EDITORIAL: Aliens Ruined the Alien Franchise

Before I begin, I just want to say that I, in fact, do not hate Aliens at all. Actually, I find it to be fine piece of cinema, heavily influential and paced to entertain at breakneck speed. If you don’t believe me, check out my review.

But as I found myself halfway through a viewing earlier this year for Alien Week, I began to realize something I never had considered before. It felt…different. Not different from the other films, it already is that in spades. I mean different as in I was seeing the film itself in a light I had never seen before. As Ripley and the Marines huddled together in formation, their backs to the wall, awaiting the alien horde with rifles at the ready, I began to remember the numerous complaints of Prometheus viewers at the movie theater where I work, five years ago.

“It’s too confusing; I couldn’t understand it.”

Hicks is spooked. He fires blindly into the ceiling.

“The characters are dumb, they make terrible, stupid decisions. Totally unbelievable.”

Hudson and Vazquez let loose. Alien after alien leaps down from the ceiling panels.

“It’s nothing like Aliens. That movie was good.”

Ripley finally fires, and now I get it.

Indeed, James Cameron’s “perfect sequel” is a good movie. And it was a good thing for the franchise at the time, keeping it alive at a crucial juncture, spawning comics, novels, and yes, more films. But as history has shown time and again, good things can inadvertently lead to bad things. And that night, as Ripley and Newt faced extraterrestrial death in my living room for what was probably the 100th time, I finally saw that Aliens had done just that.

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Damn right, I just blamed Aliens for this.

So how did a seminal sci-fi flick with substantial success, both in profit and influence, singlehandedly destroy the future of its own franchise? To answer that question, it is necessary to look back at Ridley Scott’s original horror classic as well as Cameron’s follow-up, to determine what made Scott’s film stand out, and what Cameron dropped from his to achieve greater success.

THE ORIGINAL FILM

Conceived mainly by screenwriters Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, the script for Alien quickly made a splash among industry insiders in the mid-70s for bleak atmosphere and innovative monster, heavily inspired by the art of Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger. Nothing like Alien had been seen on screen before; while images of extraterrestrial creatures eating people were standard EC Comics fare and the main “space trucker” characters seemed to be blue-collar revisions of the scientific crews of Forbidden Planet and The Thing from Another World, Giger’s beast was a nightmarish creature of incredible sensuality–qualities which are usually mutually exclusive to one another. And the way in which it enters the story–by raping a human male and forcing a bloody birth upon him–is so horrifyingly innovative that the original scene still holds the same shock that it did in 1979.

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But as much as Alien is O’Bannon’s baby, it was Ridley Scott who did the child-rearing that resulted in a brilliant piece of celluloid. Known for both a meticulous attention to even the smallest detail and his penchant for perfectionism behind the camera, Scott’s direction over both the actors and the design crew, consisting of Giger, Ron Cobb, and comic legends Chris Foss and Jean Moebius Giraud, is as sublime as it is epic. Resolving to push for the maximum effort, Scott was able to attain highly-technical and realistic sets for the space tug Nostromo, and truly eerie and inhuman sights for the crashed Derelict, and of course, the Alien itself. Just two years after Star Wars, Alien changed sci-fi again.

As detailed in The Long Take’s excellent video analysis, the menace of the Alien is wholly unconventional, covered in semen-like slime as it approaches its prey with a sexual cunning. At every stage of its monstrous life cycle, its body takes on alternatively vaginal and phallic forms, stalking men and women alike in an apparent play on both toxic masculinity and the transgender boogeyman of the ’70s feminist movement. Combined with the post-Nixon distrust of authority and the outstanding character of Ripley, played with both masculine grit and feminine intuition by Sigourney Weaver, Alien cracks the mold of both space films and horror.

