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Nightmare Fuel: Alien
No one can hear you scream.
The Alien franchise has garnered a reputation for having some seriously nightmarish moments, mostly revolving around the animalistic and sexual horrors its alien antagonist unleashes on its unsuspecting vtims.
The thought of extraterrestrial beings that invade your body, through another being that technically rapes you, then burst out of your chest when you least expect it.
For some reason the Aliens never managed to stick with a specific sound effect for their squeals and screeches throughout the movies, but the voices they've had over the years have always been unnerving and their screams in the second movie were arguably the scariest and most well known. For context, there's a shot during the hive attack where we see Hicks shooting something offscreen, and a Xenomorph lets out a human-likesqueal. Tellingly, their vocals in the second have been reused for most of their video game appearances and the second AVP movie.
Then there's the haunting wailing screech that the Queen Xenomorph can give. One part cursing, one part lamenting, and all parts make-your-spine-shudder.
The first movie had the Alien let out a scream that sounds very much like a monstrous baby when it scares Ridley near the end.
In-universe, Ellen Ripley herself... before and After she was cloned. Feared by both Aliens and some humans.
Here's a fun fact for your dreams: the Xenomorphs will NEVER be stopped. No matter how many you take down with power loaders or nuke from orbit (the only way to be sure), they're going to crop up on some other planet and start it all over again. You can thank both the Predators and the various humans greedy/stupid/mind-controlled enough to help the Xenomorphs spread and survive.
The original alien concept was made by the artist, H. R. Giger, who based his art style on his once frequent nightmares. Despite the negative connotation of the word "nightmare", he apparently saw beauty in the creature.
Just Bolaji Badejo moving around in the unedited test footage with a mocked-up Xenomorph head is very creepy. For that, we give him credit.
Giger's unique design of both the Xenomorph and the sets. You can see the human skull that the alien's head is based around◊. Not to mention, the creature is so carefully designed to actually blend in with the rest of the environment. Meaning that these guys can and will appear everywhere. Made especially worse when you realize that the design of the Xeno often means you've been looking at it the whole damn time!
The first and probably the best example of this is when Ripley has just left the Nostromo and the Xeno to fry in the ship's explosion. So she relaxes and takes a load off, undressing, making sure the ship's working, until it reaches for her and reveals that it has been sitting right in front of her for the entire scene.
The famous John Hurt chestburster sequence, the gory details of which weren't told to most of the cast before the scene was shot (the look of horror on Veronica Cartwright's face as she's sprayed by a jet of sheep's blood is genuine).
The absolute worst part, which is a lot more obvious in the extended cut, is that Kain doesn't immediately die once the Chestburster emerges. He's still moving and twitching even after its run off.
Apparently, Cartwright passed out during the scene after getting the blood in her face, and Yaphet Kotto (who played Parker) ran to his room afterward and refused to talk to anybody. It's made worse when you consider the cast didn't get too suspicious before filming the scene- after noticing everyone else on the set was wearing a raincoat.
Ron Cobb, one of the film's artists, sat down and saw the dailies for the chestburster scene. After sitting through the footage from all the cameras, he was so shook up that he tried leaving the studio in a car that not only wasn't his, but it wasn't even the same color! Not to mention that he was blankly stammering and mumbling the entire time.
The incredibly eerie exploration of the derelict spacecraft, including a strange alien skeleton in a chair, with no explanation of what the ship is or who it belonged to given.
There is a long, slow scene of Brett looking for Jonesy, finding him in a room with water dripping from the ceiling and chains hanging from the vents. This is before the adult alien has been seen at all and audiences are expecting it to still be tiny. In one brief shot of the ceiling, the alien is fully seen hanging from the chain above Brett, but from it blending in with the scenery the audience does not even notice it. They only realise they were looking right at it on a second watch, after it has lowered down to snatch Brett.
The scene with Dallas in the air vents, featuring one of the biggest Jump Scare moments in film history. Dallas appears to have climbed down a ladder to safety from the approaching alien, only to turn around and find the alien right in front of him, screeching and reaching out for him before the camera shorts out.
The absolutely nightmarish scene of Parker and Lambert's deaths, seeing Parker killed by the alien's "second mouth", and not even seeing what it did to Lambert (apart from moving its bladed tail up between her legs), only hearing her anguished death cries over the radio.
The sight of the Alien/Xenomorph being jettisoned into the black, lonely void of deep space after getting blasted by the ship's engines.
In the extended cut of Alien, there is also the scene where Ripley finds Dallas and Brett in the process of being changed into alien eggs. It is not only revolting, but it's also Uncanny Valley.
