us, and don’t forget you can find us on Apple News and Flipboard!

Films I Watched Way Too Young

Written by Cameron Frew

A person’s relationship with film is often rooted in childhood experiences. Whether it be that first fateful trip to the cinema, that beloved classic you ruined the VHS of with repeat viewings, your first proper horror movie experience or perhaps a movie you watched alongside your family on a regular basis. Though, anyone who’s grew up around film will likely have a story about watching something they were probably a bit too young for, a movie their fun Uncle or naive Gran showed them without much foresight as to the trauma they were about to inflict. Over time though, that trauma turns into a treasured memory, and this article will look at a few of the films I recall watching at a hilariously young age, and how they changed my perception of film forever.

Film: The Ring 2

Age: 8

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© – Dreamworks Pictures

This is a bit of a strange one. I actually watched the first of The Ring remakes back when it was initially released in 2002. I struggle to recall how that came to be, but it was likely alongside my Mum at Halloween (we’d watch a horror film every year), and yes, it bloody terrified me. But in 2005, I was on holiday in Israel, and my Uncle decided to take us to the cinema. We had no idea what we were going to see, so he said, “We’ll just have a look at what’s on when we’re there.”

So we arrived at this metropolis-esque cinema. Greeting us first and foremost at the doors was a poster for the newest horror release – The Ring 2. Now, I know what you’re thinking; that I was too young to get into such a film in a cinema. And you would be absolutely correct, I was far too young, and the Israeli age rating system is not too dissimilar to the UK’s (unlike say, Canada’s, which allows kids into 18-rated movies if they have their parents). But my Uncle was utterly determined to go see this movie. So, as I stood enjoying the cool air-con, he waltzed over to the box office and started to chat. From a distance there appeared to be a lot of charming going on from his side, and a repetitive shaking head on the other. After around five minutes, he returned to us with a big smug smile on his face, with four tickets in his hand. It was happening, I don’t know how he did it, or why he thought this was a great idea, but we were actually going to watch this on the big screen. Upon a re-watch, this sequel is staggeringly average, contrived and not as tasteful as the still impressive sequel. But let me tell you, I was speechless at the time. Utterly shook, completely taken down by it. I mean, I was 8; what did he expect? I didn’t cry or anything like that, I just sat with a chalk white, stone-cold expression, processing and trying to dispose of any post-film thoughts that were tormenting me. With time, the fear faded, and looking back now, the experience helped prepare me for the much scarier efforts that were to come in my filmography.

Film: Alien

Age: 7

 

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© – 20th Century Fox

After getting a book out the library about movie extraterrestrials, I was unhealthily obsessed with Xenomorphs. Something about the nightmarish monsters drew me in, intriguing in their horrific, unique design (at this point I was still a fairly inexperienced viewer). I soon became very aware of the franchise they came from; to my joy there was four films on offer, plus an upcoming crossover with another major movie alien called Predator. The begging to the parents swiftly begun, trying the convince them that it wouldn’t scare me and that, as was always the golden rule with movies with a high age rating, I wouldn’t repeat anything from them. Ultimately, they decided there were worse things out there I could watch, so they allowed it.

The funny thing is, the film didn’t scare me at all. In fact, I can’t remember all that much about that initial viewing experience apart from the uncontrollable excitement. This was like a dream come true, finally seeing this crazy alien killing all these poor engineers, and me, the single spectator the carnage, sitting wide-eyed and jaw-dropped. But that excitement was my greatest downfall, as I definitely didn’t take it in as much as I should have. Don’t get me wrong; the slimy face-huggers still gave me the creeps, that scene in the air vents made me jump out my skin, and I was cheering on Ripley as she went up against the titular monster in the brilliant climax. But it wasn’t until I reached a later age I could fully immerse myself in its claustrophobic, thorough set-design, appreciate the unnerving score, and actually understand the graft Ridley Scott put in to create such a masterful horror. It’s now one of my all-time favourites of course. Anytime I see a Xeno, it feels like home.

Film: Dawn Of The Dead

Age: 7

 

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© – Universal Pictures

This isn’t the less trashy George Romero version from 1978 we’re talking about. This was the gore-soaked, ultraviolent, hyperactive remake from Zack Snyder. And who showed me it? That ol’ reliable Uncle who took me to The Ring 2 a year later. We were heading home from a day out in Glasgow, and he said we were going to get a McDonalds and watch Constantine. I hadn’t seen the film yet, and at the time I was a massive Keanu Reeves fan after falling in love with The Matrix early on and forever more. When we got in, he couldn’t find the DVD. Disaster. “What will we watch then?” I disappointingly asked, crushed by the lack of Keanu on the upcoming viewing schedule. From his trusty disc wallet, he whipped out Dawn Of The Dead. “Aw this is brilliant, it’s about zombies!” he exclaimed, with the kind of cheeky smile like he knew it was forbidden fruit to a youngster. Naturally, I agreed. Why wouldn’t I? And while now I can appreciate the satire and gentler suspense of the superior original, I maintain the remake’s opening, with the little girl in the bedroom, is a perfect sequence. It introduces you to the dangers in the small spaces and the widespread chaos outside like an escalating nightmare. I was petrified, and the rest of the movie didn’t do much to aid that. What I didn’t realise at the time was it subconsciously wet my appetite for more flesh-eating goodness, and although I was scared, I wouldn’t change that memory for anything (not even Keanu).

