Gores Truly is femme-driven but certainly not man-hating. Occasionally, we want to give our readers a chance to contribute to the horror-fest that we all adore – including those wielding the Y-Chromosome. The following article has been Murder-Her approved. Watch out! It’s an Invasion of the Y-Chromosome!
With the 25th anniversary of Aliens, fans renewed their zeal for a beloved franchise. They discussed the Blu-Ray box set, comics, video games, and the possibility of a fifth film. They also inevitably discussed Alien and asked: Which is better? – Alien or Aliens?
I am here to tell you – that’s a loaded question. One is a horror film. One is an action film.
Comparing Alien to Aliens is akin to comparing Die Hard to Jaws. There are similarities in setting and conflict, but it’s the execution that determines the genre. Either film could be turned into a comedy, action, or horror depending on the following factors: motive, reactions, music, and one-liners.
Motive. Horror can be aptly described as when bad things happen to good people. Sometimes bad things are thrust upon good people. And sometimes good people walk willingly into the mouth of darkness. Which is the worse scenario?
The Nostromo crew wanted nothing to do with LV-426. Its only with the promise of their bonuses that they move forward. Their reluctance conveys their innocence. They were just trying to get home when company policy made them expendable.
The colonial marines, on the other hand, walked right into LV-426 with no pause for concern, thanks to their hubris. They have dropships, missiles, and big guns. Drake and Vasquez have guns so big they have to be attached to their vests.
When a marine falls, there is no sense of loss because they knew the risks and have extensive training and weaponry. They underestimated the enemy and got their just desserts.
Reactions. You can have an amazing creature like the Alien, but if the characters are not afraid then neither is your audience.
Imagine if Brett turned around and stared flatly at the Alien. No fear. Just a quizzical expression and scratch of the head. Kind of kills the scene, doesn’t it? Instead, we’re treated to a fantastic performance by Harry Dean Stanton that sells the power of the Alien.
As a kid I always wondered why Ripley didn’t shoot the Alien with the incinerator. Our heroine turns a corner and the Xenomorph appears. She has a clear shot and opts to slink away, leaving behind Jonesy. I was too young to realize that she was paralyzed with fear. When an armed character is too terrified to shoot, that tells you something.
How did the marines react? They cocked their guns and all hell broke loose. Vasquez yells, “Let’s rock!” Which made me want to stand up and cheer. Hicks wields his shotgun with a retaliatory, “Eat this!” Drake single-handedly covers the rear so everyone can board the APC.
Music. Jerry Goldsmith delivered an amazing score for Alien that is eerie and foreboding. Play that soundtrack in any haunted house and the patrons would get their moneys worth. On the flip side of the same coin – play a Laurel and Hardy soundtrack in Alien. Have amusing sound effects when Nostromo wakes up the crew. You’ll have a bizarre comedy.
Take away James Horner’s pulse pounding music when Ripley drives the APC to rescue the marines. It would lose its punch. It’s a favorite scene and it works because of the music.
When Ripley goes after Newt, the music builds as the elevator descends. The doors open – the music stops. It’s an unsettling transition from empowered to scared. We have no soundtrack to carry us along and it’s the one, true horrifying moment in Aliens. Ripley is all alone. No music. Just the blaring of alarms. It’s a nice homage to its predecessor. Meet the Queen, cue the music, open fire, and Ripley is back in control.
One-liners. Making the audience laugh at a horror movie is a death knell. Yes, there are horror-comedy hybrids like Shaun of the Dead and Scream, but the horror is only so-so. It’s the comedy we fondly remember.
On Nostromo, there are no laughs. There is some banter between Parker and Brett, but it’s subtle and more for character development than audience enjoyment. Ash gets in a morbid last line before his demise but it works in the favor of horror, even though to Ash it’s comical.
Laughter kills tension. It allows us a reprieve from the tension. It doesn’t have to take place during battle, such is the case with Aliens. The humor is littered throughout strategy sessions and downtime. It may not seem like much, but it shows us that these characters are not as bad off as it seems. If Hudson can crack jokes like, “Yeah, Bishop should go,” then he’s not as scared as he should be.
Quips also don’t have to be funny. They can be uplifting or an act of defiance. I mentioned a few earlier but I’ll add another: “Get away from her, you bitch!” Right, then I felt no concern for Ripley’s plight. I was amped up by her fortitude and ready for an intergalactic wrestling match.
Action movies traditionally have fearless characters, an energetic soundtrack, and bits of comedy. Aliens has all of these components. The colonial marines are tough and keep fighting to the end. Hell, Vasquez takes out an Alien at point blank with a pistol! The music is as intense as the action. The one-liners are funny, inspiring, and memorable.
Horror movies traditionally have fearful characters that will run in the opposite direction from the killer. The soundtrack is eerie and devoid of hope. Comedy is nonexistent. They force you to experience what the characters are enduring with no distraction. Alien fits this mold.
When you’re asked which is better – Alien or Aliens? Tell them… they both are.
Billz hopes to one day prove that aliens are misunderstood creatures that really just want a hug – and to disembowel you. When he’s not running from Purple People Eaters, he’s likely watching monster flicks, or dreaming of one day filming his own.
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