Eros in the Mind's Eye: Sexuality and the Fantastic in Art and Film

By Donald Palumbo | Go to book overview

14
Alien: In Space, No One Can Hear Your Primal Scream

ANTHONY AMBROGIO

Alien has sometimes been criticized for its apparent lack of solid characterization and its plot holes. Steve Vertlieb maintains that "Alien's plot and script are its weakest elements."1 Mark Carducci argues that "Alien is out of balance, as long on forward momentum and shock as it is short on logic, depth of characterization or at times even clarity."2 And even Alien's associate producer, Ivor Powell, describes the film as "a hardcore adult cartoon" ( CFQ, p. 32). If this criticism is justified, why is Alien an effective movie? Its director, Ridley Scott, claims that the film "works on a very visceral level and its only point is terror, and more terror" ( CFQ, p. 12). But what is the impetus for that terror? It is not simply Alien's superficial tale of an isolated, trapped group of people struggling alone against some evil, inhuman, murderous menace. After all, that formula is ubiquitous in horror films, from haunted-house tales of the 1920s to such more recent Alien analogues as The Thing ( 1951; 1982) and the Thing- inspired It! The Terror from Beyond Space ( 1958). Nor is it Alien's stylish sets and cinematography, though these add to the film's effectiveness.

Alien's structure is similar to Psycho's ( 1960). Both films were criticized for excessive gore and violence, but both actually contain little on-screen carnage; they leave the worst of it to the

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