 

Film: Scream

Age: 6

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© – Dimension Films

Picture the scene. It’s a rainy late night in a dark flat, blinds down, still hearing the gentle taps of the water on the window and the symphony of the strong winds. My older brother, little cousin and I are huddled on a sofa bed around a TV, after enjoying a trusty late night snack courtesy of my Gran. The clock struck 11pm, and what movie comes on? Scream – Wes Craven, you ingenious devil. The opening, which I soon learned is fairly iconic in the horror sphere, was on another level. We innocently watched as Drew Barrymore made herself some popcorn on her lonesome. Then the phone rang, and the ordeal began. Barrymore is put on trial by this nefarious phantom caller, growing more sinister as the call goes on. At first it seems like a hoax call, but there is something much worse at play here. As a 6 year old, I couldn’t handle it. The heart was thumping; the covers were clutched up at my eyes. The way it inevitably goes (avoiding spoilers in case you haven’t watched it) knocked me for six. I was in bits, destroyed by the massacre on my senses. As I sunk under the sheets, bawling by eyes out, I wondered why anyone would ever want to watch such a film. But as the years progressed, and especially now as a film obsessive, I really admire what Craven did with Scream. Not many horrors are as funnily engaging, dissecting the tropes of the slasher movie while retaining the scares. One of the very best (but certainly not for youngsters).

Film: Chopper

Age: 5

 

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© – First Look Pictures

And the winner of the most stupidly inappropriate film I managed to see at the tender age of just 5 years old, is Australian, extremely explicit gangster biopic, Chopper. Initially released in 2000 and starring Eric Bana, it’s an adaptation of Mark “Chopper” Read’s autobiography. Chopper was a man seduced into a life of crime by a love of violence – he had no will to act as one should, he just wanted to be known as a legend, living in infamy. The way the film paints a portrait of someone whose psyche is so deeply steeped in vicious desires is quite remarkable, led by an electrifying performance from Bana. Now, the thing is, this film opens with a grotesque and realistic murder in a prison, and doesn’t really let up from there. There’s an age to watch a film like Chopper, and it certainly isn’t 5. I was so out of my depth. All I saw was blood, all I heard was swearing; other than that, I comprehended nothing. But it’s one of those memories that probably attracted me to the dark world of more adult entertainment at a young age, leading me to seek out films like Snatch and Lock Stock.

What are your favourite movie memories? Did you watch something you really shouldn’t of when you were younger? Let us know in the comments.

Decade Definers: 1980s – Birth Of The Action Hero

Written by Chris Gelderd

Like most things in life, it’s hard to pin-point the exact formation of something. A season. A movement. A trend. These things just seem to happen when every factor around it comes into alignment and all the signs point to go. Somethings just naturally work with the environment around them. The film industry also does this and has done for over 100 years

The 1980s saw the formation of many things that changed the industry forever. The emergence of special effects allowed film-makers to really let their imagination blossom. Risks were being taken across horror, sci-fi and comedy with franchises taking off left right and centre, content being pushed for teen audiences (the introduction of the US PG-13 rating for such an occasion) and talent was setting the bar high in their chosen genres, such as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Jane Fonda and Eddie Murphy to name but a few.

Yet the 80s was a decade that discovered a new wave of acting and creative talent that changed the way we look at action movies and their heroes forever, and we can see that winning template is used in films today to cater to new generations.

The world needed heroes, and the right men – and women – came along at the right time to deliver. Not satisfied with your suave Brit Sir Roger Moore and his family friendly James Bond adventures, mature audiences wanted more. More action! More violence! More stars! More outrageous, exciting, balls-to-the-wall popcorn entertainment!

The studios listened. The creative talent put pen to paper. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 1980s and the birth of the action hero!

Ask any film fan to name 5 action stars and they will probably give the same names.  From just a rather small selection of big name stars throughout the 1980s, we certainly got a truckload of memorable and long-standing action films from them. Some spawned franchises that still are going strong today, others simply one off treasures. Either way, they helped shape a genre that inspired much of what we see today on the big (and small) screen.

Let’s take a look at some of the big names that came to be during the 1980s and how they helped shape the action movie itself.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger

One man proved you didn’t need to be the next Charlton Heston of the acting world in order to make shockwaves across Hollywood and the world. Sometimes all you needed was a thick, inimitable European accent, muscles the size of watermelons and the passion to chase the American dream. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the ‘Austrian Oak’, did just that when he launched onto the scene during the 1980s with his imposing, unique frame as a bit player in cheaply produced movies before the studio execs took a risk and cast him in films where dialogue and plot were minimal, but action and iconography where high.

Arnie gave us 9 movies during the 1980s that became classics of the genre and his trademark style of witty one-liners, high violence, break-neck stunts and blending action into sci-fi, fantasy and comedy. From ‘Conan The Destroyer’ in 1982 that tested his boundaries for taking any role seriously and dishing out action in any form he was given, he soon was given movies such as ‘The Terminator’ in 1984, ‘Commando’ in 1985 and ‘Predator’ in 1987.

Each film was unique and different, letting Arnie win over fans and critics not with his acting, but with his ability to be an action hero across any genre who was tough talking, physically imposing and looked like a demi-God with his muscles and strong stance. He used any means at his disposal to eradicate bad guys – and sometimes good guys – and gave James Bond a run for his money with the one liners. Arnie became synonymous with action films and many of his 80s films stand strong today and shape franchise on the big and small screen in a career built on action that doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

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Sylvester Stallone

Stallone gave us two big ‘R’s throughout the 70s and 80s…and 90s and 00s, all things considered. Rocky Balboa was his character for sport and drama, but Rambo was his character for action and excitement. From 1982 to 1988 (and 2008, but we’re not here for that), Stallone carved a new niche for his action ability in the form of John Rambo, a traumatized Vietnam veteran.