The original trailer for the film is 120 seconds of condensed and highly efficient Nightmare Fuel. No bombastic score, no booming voiceovers, no star's names blasting onto the screen; just quick flashes of the most disturbing scenes in the movie punctuated with a rapid Heartbeat Soundtrack and the intermittent sound of a frighteningly inhuman wail before the iconic tagline appears:
In space, no one can hear you scream.
The hospital chestburster dream sequence thanks to it almost coming out of nowhere and playing off of Ripley's own fear.
When the Marines are in the hive and find the female colonist who "gives birth" as the Colonial Marines and Ripley look on in horror. Then the motion trackers go crazy, but we can't see anything, Gorman's freaking out, then an alien comes out of the goddamn wall and grabs Dietrich, whose flamethrower sends Frost to his death and lights his ammo bag on fire, leading to a domino effect where all but three marines are killed or abducted before they barely escape with their lives thanks to Ripley.
After barely escaping, the marines call in their dropship to get out and destroy the complex. Surely enough, a Xenomorph sneaks onboard and surprises the pilot, causing it to crash and strand the crew planet side at night with this wonderful gem.
Newt: They mostly come at night. Mostly.
There's something more subtle about that scene that makes it horrific, too. The entire first hour or so of the movie is spent building up the Colonial Marine Corps as being, as Hudson so eloquently describes it, "the ultimate badasses." They do such a good job with handling the fake outs that you really start to believe it too. Then they actually encounter the Xenomorphs and lose nearly their entire squad and the Sergeant to boot within minutes. The CMC were lethal by way of extensive training; the Xenomorphs were lethal by their very nature. The rest comes from the idea that their only allies are a traumatized civilian and child, a pacifist android, their na´ve and unconscious commander and a total Slimeball who no doubt set them up to fail and is likely to stab them in the back later, all while they're up against dozens of the same creatures with no back-up or call for help and have little time before the reactor goes critical. The surviving marines are shell-shocked Hudson, jumpy Vasquez and Hicks, who completely realizes the gravity of the situation. Simply put, they are FUCKED.
The entire mood and setting for the film is rather disconcerting, if not downright depressing considering Ripley is alone once again, having suffered a tremendous loss. This time, however, having descended to an even more hostile environment with dangerous convicts with gruesome histories. The Xenomorph, this time bursting from an animal, is cunning and much more bestial, all the meanwhile resembling a demon in comparison the previous aliens in the series. Defenseless and scared, the prisoners slowly lose faith in their precious religious beliefs in a situation that makes no sense to any individual. Add into it the mournful soundtrack, and you finally get to understand the gravity of the drama and aesthetic of Fiorina 161: It's hell. The Gehenna of space in which there is nowhere to escape to, dying surely in complete despair.
In the comic Aliens: Labyrinth, a dying colony discovers human will can influence the telepathic communication of the Xenomorph's hive mind and that's not the worst thing from that comic. The other one being they force people to breed with each other, to make more hosts, and turn people into giant blobs of flesh for food.
It gets even better in the novelization of Labyrinth. The book's mad scientist is the sole survivor of a colony that fell victim to the dying hive. He got the whole unsuccessful facehugging, then had to see his mom, legs and arms gnawed off but still alive, and quite insensible, presented to him by the xenomorphs. As a mate. So they can make more breeding stock/food. He mercy killed her, but the psychological damage was done.
The early Aliens comics provide a truly horrific explanation for why humans constantly grab the Idiot Ball when it comes to looking for the Aliens and bringing them back to Earth. It's all part of the plan, orchestrated by the Queen Mother on the homeworld to propagate her species by using a whole planet. It's hard to decide which is the scarier part:
That the Queen Mother becomes the subject of her own maternal feelings, to the point of begging for a Facehugger.
That the humans, in essence, are the Sci-fi equivalent to Sex Slaves.
That the psychic signal is spread by a madman who sees the Aliens as gods.
That this is all simply part of the Aliens' life cycle and has no malice at the core.
That it's clear that this entire process has been played out on other planets before and will continue to play out until every Alien is dead... which is going to be very hard considering that the Predators have spread them throughout the galaxy, if not the universe, as yet another prey species of theirs.
In one of the novels, a group of marines goes to the Xenomorph homeworld to serve as facehugger bait. One of them points out 2 facts.
The Xenomorph is an invasive species most planets cannot handle, whereas on its homeworld, it probably struck an ecological balance with other species.
On it's homeworld, it may not be the dominant lifeform.