THE SEQUEL

Immediately after Alien, Ridley Scott had his own designs for a sequel, spit-balling back and forth between a story involving LV-426 exploding, sending eggs through the vastness of space to eventually reach Earth, where Ripley arrives at the start, and another, interesting notion of a prequel detailing how the Derelict and its Space Jockey pilot came to be on their barren world. With the departure of Alan Ladd, Jr. from Twentieth Century Fox, these ideas would not come to fruition, and Scott decided to pursue other projects.

It is intriguing to see the genesis of two very different directions that the Alien franchise would be destined to explore. The first, with an Alien horde reaching Earth, resembles many of the early drafts for Alien 3 and the driving plot element of Alien Resurrection, while the prequel concept obviously became Scott’s preferred vision with Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. In either case, Scott’s ambitions were clear: he wanted to explore the origins and nature of the Xenomorph creature, and dabble in the depiction of the Space Jockey.

Fast-forward to 1984. James Cameron, hot off the success of The Terminator, is suddenly in demand among the Hollywood elite. Having been working on the Alien sequel for some time, he and his producing partner Gale Anne Hurd were finally given the complete reigns over the project to finish in 1986. Cameron’s final script, incorporating ideas from an earlier sci-fi story he had written entitled Mother, signaled a massive shift in formula and tone from Scott’s entry. While preserving continuity and retaining Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, Aliens shifted away from the horror elements of its ancestor and planted its roots as a combat-driven action film. Gone were allusions to gender identity and sexual psychology, replaced by an allegory of the Vietnam War that serves to provide Ripley with the chance to assert her maternal identity with Newt, the young sole survivor of the LV-426 colony.

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Cameron has been quoted as saying that he wanted his film to be “less horror, more terror.” Whatever that is supposed to mean, it is clear that Aliens doesn’t fit in with the pure existential and predatory dread of the first film. Aliens is scary, but in a different fashion, opting for more traditional jumps and creeps in between pulse-pounding scenes of futuristic combat. In what is probably his biggest contribution to the Alien mythos, Cameron introduces the final piece of the Alien’s reproductive cycle, the Queen. A powerful leadership caste that control the Warrior drones by simple gesture, the Queen is more than a match for the crafty Ripley, and can even hold a grudge–it pursues her in a decidedly intelligent quest for revenge after Ripley destroys its nest.

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On the surface, this seems to be a good change, focusing the menace into a bigger and meaner creature that can think its way out of a jam. However, closer comparison between the films reveals that the concept of the Queen stands in opposition to the original idea of the Alien. The Alien of the first film is a solitary creature, slowly crawling out of the shadows to attack in startling displays of sexual sadism, and in the original screenplay and Director’s Cut, horrifically transform its victims into new eggs while they remain awake for the entire ordeal. And yet, for everything known about the Alien, Scott’s greatest contribution to it was the mystery surrounding it.

The Alien’s life cycle may have been complete in the beginning, but even this does not fully account for the sheer number of eggs within the Derelict’s cargo hold. Indeed, perhaps the hold contained more than just Xenomorph eggs. Perhaps there were untold varieties of beastly horrors locked away in its ancient walls. Their origin is also kept a tantalizing mystery; could they have been the remains of the rest of the Space Jockey crew? Or scientific specimens of an exploratory vessel? Or perhaps they were a biological weapon, as Scott liked to opine in the decades after finishing Alien. Even the true nature of the titular “Big Chap,” originally revealed as a highly intelligent being after biting Ripley’s head off and mimicking her voice to set an interstellar trap, was wisely dropped from the final cut. All of this adds to the eerie atmosphere of Scott’s film, intertwining with the cultural zeitgeist of the uncertain ’70s to unleash a truly horrifying experience that still captures minds today.

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Cameron, on the other hand, seemed uninterested in mystery. His creation of the Queen is the biggest indication as to his preferred depiction of the Xenomorph, no doubt heavily influenced more by the Arachnids of Robert Heinlein’s novel Starship Troopers than by Giger’s artwork and concepts. The Queen simultaneously removes the mystery of the Alien and the universe at large outside of the walls of Hadley’s Hope, reducing the invincible monster of Alien to an expendable foot soldier, able to be defeated by a simple barrage of caseless rifle fire. If only Dallas had one of those, right? Further more, the enigma of the eggs in the cargo hold isn’t so unfathomable anymore.