After a debut in ‘First Blood’ that actually gave us a grounded action film that used drama, humanity and tension as its main driving points, it’s two sequels “First Blood Part II” and “Rambo III” threw humanity out the window (literally) and cranked up the chaos to 10.

Muscles bulging as he waged war against the Vietnamese and Russians to save POWs and innocent people, Rambo became the invincible one-man army whom America and the world could count on.  Armed with  rocket launchers and sub-machine guns, bow and arrows and hunting knifes, Rambo proved Stallone could deliver the sort of story fuelled action audiences wanted, and it continued over his career with the likes ‘Tango & Cash’, ‘Demolition Man’ and ‘The Expendables’.

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Bruce Willis

An interesting case study indeed when you look at it. Out of all the action heroes of the 80s, Willis looked least likely. He wasn’t imposing to look at, not intimidating to hear talk and his career launched in the 1984 US comedy drama TV show ‘Moonlighting’ and the 1987 comedy romance film ‘Blind Date’.

Fox produced a film based on a 1979 novel ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, a sequel to the 1966 book ‘The Detective’, which was adapted into a 1968 film starring Frank Sinatra and allowed Sinatra to accept or decline to star in the new film. He declined. Arnold Schwarzenegger declined it as a sequel to ‘Commando’. Who was left to cast? Bruce Willis, obviously.

Now when you say the words ‘Die Hard’, it conjures up a film often agreed to be the greatest action film of the 1980s. A simple story about a New York cop saving hostages inside a skyscraper whilst taking down a small army of European terrorists was just what people wanted. Full of explosive action, snappy humour, a surprising world-weary and iconic portrayal by Willis of NYPD cop John McClane and a villain as dastardly and suave as them come in the guise of the late, great Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber.

‘Die Hard’ quickly became a template to base an action hero saving the day against the odds, and shaped the hero who could be an everyday cop in the wrong place at the wrong time, not just a muscle bound war hero or super soldier. It launched four sequels, video games and also Willis’s career into action orbit and also the greatest debate going in movies today – “Is Die Hard a Christmas film or not?”.

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Sigourney Weaver

The 80s action market was a place for men. Women had little chance to show they could do as much damage as the guys sadly, but one woman took a role, built it up over a franchise and proved that with the right support, it wasn’t just the men who could kick ass and save the world…or galaxy.

Sigourney Weaver has her niche in drama and comedy, but her action debut came in a little known sci-fi film in the late 1970s called ‘Alien’ that had her go up and survive against a deadly alien being in space, where nobody could hear her or her ill-fated male crew scream. The role of Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley was a big boost to female talent at that time, and while Weaver continued her box-office draw in comedy with other classics such as ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Working Girl’, the 80s saw her return to the role of Ripley in 1986s ‘Aliens’.

This time, Weaver led a group of male supporting actors as space marines to return to and wipe out the colony of aliens and their queen to save the galaxy from extinction. Weaver gave just as good as she got in terms of attitude, action and ability. A fine actress of her generation, she carried over a humane side to her tough-talking and ass-kicking Ripley going up against the deadly aliens and held her own, much like John McClane in ‘Die Hard’, being an everyday person up against the odds but who handles weaponry and heavy machinery as easy as breathing. Weaver cemented a successful and iconic role in an already iconic franchise and is one of the few female actors to carve out a successful action hero over the years.

Now, sadly, I have to rein this piece in because I could go on exploring defining actors and their roles for many more pages, but you all have lives and I must let you get on with them.

I hope this small glimpse into what the 1980s gave us in terms of action resonates with you. A handful of international actors helped produced dozens of action films with the support of creative talent such as James Cameron and Joel Silver that would resonate for years to come and also help launch female talent in front of and behind the camera around the world. The 80s gave us simple pleasures without the need for extensive plots, complicated stories and bloated character development. The era is almost a golden age of simplicity and it’s that simplicity that makes it so easy to return to watch any action film of the time for nothing but entertainment and enjoyment.

There are many more stars out there I could have mentioned. I’ll leave you with a handful more here to explore in your own time as ones who also helped define the action decade:

  • Jackie Chan (‘Police Story’, ‘Project A’)
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme (‘Bloodsport’, ‘Kickboxer’)
  • Harrison Ford (‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark’, ‘Blade Runner’)
  • Mel Gibson (‘Mad Max 2’, ‘Lethal Weapon’)
  • Chuck Norris (‘The Delta Force’, ‘Missing In Action’)
  • Kurt Russell (‘The Thing’, ‘Big Trouble In Little China’)

Yippie-ki-yay, mother f….

Decade Definers: 1970s

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes, Abbie Eales, and Corey Hughes

Throughout history, cinema has reflected, echoed and even preempted societal shifts that occur through the ages, and that’s where our Decade Definers series comes in. We’ll take a look at the world, decade by decade, and discuss how the films of that era represented the attitudes, fears, desires and innovations of our society.

