Alien: The birth of serious science fiction horror?

I never had the experience of seeing Alien without preconceived notions. I had not yet been born when it was released in 1979, and before I was able to see the film I had heard numerous jokes regarding aliens erupting from chests and had seen the previews for Alien 3, which of course boasted a really scary, bald Sigourney Weaver.

I'm not sure which one here is scarier.

I’m not sure which one here is scarier.

When I first watched Alien, I patiently waited for the iconic chest eruption scene. I knew it was coming, and I was excited to see what all the fuss was about. When it happened, I was immediately disappointed; it wasn’t all that exciting. This was supposedly one of the scariest moments in the history of film, and it didn’t make me budge. Quite simply, Alien had been built up far too much. But as I sat and watched the remainder of the film, the subtle elements of the film proved genuinely terrifying. Not only was an alien ripping people to shreds, but the crew’s antagonist — Ash — is revealed to be an android, and a way more convincing one than current CGI would yield. The crew is deemed expendable in the effort to bring back the new life form, adding further elements of truth to the science fiction tale.

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Omega: The MIT student of robots

Will intelligent robots become common occurrences in society? If they will, what will they look like? Will they be bipeds, or would they roll like vehicles. Would they speak to us, and if so, would it be language as clear as that from a living being, or would it be jagged and mechanical?

At this point, it’s all conjecture. Much of it also relies on your definition of intelligence. At what point are robots intelligent? We certainly have robots already, and they open our garage door, brew our coffee, vacuum our floors, and even provide many people with pleasure in the bedroom. Roombas have some intelligence, as they know what parts of the house they’ve already cleaned, but none has sprouted legs or begun communicating with us beyond the preprogrammed happy beeps or sad beeps (which correspond with completion of cleaning and getting stuck on furniture or walls, respectively).

Roomba

“How about you vacuum your own damn floor.”

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Can you forget the future beyond Forbidden Planet?

Is it possible to completely put aside preconceived notions held by an entire generation? Regardless of whether you’re a science fiction fan, as a 20-something watching Forbidden Planet from 1956 is sure to remind you of forthcoming popular science fiction films. The plot is just like that of Event Horizon, with a crew searching for a group of vanished humans (minus the torture and Sam Neill’s nasty head).

Event Horizon

My skin’s a bit dry.

The ability to beam is one of the most iconic elements of Star Trek. The ability to manifest terrors into reality is used in Sphere. Robby the robot is clearly like R2-D2 from Star Wars, complete with human spunk, as he expresses his displeasure with Alta’s need for new clothes. Even the Barron’s soundtrack, with its squelching, screaming, and decaying electronics, became a heavily recycled style (often by the Barron’s themselves, as Brend writes in The Sound of Tomorrow).

But what would it have been like to see the movie in 1956, without the clichés that would later follow? Would the electronic soundtrack be completely novel, or would it still sound somewhat like the Theremin at times (given that it makes heavy use of vibrato) or other earlier electronic scores? Consider the music from The Thing From Another World.


Of course, the music in The Thing From Another World has more melody than Forbidden Planet as well as a backing orchestra, so this comparison has its limitations. Watching the film nearly 60 years later, it’s hard to overlook extensive sound art that follows, even with the Barron’s one-time friend John Cage. In what ways would the tone of the film have been different? Clearly, there is still intended to be some humor in the film (such as when the cook arrives to find the overflowing pile of full bourbon bottles), but would the tone have been substantially more serious?