This rejection of the unknown continues to seep into every facet of Aliens. Early on, the faceless, evil Company is laid bare as a bureaucratic mess, more concerned with the loss of an iron ore shipment than with the prospect of a race of monsters at Earth’s doorstep. And Special Order 937? Replaced by a lowly Company agent with greedy aspirations of profiting from the creatures, revealing the influence of the materialistic ’80s upon Cameron’s story, where capitalism is still the bees knees, its just a few bad apples that muck things up. The only thematic content more pervasive than this is the specter of Reagan’s America, present in the nuclear family of Ripley, Hicks, and Newt as the survivors of the film, triumphing unequivocally over the promiscuous Anti-Mother by seemingly destroying the Xenomorph race once and for all.

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THE AFTERMATH

When times are good, people will respond to stories that reinforce the world around them. Aliens was released at the height of an American economic boom, presenting just enough of Alien‘s creature to be recognizable while jettisoning the uncertainty and pessimism of the ’70s inherent in that film. This turned out to be a recipe for success, propelling Aliens to box office and pop culture glory.

The subsequent sequels would not be so lucky. Alien 3 would prove to be Sisyphean struggle to produce, with many early drafts took on narratives that echoed Aliens, featuring military combat against swarms of the creatures. Despite some interesting drafts that presented truly nightmarish and ghastly depictions of the Aliens, each version retained this emphasis on action, until Vincent Ward’s legendary, ethereal lost story. Set on an artificial world made of wood and populated by Neo-Luddite monks, Ward’s Alien 3 became one of the greatest unmade films ever conceived, boldly removing the ’80s social certainty by killing Hicks and Newt and throwing Ripley into her own personal hell as the host for the last Alien. After Ward’s departure and the scrapping of the wooden world concept, the final Alien 3 as directed by David Fincher retained much of Ward’s themes, and pushed an increasingly nihilistic film upon an audience that expected a retread of Aliens, which is understandable given the misleading marketing of the film. As I’ve noted before, Alien 3 is uncompromising and brave in its conviction to emotional disturbance, betraying an almost gothic sense of horror that evokes the original but still remains its own beast. Unfortunately, audiences disagreed and many still do.

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Alien Resurrection, despite benefiting early on from the French expressionism of Jean-Pierre Jeunette and some of the most ghastly sights of the franchise, ends up playing as a light-hearted Aliens clone by the end, and the AVP entries of the 2000s were cynical cash grabs, with the second film literally remaking the plot of Aliens on present day Earth. Quickly, one can see a pattern emerging: nobody wanted to leave Cameron’s film behind.

Nobody except Ridley Scott himself, who regained the franchise in 2012 with Prometheus, a soft reboot that sought to explore the Space Jockey race, now called Engineers, in a bit of world-building that returned to the series the Eldritch threat of existential terror. Believing that Alien itself was a “cooked” beast, Scott strayed away from it, keeping the more recognizable beats of bodily horror while focusing on a demonic twist to humanity’s origins and the creeping threat of A.I. This led to a polarizing film, with opinions split down the middle; devotees of Scott’s original film feel it is a nice return of the tone of that piece, while critics deride it as shallow, confusing, and lacking of the main creature that makes the franchise what it is. Looking at the divide, it seems obvious where it came from.

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These days, the split among Alien fans remains firmly in place. Half seems to side more with Scott’s vision of a terrible, Lovecraftian universe of uncaring horrors, while the other prefers the human-centric adventure of Ripley and the Space Marines, barreling toward a war with the Alien species. What’s worse, this split has affected Scott’s plans for the prequel series. Originally planning a direct sequel to Prometheus entitled Paradise, the lukewarm reaction to that film caused him to drop many of the concepts he was building and shoehorn in the Alien for the even more polarizing Alien: Covenant, in which he seeks to assert ownership over the creature and its life cycle by presenting David, his murderous android character (and rebuke to the heroic Bishop) as the creator of the species. While I have my own thoughts on that little development, one cannot overstate how drastic a change this is from even his own first ideas, let alone the intentions of Dan O’Bannon and H.R. Giger. This can be unequivocally traced back to the success of Aliens, and the embracing by the fans of its simpler nature.

