Today is Halloween.
That doesn't mean altogether that much to me. I mean, I never did get that laser I wanted last year to beam trick or treaters as they approach the house. What's left? Well I thought I would discuss a pivotal moment in cinematic history when the "scary movie" intersected with science fiction yielding classic results.
I am talking about Alien.
Wired magazine recently published never-before-seen sketches for Alien. Several of the drawings naturally come from H.R. Giger but there is other conceptual art in there as well. It's sometimes difficult to recall that the "xenomorph" from the film, so iconic and indelible of an image in the mind of any science fiction fan or movie buff for that matter, did not materialize fully formed. Rather, it seems to have been a case similar to so many other products of a creative mind: the design was cobbled together through many different points of inspiration. For example, one sketch shows that the face and head of the alien came from what was originally intended to be a skull-shaped Harkonnen Castle for the film adaptation of Dune. Giger kept the teeth and the elongated skull but ditched the eyes.
He also had an alternate design for the "facehugger" stage of the xenomorph that was even creepier than the one we ended up with. It was hand-shaped and had an eye in the knuckle regions. It also had a dual mouth, giving it the obvious Freudian overtones that the article points out.
There is also concept art for that ill-fated spaceship, The Nostromo. This depiction has it towing an asteroid with a mining station perched atop it. Additionally, there is an alternate version of how the interior of the derelict ship would appear. It seemed more industrial and bright, like a steel smelting plant with the brilliant light of a furnace fire. That's a far cry from what resulted in Alien and eventually in Prometheus (shudder).
You can also find concept art for Alien 3 at the link, but that's a film that I like to pretend doesn't exist and I find I can do that with a certain degree of plausibility.
Ultimately, it is the design of the xenomorph itself that endures. Eyeless. Essentially faceless save for teeth and jaws. Its elongated, phallic-shaped head serving as the connotation of the fine line between terror and eroticism. Yes, that's one of the truly odd things about the design, isn't it? It's an organism that lives only to kill, it would kill you or anyone in a horrific manner and without any thought, yet there is something sexy about it. In the way it looks, in the way it moves, in the way it even stands or runs after someone down the corridors of The Nostromo. It's not overt and it certainly isn't the central theme of the alien, but it is there, lurking beneath all the teeth, slime, and ick.
Anyway, Happy Halloween. Go carve a virtual pumpkin.
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