With the close of the Swinging Sixties, the 1970s came along like the much deserved  hangover after a period of such hedonism and optimism.  The 1970s was a decade of turmoil across the world. The Vietnam War, the Watergate Scandal and the death of Elvis shook the USA, while the UK dealt with Bloody Sunday, decimalisation, miners strikes and the election of Margaret Thatcher. The 1970s were desperately difficult times, both politically and economically but, as is often the way in times of hardship, this led to a period of rapid change. Some incredible art came from the period, from the rise of punk and disco to feminist and conceptual art, while cinema was not far behind in terms of pushing boundaries

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Star Wars (1977)

Thanks to Stanley Kubrick and his Space Odyssey, the idea of the universe around us became a thrilling and exciting setting for film going forward. No film encapsulates this sense of adventure and eagerness to explore galaxies far, far away, than ‘Star Wars’. A franchise which today is going from strength to strength, an unstoppable movie machine, the inception of this epic saga in 1977 changed the sci-fi landscape forever. Taking us across breathtaking worlds, introducing us to iconic characters from a multitude of species and handing us the most legendary weapon in film history, George Lucas’ space opera perfectly reflected mankind’s relentless desire to learn about and journey through our universe. (JLB)

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Alien (1979) – Sci-fi Horror on the Rise

Following on from the success of sci-fi family favourite Star Wars, Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece put science fiction back on a distinctly adult footing in what became one of the most influential films of all time. The “haunted house in space” film took a familiar theme but took it to revolutionary places. The casting of Sigourney Weaver as the lead character Ripley was hugely unusual, so much so that a conversation between Ripley and  Lambert (played by Veronica Cartwright, who was originally signed up to play the role of Ripley) served as the inspiration for the much quoted Bechdel test; the simple test for a female positive film, which simply looks at whether it features at least two women, who talk about something other than a man.

HR Giger’s design of the Xenomorph was revolutionary at the time and remains iconic, bringing together the natural and seemingly mechanical into one gloriously terrifying creature, a mash-up of man, machine and the unknown.

The design of the ship, the Nostromo proved hugely influential too, with it’s worn industrial feel influencing the design of future sci-fi productions away from simply white and shiny, recognising that these craft had to be lived in and used.

The rest of the crew on Ripley’s ship weren’t highly educated scientists or soldiers, but rather blue collar workers, picking up on one of the 70’s big themes, the disenfranchised working class. (AE)

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Jaws (1975)

Who would’ve thought that a mechanical shark would change cinema forever? But that’s exactly what Steven Spielberg and his aquatic beast, Bruce the shark, did in 1975. Before ‘Jaws’, a night at the cinema was a means to enjoy and appreciate an art form. Now, it was a blockbuster event, and your summers would never be the same again – for a start, a trip to the beach was off the cards unless you were feeling super brave. But most importantly, there was now better things to do. Now, you could bet your bottom dollar that every year there would be a huge, mass-appeal, blockbuster movie release that you just couldn’t miss out on. (JLB)

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The Exorcist (1973) and Halloween (1978) – The Birth of Mainstream Horror

The 1970’s saw the birth of truly mainstream horror, with the grim backdrop of the political landscape providing a plethora of psychological hang-ups to plunder.

William Friedkin’s horror masterpiece,The Exorcist was voted the scariest movie of all time by Total Film in 1999 and rightly so. Tapping in to one of the key horror themes of the 1960’s and 70s- fear of children- the film brought horror out of the realm of the schlocky B movie stable and made horror accessible to the masses.

Ironically this break into the mainstream was fuelled by it’s initial shock value.Originally banned by the BBFC on it’s release in June 1971 it was recut and finally released with an X rating in the UK in 1974.

Audiences were horrified by the tale of teenager Regan (Linda Blair), who has become wracked by convulsions, which after medical examinations prove fruitless are judged to be demonic possession, leading to meeting with Father Merrin (the Exorcist of the title).

Newspapers at the time of its release reported audience members fainting in horror or shock at the sight of this young girl screaming obscenities, vomiting profusely and masturbating with a crucifix.

Combined with themes around the guilt of women moving into the workplace, usurping masculine roles, Regan and her mother can be seen of emblematic of the fear of the rapid changes happening in the 1970s.

Despite the outcry around some of the scenes in The Exorcist it is important to recognise that the horror all takes place in a very domestic setting, the home. This mixture of the familiar and the unknown proved to be a hit with audiences, buoyed by its reputation as  banned film it raked in over $400million at the box office, proving to studios that horror could be a money spinner.

1978’s Halloween was made on a budget of just $325,000, going on to gross over $60million worldwide, a record for independent film at the time. John Carpenter’s deft use of music and ability to build tension elevated Halloween above it’s B-movie counterparts. Another home-based horror, Carpenter took the seemingly safe setting of suburban America and turned it into a source of terror. The initial idea of a psychotic killer stalking baby-sitters came from producer Irwin Yablans, an idea which was then woven together into a thrilling narrative by Carpenter and Debra Hill.

Largely seen from the point of view of teenager Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) we watch as the disturbed killer (and now horror icon) Michael Myers stalks and murders the teenage residents of Haddonfield. Notably Myers is known as ‘The Shape’ in the credits for Halloween, a big pointer to how Carpenter and cinematographer Dean Cundey made his presence seem so intimidating.

