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Alien Before Alien [Fantastic Fest 2019]

Posted 2019/10/02 2 0

Alien is about as classic as it gets, not just when it comes to horror of sci-fi, but cinema in general. As such, it’s a movie that certainly warrants further exploration, which is something that’s been done plenty in the past, be it via featurettes on the various re-releases over the years, in interviews with director Ridley Scott or by many YouTubers with lots of free time on their hands. But director Alexandre O. Philippe has taken things to a different level with his latest, Memory: The Origins of Alien. While it may not be what one would call the definitive documentary on Scott’s classic, it’s undoubtedly essential viewing for those obsessed with this universe.

Memory: The Origins of Alien takes an in-depth look into the creation of 1979 sci-fi masterpiece. Using the eyes of the visionary filmmakers who created it, the movie paints a picture of how it came to be from its earliest days on the page. Via an analysis of the works throughout history that inspired Alien, this documentary examines, in great detail, one of the most terrifying movies of all time.

Ridley Scott, rightfully so, is championed as the man who brought Alien to life. His side of the story has been covered, from just about every angle, in various ways, over the years. To set itself apart, this doc is largely about the other people and works that influenced what came to be. Much of the movie centers on writer Dan O’Bannon and his journey to bring his tale to the big screen. As a massive fan of the franchise, this offered me a fresh perspective on the material I hadn’t been able to gain from the bonus features on my Blu-rays. O’Bannon’s determination is inspiring. The depth Alexandre O. Philippe digs to show us O’Bannon’s ideas, from the earliest stages, right up through production, is what makes this all worthwhile.

Related: New Alien Documentary Reveals Hilariously Inappropriate Origins of the Chestburster

Alexandre O. Philippe previously helmed 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene, an entire documentary about the infamous shower scene from Psycho. Here, Philippe doesn’t limit himself as much. Though, much attention is paid to the iconic chest-burster scene, which is arguably just as notable in the pages of cinema history as the scene in question from Hitchcock’s classic thriller. But it’s easy to see why Philippe decided not to just take apart that one sequence. It’s all about putting all of the notable elements of Alien in their proper context. That context proves to be fascinating and revealing, as well as unexpected.

H.R. Giger’s work is more important to Alien than perhaps anyone else’s and he gets quite a bit of time to shine here as well. We get plenty of insight as to how Giger crafted the designs that would go on to flesh out the universe this movie lives in. But more than anything, this doc showcases some of the pieces of our history that tie into Alien. Not just sci-fi, but works of art and things from the ancient past that ultimately would go on to inspire one of the most important franchises in cinema history. It’s all, in a word, rich.

That having been said, this is not for the casual viewer. This is dense with information and truly is aimed at hardcore lovers of cinema. But for anyone who fits that bill, this is a compelling history lesson. Is it a thrilling watch? Probably not, but the wealth of information makes this nothing shy of a gift to genre fans. Memory: The Origins of Alien arrives on October 4 from Screen Media Films.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Movieweb.

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