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With Alien: Covenant failing to make a splash at the box office, the future of the series is now uncertain. Scott’s Alien: Awakening project, even if it isn’t canceled, seems mired in its own intentions to reveal the last shred of mystery the franchise had, while the online outrage at the termination of Neill Blomkamp’s Alien 5 film, which would be another retread of Aliens with Ripley and Hicks returning to wipe away Alien 3 and Resurrection from continuity, has reached fever pitch, signalling that Fox could head in that direction. I would hope that they don’t, because I’ve had enough of Aliens. I’m fine with the one film, and would rather like to see more thought-provoking and eerie movies in the vein of the original. Attempting to recapture the Cameron version of the beast almost always ends in disappointment, and further dilutes the impact of the creature itself. But as it stands, it looks like the Alien will have to get used to disappointing its many devotees, because while Cameron seems more interested in friendlier E.T.s from Pandora, he’s still leaving his mark upon the cold evil of space.

REVIEW: Godzilla (1954)

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Directed by Ishirô Honda
Written by Takeo Murata and Ishirô Honda, Story by Shigeru Kayama
Starring Akira Takarada, Momoko Kôchi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura, Fuyuki Murakami, Sachio Sakai

The Big One. Or rather, the Big G.

Godzilla, the first of many films starring the titular gargantuan reptile, ignited a tradition in the then-infant Japanese film industry, the tokusatsu, or special effects, film, and forced the island nation to come to grips with their unique and unfortunate history with humanity’s deadliest invention: the nuclear weapon. Godzilla still stands as a triumph above that final chapter of imperial shame, above much of tokusatsu that came after, and indeed, above most science fiction cinema in general.

Japan is thrown into a panic after several ships explode and are sunk, the results of neither natural phenomenon nor foreign action. An expedition to Odo Island, close to where several of the ships were lost, led by paleontologist Professor Kyôhei Yamane (Takashi Shimura), his daughter Emiko (Momoko Kôchi), and young navy frogman Hideto Ogata (Akira Takarada), soon discover something more devastating than imagined in the form of a 164-foot-tall monster whom the natives call Gojira. Now, the monster begins a rampage that threatens to destroy not only Japan but the rest of the world as well.

I’m sure most of you know the story by now: several Japanese fishing vessels are lost at sea, while a giant creature living off the coast of Odo Island is discovered to be at fault. An ancient reptile awakened by nuclear weapons testing, it is dubbed Godzilla by the inquisitive Dr. Yamane before it begins walking ashore towards Tokyo, bringing a trail of fiery destruction with it. What some of you may not know is just how topical and in tune with the events of the time this film was, or how unfortunately relevant it remains today. Conceived by producer Tomoyuki Tanaka after another project fell through, Godzilla is still the apex of tokusatsu, equaled by none.

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Tanaka’s idea was born out of two of Japan’s biggest events of 1954. That year saw the official end of the American occupation and the return of complete control to the new republican government and the newly-established Self Defense Forces. Before Godzilla, all Japanese entertainment had to be approved by the occupation, which severely limited portrayals of Japanese military might and government stability. Watching the film proves that this was no longer the reality by the time of its release, with the valiant efforts of the SDF against the monster and the scenes of the Diet locked in fierce debate.