Since copied by an endless slew of imitators, Halloween was the original ‘Who’s next?’ of horror films, with the killer seemingly punishing victims for their perceived transgressions. Debra Hill’s huge contribution to the script was to write dialogue for the three main women on screen which seems both realistic and relatable, raising the characters above mere stereotypes. Halloween did prove to be the original in a line of knife-wielding killers flicks, from Friday the Thirteenth and  A Nightmare on Elm Street, later stumbling into the realms of the meta with films like Scream and Cabin in the Woods. Halloween’s tiny budget belied the huge impact it had on cinema. (AE)

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Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) – The Rise of Offbeat Comedy

While the Hollywood film industry was distracted by sci-fi and big budget blockbusters, the UK film industry became obsessed with home-grown comedy. Some, such as the ‘Confessions’ series and TV spin-offs such as ‘On the Buses’ and ‘Please, Sir!’ along with the enduring Carry On film franchise did not translate well in overseas markets. Others, such as the Monty Python films found a niche around the world.

The second of the Monty Python films (following 1971’s sketch-based ‘And now for something completely different’) Holy Grail was made on a budget of £230,000, money which was raised from investors such as Pink Floyd, Genesis and Led Zeppelin. The film went on to take £5 million at the world-wide box office. Still quoted regularly today, Monty Python and the Holy Grail became a comedy classic and changed the face of British, and indeed world, comedy with it’s off-beat and irreverant humour.

While according to the credits the movie was directed by a variety of different llamas we can safely assume the real work was done by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones. Jones and Gilliam took on directorial roles when it became apparent the budget wouldn’t stretch to hiring anyone else in, which of course then kick-started the directorial careers of both. (AE)

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Apocalypse Now (1979)

The war in Vietnam will always be a dark shadow on human history, as any war is. But a war spanning 20 years, and claiming 850,000 lives, is something which cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet. Many films have portrayed this conflict, in very different ways, but perhaps none more powerful and impacting than Francis Ford Coppola’s tour de force ‘Apocalypse Now’. Far from shying away from the issues, and with no concern for pandering to American interests, Coppola truly ventured into the heart of darkness, and goes all out with his brutal depictions of violence, death and evil. (JLB)

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Taxi Driver (1976) and Clockwork Orange (1971)

Following on from the fallout of the Vietnam war, Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’ centres around a young man fresh from military service who is on a mission to save the world. But Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is more than just a symbol of traumatised soldiers, he embodies a much larger problem – the disassociated young adults who found no place in society. This issue didn’t just resonate in America either, with Britain’s youth arguably even more affected by a feeling of being on the outside, unwelcome in their own communities. You’d be hard pressed to find a more resounding example of this, than Stanley Kubrick’s ultra violent depiction of restless, rebellious and dangerous young men, ‘A Clockwork Orange’. (JLB)

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Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Quadrophenia (1979)  – Working Class Struggles and the Modern Musical

1977’s Saturday Night Fever captured the grim mood of the era. In the US at the tail-end of the 70s disco was king and was providing the escapism that was needed from the drudgery of the daily grind. Based on an essay by Nik Cohn, (which was later revealed to have been a work of partial fiction, based on a British mod, not a New York disco King) we follow the fortunes of Tony Manero, a teenage Italian-American. By day Manero works a dead-end job in a hardware store, but by night he is king of the disco. Taking in hard hitting themes such as racism, abortion,  rape and Catholic guilt, Saturday Night Fever is a look at the dark side of 1970’s America.  Marrying together the glamour of a dance competition, the music of the Bee Gees and such dark themes is no mean feat, but John Badham’s classic manages to do just that. Despite the white suited dancehall swagger, Saturday Night Fever is not a million miles from Taxi Driver in tone, but it’s musical appeal managed to nudge it into the mainstream. Such was it’s appeal at the time that even the parody album by everyone’s favourite puppets ‘Sesame Street Fever’ went gold.

Working class alienation wasn’t reserved for the Americans however, as was shown in Franc Roddam’s tale of the tribal battle between mods and rockers in 1960’s Brighton. Loosley based on The Who’s rock opera of the same name, Quadrophenia follows the tale of Jimmy Cooper (Phil Daniels) who is desperate to escape his day to day life as a post room worker and find more meaning and excitement out in the big, wide world. Very much the British cousin to Saturday Night Fever, Quadrophenia is about escapism and finding glamour in a world that normally looks grim and dark. Also like it’s US cousin there is a distinctly dark underbelly to the scooters and rock music, with violence, drug-use and a gritty realism to the featured weekend of abandon. (AE)

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The Godfather (1972)

Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece The Godfather is a film that stands the test of time, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with some of cinema’s greatest feats. Yet The Godfather was not expected to reach the success that it would go on to achieve. Directed by the relatively inexperienced Coppola, starring a generally unrecognisable cast and Marlon Brando (who, at the time, was considered to be past his prime) and based on a novel that wasn’t a best-seller; The Godfather had no precedent to be the classic that it is today.

As a prolific member of the ‘movie brats’ (a group of New Hollywood filmmakers who opposed the traditional Hollywood era), Francis Ford Coppola was eager to smash the boundaries of American filmmaking, and he did so by bringing forth a film so enriched in complex themes and uncensored imagery that it would shock the cinematic world. The Godfather singlehandedly set the standard for the gangster-crime genre, a standard that would subsequently influence films such as Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and Brian De Palma’s Scarface. Coppola made Hollywood an offer it could not refuse. And the world thanks him for it. (CH)

 

Alien: Covenant

Year: 2017
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Carmen Ejogo

Written by Jo Craig 

Met with scepticism from devout fans of earlier episodes, ‘Alien: Covenant’ divided audiences after it was unleashed onto the chopping block for worldwide cinema release. Many viewers claimed that an ‘Alien’ installment without Ripley was just another Sci-Fi rehash with Xenomorphs, along with the speculation that ‘Covenant’ left unanswered questions circling the conception of the deadly alien species and the Engineers that posed a real threat of shaky continuity. Dissecting all the conflict, JUMPCUT can hopefully shed some light on these dubieties.

