If you’re keeping track, and I’m not sure why you would be at this point, I’m still muddling through Stephen King’s The Stand. And yet, I stray away from time to time to check out other books like Jason Zinoman’s Shock Value, which I stumbled across while looking for various horror films in my library’s database. With a subtitle like How A Few Eccentric Outsiders Gabe Us Nightmares, Conquered Hollywood, And Invented Modern Horror, how could I not bite, especially around Halloween! Continue reading Halloween Scene: Shock Value By Jason Zinoman
As I mentioned yesterday, I got to an early start when it came to watching horror movies this fall. So, I’ve got a lot to talk about! First, if you haven’t already, check out a pair of lists I wrote for CBR. One’s about movies and shows to follow Stranger Things up with while the other focused on the best classic horror movies to stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime!
The Alien franchise is pretty revered both amongst my circle and many of the people I know and respect. And yet, I have very little experience with the series. It’s not that I had anything against it, I just didn’t get around to it. I remember watching Aliens on VHS in high school and thought I’d seen Alien, but while watching the Blu-ray version and writing this post, I now remember that I meant to get the first film, wound up with the second and just went with it. I’m sure I’d seen bits and pieces of Alien here and there, but much of it seemed new to me. And yet, when I saw the Alien Anthology Bluray box set go on sale for something like $22 last year, I asked my wife to pick it up for me for the holidays. It seemed like the kind of series I’d be into if I just sat down and watched it.
Even as a novice, I was familiar with the basic story of Ridley Scott’s Alien which finds the crew of a tow ship investigating a potentially alien transmission on a planetoid that just so happens to contain huge ruins and a particularly nasty brand of alien that makes its way onto their ship. While onboard, the menace makes short work of the crew — which consists of characters played by Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt,Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto — before they go on the offensive and try to save their lives and at least part of the ship. It’s a taught, scary film that gives you enough time to get to know the characters and then doesn’t let up as it races towards the final.
I don’t think there’s any arguing that Alien is a classic film, expertly put together and acted. While reading about the movie, I discovered that one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, Walter Hill, had a hand in it. He not only produced, but also rewrote Dan O’Bannon’s script. We’ll probably never know exactly how much which people got through to the final film, but it shows Hill’s versatility and radness.
But there is one problem with Alien and it has nothing to do with the movie itself. By being such a successful film with a fairly simple plot (alien hunts down people in strange place) it’s been talked about, homaged, parodied and flat-out copied for decades. Even if you haven’t seen the chestburster scene, but are otherwise well versed in horror or film history, you’ve probably seen the scene on a countdown show of some kind. Heck, you probably also know going in that the cast’s reaction was real because they didn’t know exactly what was going to happen.
A few years back I watched the Shout Factory double feature of Roger Corman’s Cult Classics: The Terror Within / Dead Space. I don’t remember much about either movie aside from the fact that, even without being familiar with the source material, one or both of them were rip-offs of Alien. Sometimes, that can work out well, like in the case of Jason X, but usually it just feels old, tired and unoriginal.
So, what’s the solution to this problem? See Alien as soon as you can. It’s just one of those movies that’s so iconic and so influential that it’s best to get it in your system as early as possible so you’re comparing all of the copycats to the original instead of an idea of the original you’ve formed from being part of the pop culture landscape. I’m to far gone in that regard, but I figure a few more solid viewings in glorious Blu-ray will help to retroactively fix the problem.
I’m not sure if you saw, but one of the cooler things on display at this year’s Toy Far was the upcoming line of Predator figures from NECA which are actually based on the 90s Kenner line of toys. If you missed the news, check out this CBR post I did for Toy Fair and peep my wonderful photographs. Seeing those new figures reminded me of one of my favorite quirks of the toy industry from decades’ past: action figures for children based on R-rated film properties. With that in mind, I headed over to YouTube and started looking around for Kenner Predator commercials. The best I could find is the above one for a line of Alien Vs. Predator figures that actually look pretty amazing. I’m not sure how glowing in the dark helps Stalker catch his prey, but the Dreadlock whipping one is pretty funny. Meanwhile, the spiky boar Alien is a great use of action features and that queen is super gross.
As an added bonus, here’s a commercial for the Jaguar Aliens Vs. Predator video game which I did not play.
What a great and disturbing commercial for children!
This two page ad from Magnus Robot Fighter #21 (1993) makes me think of two things. First, has there ever been a quality game featuring these characters in the current generation of consoles? I don’t know if I’ve ever played a Terminator game, but I did recently try to play Alien vs. Predator on the 360 and it was frustratingly crappy. I’d be completely happy with an open world Predator game in the vein of Amazing Spider-Man where you’re just running around a map hunting people down. The map could literally be anything, I’d be in. Just make the controls simple, easy to use and FUN.
The second question is, why do crossovers involving these characters tend to suck? I like the two Alien vs. Predator movies just because they have both Aliens and Predators, but they’re not good movies. I’m basically taking what I can get. It doesn’t seem like it would be that hard to come up with a good story. How are the Dark Horse crossovers? I think I might have read some, but don’t remember any.
How is it that bringing together two such awesome properties as Predator and Alien always ends in something lackluster and disappointing? I admit, I haven’t actually played this video game (was it any good by SNES standards?), but I’ve read a good deal of the crossover comics and have seen the flicks and there’s nothing great in there, though there should be.
All that aside, just look at the glory of this box art! It’s so goofy! Predator looks like he’s doing that thing where you hold your hand out on someone shorter’s forehead so they can’t move any closer to you. And Alien’s just falling over like an old lady. Actually, this box might be the best thing combining the two properties.
I wonder how this toy did when these commercials started airing in 1979. When I was a kid, I’d see commercials for R-rated movies and think they looked pretty cool, but I don’t remember buying the toys based on them. Actually, I did have a Rambo figure and not one of those weird cartoon-based ones. I think it’s really interesting that they seemed to put all their eggs in the Alien basket and didn’t create any heroes that same size. The jaw-moving action feature is rad and it’s also interesting that the commercial almost tells kids how to play with it: run around with it with your friends and try to reenact the movie you probably haven’t seen. I’m sure most kids wound up doing what I did and tossing all their toys in one or two boxes and creating all kinds of rad epic battle mashups with them, but that wouldn’t have made for a very good commercial methinks.