October 04, 2011

Must Watch Before You Die #20: Alien (1979)

Alternative Horror is fast becoming one of my favourite sub-genres. I don’t know whether a term like this exists, but I kind of like it. I would define Alternative Horror as the sub-genre which horrifies us without confining to the conventions of the Horror genre. So the documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ on the issue of global warming is Alternative Horror for me, as are cult-classics ‘Angel Heart’ and ‘Eraserhead’. Perhaps the reason behind my fascination for this sub-genre is my love for one film-maker who has managed to horrify us without ever resorting to the classical horror elements. Whether it is his psychological thriller ‘Repulsion’, the surreal masterpieces like ‘The Tenant’ or ‘The Ninth Gate’, the unforgettable ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, or even the War Drama ‘The Pianist’ – there is always a foreboding of something terrible in the movies of Roman Polanski. With bated breaths we watch the protagonists’ struggle to survive against a supremely powerful and often invisible antagonist. These movies affect human psyche in more ways than a classical horror movie would, movies that rely on ghosts (wandering ex-human spirits) haunting someone or something and their exorcism being the only satisfying resolution. Not to forget that Alternative Horror also works better when you revisit the movie, and are already aware of the thrills and surprises.

I just watched another movie that can be classified in this sub-genre. Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic ‘Alien’ managed to involve me in a way many movies can not. Despite a long and tiring day, and it was late in the night that I started watching it, the movie did not allow me to blink. In fact during the final act, I was sitting up, leaning on my laptop screening, as if nothing else mattered to me but the survival of the female protagonist.

I always thought sci-fi is not my genre. And here I am, recommending this movie as a must-watch-before-you-die. But I realize that it is not its sci-fi elements that have impacted me, it is its inherent horror, and most interestingly its smart variation on the classic horror tale of a group of adventurers trapped in a haunted house awaiting their death or a miraculous escape. And yes, there is a cat too! Watch it NOW!

P.S. I have not spoiled your fun by sharing details from the movie. I promise you that.


  1. Ya Roman Polanski for sure. He is a master of this genre and one of my personal favorites. One more movie I would like to add in the list is 'Moon' by Duncan Jones which was released in 2009 starring Sam Rockwell. Completely engrossing and must be included in the alternative horror list.

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