‘Alien: Covenant’ joins officers Oram (Billy Crudup) and Daniels (Katherine Waterston) with their crew on-board the titular vessel as it journeys to an uncharted planet that promises sustainability for their colonial mission. Disguised as an idyllic ‘paradise’, the newly discovered planet reveals a dark infestation that threatens to compromise the mission’s success.

As much as Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley will forever be noticeably missing from the line-up, as ‘Covenant’s’ events occur before the Nostromo mission, Ridley Scott has had success in finding fairly equal momentum and survival instinct mentality in his ‘Prometheus’ crew that Ripley carried fearlessly in the first four films. Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw showed promise of conserving the push of self-preservation in the first prequel, showing strength in progression and the ability to propel the story forward to face greater threats in the future, before Katherine Waterston’s Daniels and her Ezra Miller inspired locks from ‘Fantastic Beasts’ undoubtedly failed to deliver the same values.

Ridley’s third outer space squad provided some fresh energy from Danny McBride’s Tennessee that offered distinct likeability to bestow faith in, however the rest of the crew appeared to serve no purpose other than tasty bait for far superior predators and a healthy extension to the franchises kill count. Leads Daniels and Oram spent most of the film dick-measuring, giving two capable actors incredibly stale roles that overruled any impressive leadership qualities. A vacant on-screen relationship between Waterston and Crudup fractured any connection the head officers were meant to possess, meanwhile Daniels and Tennessee’s relationship bellowed charisma that failed to get a glimmer of attention until the conclusion which by then was too little, too late. James Franco’s anticipated cameo as captain was cut short to the bewilderment of viewers, annihilating a component which could have supplied another dynamic addition to this weary feature.

On a higher note, an integral part of ‘Covenant’s’ storyline is refined droid Walter and his encounter with ‘Prometheus’ survivor David, Walter’s predecessor cyborg. The preordained plot takes a detour during their meeting as we learn what David has been involved in during the ten years between the two films and to what lengths he has gone to for answers. David’s detective work advanced the franchise to greater heights as it side-lined the accustomed action in the foreground to address the deeper question of creation. Who created the Xenomorphs and for what purpose? ‘Covenant’ also introduces a new breed of Xenomorph named Neomorphs, a livelier form of alien that further aids the mystery behind the Engineers.

Despite Scott wasting no time in establishing his classic oppressive ambience against a stunning display of Australian scenery that stimulates the films tension, a series of predictable outcomes and a rather shaky final showdown were both the fatal acid poured onto a once unique hypothesis. ‘Covenant’ and its big question of creation is ultimately the influence that could have lifted this second prequel into the Sci-Fi hall of fame, but instead this opportunity to delve deeper was flooded with time-wasting characters and a lot of infuriating faffing about. Scott sets emphasis on the two droids whose morals become the key fascination to the narrative, but is diluted by a sense of desperation to churn out violent sequences to keep audiences engaged.

For die-hard fans of the franchise, like myself, ‘Alien: Covenant’ provided a solid fix of Xenomorph action whilst addressing a biblical subtext that added an intriguing continuation to Ridley Scott’s original concept, but fell short at supporting this development by focusing on a rudimentary storyboard. With Scott slipping the title of his next Alien film ‘Awakening’ in an interview with Fandango, stating: “It will go ‘Prometheus’, ‘Awakening’, ‘Covenant’ [and] “If [Covenant] is successful, and then [Awakening], then there will definitely be three more.”, we can guarantee that one of the greatest loved Sci-Fi chain’s will be delivering exciting space chases for years to come, providing ‘Awakening’ has audiences running back for more at light speed.

Jo’s rating: 5 out of 10

Alien: Covenant – Timeline Explained And The Details You Need To Know

Written by Jo Craig

With the release of ‘Alien: Covenant’ landing this Friday in UK cinemas (US May 19th), and Ridley Scott’s recent blunder unveiling ‘Alien: Awakening’ as the third prequel, preceding possibly another three chapters, heads are starting to roll over the structure behind the franchises timeline. We know ‘Covenant’ will be the official sequel to 2012’s ‘Prometheus’, introducing another crew piloting the titular vessel that discovers an uncharted earth-like planet.

But how will this instalment stand with the previous featurettes, and will the timeline fall into place and tie to the 1979 original?

Let’s take a look at the chronological timeline to date:

‘Prometheus’ (2012) – Year 2091

Kicking things off with the first of Ridley Scott’s prequels, archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a star map to the moon, LV-223 and assemble on board the vessel Prometheus to travel to and excavate the uncharted planetoid, creating our first look at humanity’s interaction with the Xenomorph kind. Despite only encountering Facehuggers, with a brief look at an original Alien in the closing scene, the crew only battle with themselves and the attempted lift-off of the Xenomorph spacecraft. Scott never really revisits the confined ambience expressed in the original 1979 story, but makes an impressive representation of scale on LV-223 with the introduction of humanoid aliens and one of the first droids, David (Michael Fassbender).