The other major event of 1954 was the Lucky Dragon incident, from which the film’s first act takes heavy inspiration. During the American Castle Bravo H-bomb test of that year, the fishing trawler Lucky Dragon No. 5 strayed too close to the fallout, resulting in the crew suffering radiation sickness and even one death. This sparked a chill in American-Japanese relations right after the occupation, and stunned a population who still harbored fresh memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Cue the opening scene of Godzilla, aboard the fishing vessel Eiko-maru:

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In the midst of this fealty to the outside world, director Ishiro Honda presents some fairly traditional scenes of two lovers, Ogata and Emiko, trying to navigate their young relationship in the face of not only the fishing disasters, but Emiko’s father Yamane, and her fiancé Dr. Daisuke Serizawa, a reclusive, scarred war vet with a terrible secret locked in his lab. Their affair quickly spirals into the background of a bitter debate when Godzilla is revealed to the world at large: Honda’s film excels at navigating the moral and ethical grey areas of the existence of such a monster, whether in the salient Diet debate over whether to publish the truth of Godzilla’s threat or conceal it to preserve order and the economy, or in Yamane’s quiet torment over being the only person to want to save the creature, seeing only its potential to unlock the secrets of radioactivity, and its resistance to it.

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In this subplot is where Honda and screenwriter Takeo Murata begin to truly play with the real-world consequences of the nuclear age. While the original storywriter Shigeru Kayama made Yamane a Phantom-of-the-Opera-esque cloaked figure, engaged in sabotage against the SDF to protect Godzilla, Takashi Shimura’s Yamane is much more contemplative and down-to-earth, desperately trying to salvage something noteworthy and meaningful to mankind out of its most foolish and terrible mistakes, manifest in the monster itself. Shimura becomes the easily the best performer in a strong collection of actors on screen, preserving a countenance of regret over the futility of his efforts.

Image result for godzilla 1954 serizawaSo too Akihiko Hirata as Serizawa, whose secret lab is revealed to house a new and terrible superweapon: the Oxygen Destroyer, a substance capable of liquefying any organic material in water, a sure way to kill Godzilla. But therein lies his dilemma: the Oxygen Destroyer is an easy contender for a new weapon of mass destruction in the ever-escalating Cold War, and he fears that his discovery will become another tool of the superpowers against innocent people unless he can find a better, more humane use for his compound. Like Yamane, Serizawa seems to be trying to salvage a workable future from mankind’s violent past and present, although his character arc is much more reminiscent of the real life J. Robert Oppenheimer, the remorseful creator of the atomic age.

Undoubtedly, however, the main event of Godzilla to most viewers would be Godzilla himself. Portrayed by a combination of puppets and a large, 200-lb rubber suit, Godzilla, in this original film at least, remains a wholly-convincing special effect. While the puppet shots have most certainly aged poorly and don’t fit with the rest of the footage, the cumbersome suit, worn valiantly through fainting spells and buckets of sweat by Haruo Nakajima, portrays a confused and tortured beast, staggering around a highly-detailed miniature Tokyo as if it is constantly in searing pain (the presence of keloid scars across its hide does much to bolster this observation). Honda’s stark black-and-white photography captures all of the nuances of Nakajima’s performance and Eiji Tsuburaya’s special effects work, resulting in an image eerily reminiscent of wartime footage that would have been very hard to watch for those who had survived it. Combined with Akira Ifukube’s still-haunting score, the effect is palpable.

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Godzilla would become a smashing success in Japan and several other markets in its original release in 1954, convincing a skeptical public that Japan was a new contender in big special effects pictures, while still telling a dark and emotional story at its core. For its wide American release, Transworld Pictures commissioned a re-edited version, starring Raymond Burr in reshoots as Steve Martin, a newspaperman on whom the altered story would center. While toning down its more anti-war and nuclear age arguments (most certainly due to American Cold War attitudes of the time), Godzilla, King of theImage result for godzilla raymond burr Monsters! is still a solid Americanization of the original film, indeed, probably the best of them. Burr’s Martin, acting as a narrator to smooth the gaps in the story caused by the editing, is a fascinating character in his own right, and unlike later dubs, much of the original characters’ dialogue remain intact, creating a respectful image of the actors and their heritage. Indeed, without this version of the film, Godzilla may not be as popular as he is today, owing to the fact that King of the Monsters! was much more widely distributed across the world.

