Fans of the original Alien movie will be delighted to hear that 20th Century Fox has launched a short film competition to celebrate the upcoming 40th anniversary of its 1979 release.
If you are a budding filmmaker who loves the saga and wish to take part, then you will need to hurry. The “pitch period” will take place from July 27th until July 3rd, 2018. Winners will be given $2,000 to make a short film that is set in the same ‘Alien universe’.
In Space No One Can Hear You Scream
Alien was a smash hit when it was first released. The film was the horror version of Star Wars and would become such a successful franchise that it would spawn almost as many sequels. Not since Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) had audiences been so utterly terrified by a movie.
Set in deep outer space, Alien tells the tale of a crew of seven astronauts who find themselves hopelessly pitted against the ‘perfect life form’. One by one, the crew is picked off by this unstoppable creature, making the task of defeating it ever more difficult. The film created the first ever female horror hero in the form or Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver.
Despite only appearing a few minutes throughout the film, the Alien, which was designed by H.R Giger, has become one of the most legendary horror movie monsters of all-time.
The film would feature a relatively unknown cast and be directed by an even more unknown Ridley Scott. Despite having only directed The Duellists (1977), and a handful of TV movies, Scott was given creative control over a project that he would make into one of the scariest movies of all time.
The cast was made up of Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, and Yaphet Kotto.
The genius of casting unknowns was the added tension that audiences felt from not knowing who, if anyone, would survive. Had Scott cast a big star, then audiences would have felt some security in knowing that at least this one person would have survived.
An Uneasy Tension
From the very start, Scott created a tense and uneasy atmosphere. As a huge spaceship enters the frame, audiences are torn between the enormity of the vessel and the infinite space that it is traveling through. Scott uses this to set up the idea that despite there being so many places to hide, ultimately there is nowhere to run.
The director would also use a number of innovative filmmaking tricks to ratchet up the tension. In what I argue is the scariest movie scene of all time, the ship’s captain Dallas turns from the hunter to the hunted. Amazingly this scene follows less than 30 minutes after one of the other scariest scenes of all time, the utterly shocking and unforgettable ‘chestburster’ scene.
Most audience members were unaware that the soundtrack leading up to Dallas’ horrible death features a rhythmic heartbeat sound. The pace of this heartbeat is steadily increased throughout the scene as a device to create suspense. Scott would also use this effect in his later classic, Blade Runner (1982) in the scene depicting the slaying of one of the replicants.
The Alien Arrives
No horror movie ever becomes a classic without having an original monster or villain. Everything from John Carpenter’s The Thing to Nicholas Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now” had an unforgettable baddie. Scott chose to have the Alien designed by the legendary artist H.R Giger, who would create a monster the likes of which had never been seen on screen before.
Another interesting thing to remember is that the film actually had not one alien but two. Both would become as iconic and as the other.
The Facehugger, which has been featured in nearly every Alien film since, would play on our fear of suffocation as well as the idea of our bodies becoming hosts for another organism. Despite its size, this monster is unquestionably one of the scariest ever created onscreen.
When the full-sized alien menacingly arrives during an extremely scary scene where it kills crewmember Brett, we come face to face with many of our other deepest fears. The alien is far larger and more powerful than a human and kills by jetting a powerful set of inner teeth that penetrate the victim. So overwhelming is this organism that viewers are left with little illusion that there is any way of escaping it.
Budget constraints severely limited how much Scott could actually show the Alien in the film. The main issue came with the scenes that required the Alien to move. In an attempt to overcome this, Scott cast 6ft 10ins Nigeria actor Bolaji Badejo to play the alien.
Those diehard Alien fans who have seen all the outtakes from the film will have no doubt seen the laughable attempts to show the Alien moving. Thankfully, none of these scenes was included in the film, something which again reduced the actual onscreen time for the alien and made it infinitely more menacing.
Time to Get Filming
To date, Alien has produced 5 sequels and prequels. Despite several of these films being not much better than terrible, the franchise is still going strong.
To give filmmakers the chance to add their vision to this classic saga, Fox Studios are holding a competition that will give six fans the chance to create a 5 to 9-minute short film that is set in the Alien universe.
Not only will these filmmakers get their chance to make their mark on the sage, but they will also get the chance to win $246,000 in prizes.
If you are interested in entering, then head to the Tongal website to the 20th Century Fox Alien 40th Anniversary Shorts Project for all the details on how you can enter this amazing competition.
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