‘Alien: Awakening’(?) – Set between 2091-2101

Originally featured in an interview with Fandango, Ridley Scott accidentally divulged ‘Awakening’ as his third prequel title, allegedly meant to be set after ‘Prometheus’ but before ‘Covenant’. This is where the timeline became a puzzle. Judging by the fact ‘Covenant’ is supposed to take place a decade after ‘Prometheus’, this would place Awakening somewhere in these ten years. Hopefully ‘Covenant’ will give some insight into what backstory will be featured in the prequel of a prequel.

‘Alien: Covenant’ (2017) – Year 2101

Sailing through the decagon and we’re presently at ‘Covenant’, where a new colonial ship, equipped with a fresh crew and next level droid, Walter (Michael Fassbender), explores a new planet they consider to be an ‘uncharted paradise’. You can find all the details we know about ‘Covenant’ further down this piece.

‘Alien’ (1979) – Year 2122

Discrepancies over what year Scott’s brainchild, ‘Alien’ was set in is still an on-going talking point among resolute aficionado’s, however the consensus states that the journey of the USCSS Nostromo took place around the year 2122, thirty years after the birth of the ships third in command, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and twenty-one years after Prometheus. During the first act, we’re introduced to the Xenomorphs and the discovery of their planet Hiveworld, where executive officer, Kane (John Hurt) is attacked by a Facehugger, later dying from the birth of its spawn, via Kane’s torso, the Chestburster. Ridley Scott and DoP Derek Vanlint created this oppressive nature with tight shots and choking vignettes that set the bar for future chapters.

‘Aliens’ (1986) – Year 2179

Fast forward fifty-seven years, while Ripley and her cat Jones are in hyper sleep, and we arrive at James Cameron’s sequel, logically placing the year as 2179. Although Cameron removed some of the weight previously seen in ‘Alien’, the terrifying threat of the Xenomorphs continued to terrorize Ripley and her return to a now human inhabited Hiveworld to try and exterminate the Alien species with a team of military personnel.

‘Alien 5’ (Rumoured) 

Neill Blomkamp first hinted at his vision of the ‘Alien’ franchise while working with Sigourney Weaver on ‘Chappie’ in 2015, explaining his rendition would forget the events of ‘Alien 3’ and ‘Alien: Resurrection’ to be “more liberal” with the outcome of ‘Aliens’ characters, Newt and Hicks. With Ridley Scott’s assurance that ‘Covenant’ would go into production first, deterring any overshadowing, Blomkamp’s ambiguous sequel was put on “temporary hold” despite Weaver stating to EW “it’s satisfying to me to give this woman an ending.”

‘Alien 3’ (1992) – Year 2179 (approx.)

After another brief hyper sleep on the Sulaco, Ripley crash lands on Fiorina 161, a correctional facility situated on a foundry establishment. Ripley and the inmates lure and capture a Xenomorph that was birthed by one of the prisoners, concluding with the arrival of a rescue cavalry and Ripley’s pre-meditated suicide. Presuming that Ripley only slept within the same year that ‘Aliens’ was set, ‘Alien 3’ is placed within the same year, assuming she was only asleep for a short period of time. David Fincher helmed the third instalment (at the time) resurrecting the art-house horror effect that Scott produced in 1979.

Alien: Resurrection (1997) – Year 2379

Jumping 200 years into the future, Ripley returns as half-human, half droid from the DNA samples taken before her arrival on Fiorina 161. Droid Ripley is created on the USM Auriga, joining the crew to once again attempt to eradicate the Alien species after the escape of imprisoned Xenomorphs that a team of Scientists were experimenting on. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s conclusive excerpt in the franchise appeared to be blatantly unaware of the approach of the previous three films, approving bizarre scriptwriting from Joss Whedon and half-arsed character building. Jeunet never harnesses the character of Ripley, albeit she was a clone, but ‘Resurrection’ does nothing to enhance her or continue Scott’s successful tactility.

What We Know About ‘Covenant’

Filmed in Australia and New Zealand, the sixth film of the series has elements pertaining to the poem of ‘Paradise Lost’, the original title for the film. Initially planning to follow Dr. Elizabeth Shaw on her next adventure, Scott explained that “Paradise cannot be what you think it is. Paradise has a connotation of being extremely sinister and ominous” thus revealing groundwork for the current narrative.

PLOT

Travelling to an isolated planet on the far side of the galaxy, crew members, Daniels (Katherine Waterson) and Oram (Billy Crudup) of the colonial vessel Covenant, discover what appears to be undiscovered paradise. Upon this planet, they meet David (Michael Fassbender), the droid survivor from the futile Prometheus mission, and soon encounter an alien life-form that threatens their existence.

It’s clear that Scott wanted to represent ‘Paradise Lost’ from the very start, creating an alleged ‘paradise’ for the Covenant to uncover, later revealing the planets sinister nature when it’s exposed as alien turf.

The film’s original plot failed to hint at Elizabeth Shaw’s return, however after being spotted on an Australian set and added to the IMDB cast list, it is assumed her account will tie into Daniels mission, if only revealed in flashback from David’s account. David is also the only other link that would tie Prometheus to its sequel, as he will surely retell his account of the failed ships endeavour.

WALTER / DAVID   

Firstly, Michael Fassbender is returning to play the previous films droid, David. ‘Covenant’ will explain that after the events of ‘Prometheus’, David travels to the planet of the ‘engineers’, to unearth the creation of mankind and why the Xenomorphs were created (possibly as weapons). “You’ve got to go back and find those Engineers and see what they are thinking,” Scott explained to Deadline.  