Godzilla seems to be an acquired taste, even with viewers who claim to be fans. Still thought of by the general populace as “that green dinosaur who fights aliens,” Godzilla may surprise those folks with its chilling realism and somber tone–if they manage to survive a viewing. It isn’t for everyone, but it’s a film that I wish was, for in today’s world, it seems the threat of nuclear annihilation isn’t taken seriously anymore. I can’t count on my hands how many times in a week I hear co-workers or passersby dismiss the Middle East or North Korea with a simple ‘nuke-em’ statement, and I can’t help but wonder if the Earth decided to regurgitate a monster born from this ignorant view to wreak havoc upon their lives, would they regret what they so often think?

This is the message of Godzilla. Heed it well.

REVIEW: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

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Directed by George A. Romero
Written by John Russo and George A. Romero
Starring Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Russell Streiner, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne, Judith Riley, Kyra Schon, George Kosana, Bill Cardille, Bill Heinzman

In commemoration of the passing of the great George A. Romero, I’ve decided to rewatch the Living Dead films before the October/Halloween marathon. His work in creating these amazing films will never go unappreciated, and should be preserved and experienced by as many people as possible to ensure the lessons he tried to teach us, as a society, through a series of horror pictures never fades away. Rest, George. This one’s for you.

Barbra (Judith O’Dea) and Johnny (Russell Streiner) visit their father’s grave in a remote cemetery when they are suddenly set upon by crazed, violent people. Barbra manages to get away and takes refuge in what seems to be an abandoned farm house, soon joined by Ben (Duane Jones), who stopped at the house in need of gas. Beset by attackers all around them, Ben does his best to secure the doors and windows. As news reports tell of grim happenings attributed to the bodies of the dead returning to life, Barbra and Ben are surprised to realize that there are 5 people hiding out in the basement: Harry (Karl Hardman), Helen (Marylin Eastman) and Judy Cooper (Kyra Schon); and a young couple, Tom (Keith Wayne) and Judy (Judith Riley). Dissension sets in almost immediately with Harry Cooper wanting to be in charge. As their situation deteriorates, their chances of surviving the night lessen minute by minute.

I won’t go too much into the plot of George Romero’s seminal indie classic, as it’s simple story is already well-known in the annals of horror pop-culture: the recently dead begin rising again, driven by animalistic instincts to murder and cannibalize the living, leaving our characters stranded in a Pennsylvania farmhouse. What is just as important as the formation of the modern zombie in this film is the struggle between the characters themselves.

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Representing a microcosm of American society, the characters of Ben, Barbra, Harry, Helen, Tom, and Judy are subtle blackboards with which Romero and John Russo doodle upon to present a society besieged by such a disgusting and terrifying epidemic. Now, as Romero had pointed out numerous times, he and his crew were never intending for Night to become the phenomenon it became, nor were they trying to make any kind of racial or political statement by casting a black man, Duane Jones, as Ben (Jones was simply the best actor available). In fact, in hindsight, it seems super obvious, given that over the course of the film, Ben’s actions lead to more deaths than does Harry’s. This is important to note, to look at the film as intended, which is that of a horror film that draws upon the culture of its time of release to produce the best scares possible.

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1968 was one of the most tumultuous and excrutiating years in American history, seeing continued Southern violence, the assassination of two popular American leaders, and the escalation of the Vietnam War. Romero’s and Russo’s characters are very much rooted in that world, with Ben and Harry representing two different sides of angry masculinity, Image result for night of the living dead 1968clashing and butting heads at every turn, jostling and pulling the rest of the characters as they attempt to exert their wills. The helplessness of their situation only exacerbates their conflict, leaving the viewer to come to only one inescapable conclusion: that they, like every faction fighting the 1960s, were destined to fail. The sexist climate of the ’60s is also on prominent, albeit unfortunate display, as it seems that every female character is patently useless, especially main player Barbra, who sinks into catatonia halfway through.

