By transplanting the classic haunted house scenario into space, Ridley Scott, together with screenwriters Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, produced a work of genuinely original cinematic sci-fi with Alien
that, despite the passage of years and countless inferior imitations, remains shockingly fresh even after repeated viewing. Scott's legendary obsession with detail ensures that the setting is thoroughly conceived, while the Gothic production design and Jerry Goldsmith's wonderfully unsettling score produce a sense of disquiet from the outset: everything about the spaceship Nostromo--from Tupperware to toolboxes-seems oddly familiar yet disconcertingly ... well, alien.
Nothing much to speak of happens for at least the first 30 minutes, and that in a way is the secret of the film's success: the audience has been nervously peering round every corner for so long that by the time the eponymous beast claims its first victim, the release of pent-up anxiety is all the more effective. Although Sigourney Weaver ultimately takes centre-stage, the ensemble cast is uniformly excellent. The remarkably low-tech effects still look good (better in many places than the CGI of the sequels), while the nightmarish quality of H.R. Giger's bio-mechanical creature and set design is enhanced by camerawork that tantalises by what it doesn't reveal.
The terror begins when the crew of a spaceship investigates a transmission from a desolate planet, and discovers a life form that is perfectly evolved to annihilate mankind. One by one, each crew member is slain until only Ripley is left, leading to an explosive conclusion that sets the stage for its stunning sequel, "Aliens."