Secondly, Fassbender will be portraying an extension to the David-8 synthetic line, Walter, with dark hair and an American accent. While no depth has been divulged for Walter’s role in this film, we know he will be on board the Covenant as part of the crew exploring the new planet.

Ridley Scott’s son, Luke Scott (Morgan), directed a short advertisement, ‘Meet Walter’, unveiling the manufacturing of the droid and the understanding that he has been constructed without human emotions. This is a significant upgrade from David, as Walter is believed to struggle to perceive the concept of friendship with crew member Daniels. Michael Fassbender even described him as similar to Spock.

COVENANT CREW       

Katherine Waterson will play lead, Daniels, alongside Billy Crudup as fellow colonist Christopher Oram. Fassbender will appear as the droids, David and Walter, as well as other crew members, Tennessee (Danny McBride) and Faris (Any Seimetz).

According to the IMDB cast list, Guy Pierce is set to cameo as Peter Weyland, along with a short performance from James Franco, helming the ship as Captain and Daniels’ husband.

RIDLEY’S CREW     

 

While Ridley Scott is directing his third addition to the ‘Alien’ franchise, Scott, Amy Greene (X-Men: First Class) Mark Huffman (Prometheus) and Michael Schaefer (The Martian) will all produce, leaving cinematography to Dariusz Wolski (Pirates of the Caribbean) and music by Jed Kurzil (Assassin’s Creed)

After taking over screenwriting from Jon Spaihts for ‘Prometheus’, ‘Lost’ mastermind, David Lindelof jumped ship on this sequel completely, handing the story over to Jack Paglen (Transcendence) and Michael Green (Green Lantern) with screenplay by John Logan (Gladiator). Green is also penning Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ sequel, proving Scott has a fair amount of trust in Green’s abilities,

With the noteworthy success of ‘Prometheus’, achieving a 72% on Rotten Tomatoes, we can expect ‘Alien: Covenant’ to contend as a commendable extension to the ‘Alien’ prequels, created in the safety of originator Ridley Scott. The duality of ‘Paradise Lost’, a theme that moulds the ‘Covenant’ plot, was hinted at in ‘Prometheus’ through Shaw’s excitement at LV-223’s discovery and was cleverly extended and enhanced for its follow-up. The ship’s crew look like they’ve returned to exist within the original franchise, as the ‘Prometheus’ crew appeared too refined and unbreakable in a sense. Michael Fassbender will lend a familiar layer to another unfamiliar vessel and voyage, as well as the return of the evolving Xenomorph species.

Noting from the trailer, it suggests ‘Covenant’ will be similar to its prequel in portraying grand scale with spectacular open terrain, but also harness the smothering environment and tension on the ship as the 1979 original mastered. Audiences will also be keen to find out how ‘Covenant’ will conclude and if it will perhaps give reference to the beginning of the Nostromo.

Overall, ‘Covenant’ will hopefully draw out the clinging terror that brought about the franchises original success, with ten times more Alien action and characters that you don’t want to be squashed by a spaceship donut.

 

 

Ridley Scott Reveals The Title To The Next Alien Film

In a interview with Fandango, Ridley Scott has revealed that the title of the next film in the ‘Alien’ franchise will be ‘Alien: Awakening‘, and it is set to take place in between ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Covenant’.

In this interview Scott said “There will be another one before we kind of literally and logically, clockwise, back into the rear back head of [the original] Alien” and continues to say “”It will go Prometheus, Awakening, Covenant.. fairly integral where this colonization ship is on the way….”

Scott has already let his plan be known to have 5 sequels to ‘Prometheus’ and it quoted as saying “If this is successful, and then the next one, and then there will definitely be three more.”.  Scott definitely sounds like he has plans for the franchise, but they all rely on how well ‘Covenant’ does. After ‘Prometheus’ received a very mixed reception from fans and critics alike, it’s no surprise that there is a lot of pressure on this latest instalment to prove there is still life in this franchise. 

Alien: Covenant unleashes in UK theatres May 12th this year. 

Written by Tom Sheffield

New Trailer For Alien: Covenant Brings Us A New Head-Butting Xenomorph From Hell

Having lulled us in to a false sense of security with lightly comedic early peeks at the new crew of the Covenant, the titular ship in Ridley Scott’s upcoming addition to the Alien franchise, the new trailer has pulled out all the stops to reassure us that the new film will be going back to the series’ horror roots.

The Covenant is the first ship to go out and colonise new planets, and as a result the crew comprises not just the best scientists in their field, but also their other halves. Katherine Waterson  plays Daniels, a terraforming expert, who it appears will be our new Ripley, even down to the costume and haircut.  

The new trailer offers us a transition from the familial round table discussions of the early teaser (which harks back to the iconic John Hurt chest-burster scene) into full-blown horror, as the colonists find themselves in a beautiful new world, seemingly devoid of life, only to be faced with a seemingly super-powered, pissed off alien.

Will this be the straight-forward ‘Alien’ re-boot that this trailer suggests, or will it develop the story offered by ‘Prometheus’ into more interesting territory? Not long to wait to find out as Fox have brought forward the release date to May from October, hinting that they feel they might have a hit on their hands that deserves the summer audience.

‘Alien: Covenant’ is out on 12th May 2017

Written by Abbie Eales