Another factor of the film’s script that propels it above its B-movie origins, this one understated in all of the social commentary talk, is its depiction of the zombie hoard and the narrative devices it employs to portray their worldwide threat. Before Night, a zombie was usually a myth rooted in Voodoo culture, a slave of biotoxins cooked up by a creepy medicine man. Romero’s zombies are a wholly science fiction construct, reanimated ambiguously by a returning Venus space probe. They are truly dead creatures, with no human nature left except an overpowering, instinctual hunger, shambling about at a slow pace towards their prey, undaunted by injuries that would fell a normal man. By establishing that the only way to kill them is with a gunshot to the head, Romero’s make-up effects team is given free reign to create a gruesome variety of rotting, mangled corpses that dazzle even in the soft, black-and-white photography of the final film. Speaking of photography, Romero’s camera work during sequences depicting the zombies is phenomenal. My favorite shot is most certainly of the zombie that Ben spikes in the eye, twisting to the left as the zombie stumbles back, revealing more advancing behind him as the shot goes from a medium close-up to a wide, all in one motion.

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Another of Romero’s tricks to make the most of his limited budget was the use of exposition in the script. Both Ben and Harry tell stories of their brushes with the undead, with Ben’s painting a particularly detailed scene of fiery slaughter, in both a triumph of world-building dialogue and of Duane Jones’ acting prowess. The rest of the exposition is provided by a series of well-produced news reports, both on the radio and the television, opening up Romero’s narrative without having to leave the house, therefore preserving the money available for the shoot and the sense of overriding claustrophobia that Night is so well known for.

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Since it’s theatrical exhibition in 1968, Night has had countless home video releases, due to the unfortunate loss of copyright on the film. Out of these numerous releases have come several different versions of the film. First, colorizations: Hal Roach Studios, in the 1980s and 1990s, released two different colorized editions of Night, and a third was produced by Legends Studios. As for wholly new edits, there are two distinct flavors to choose from: the John Russo Collector’s Edition, and the Survivor’s Cut.

The Collector’s Edition, written, produced, and directed by original co-writer John Russo, features a new musical score and 15 minutes of new scenes shot in 1998. The new scenes, featuring prominently a priest who is bitten but does not become a zombie, are absolutely horrid to watch, not blending in at all with the original footage and featuring truly abysmal acting. Even worse, 15 minutes of original footage are cut to make room for the additions. I would recommend that you stay away from this version, or at least stick to the alternative cut to this release, the ’98 Cut, the original film with the new score, housed on the same disc.

The Survivor’s Cut, a fan edit by Dean Lachiusa, is an interesting case, one I can’t really comment on given that I have not seen it yet. From the official description:

The original free Internet demo released as the “Night of the Living Dead: SURVIVOR’S CUT” features a remixed version (72 minutes long) with additional footage added, and several scenes digitally tinted for dramatic effect. The box-DVD release is a benevolent project that is designed to generate royalties for the creators of public domain and orphan films, it is called the “Benefit for the Living Dead.”

The Survivor’s Cut can be obtained on Amazon.

I don’t believe I need to state again just how influential Night of the Living Dead truly was. Overnight, a new horror subgenre emerged, countries and religious groups banned the film for it’s horrifying destruction of cinematic taboos, and a little-known filmmaker named George Romero suddenly found himself with a big career. If you are one of those who hasn’t seen the film and is wondering what all the Walking Dead hubbub is about, sit down in front of this little grayscale gem on a late night. Just don’t forget to board up your doors and windows.

REVIEW: Alien: Covenant (2017)

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Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by John Logan and Dante Harper, Story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green, Based on Characters Created by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett
Starring Michael Fassbender, Katharine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Amy Seimetz

Prometheus may indeed be the unrecognized classic that I believe it to be, but there is no denying that it’s shortfalls have influenced the future of the Alien series just as much as its original concept. While Alien: Covenant is a step back into the creature horror that made the franchise, well, a franchise, it seeks to meld this approach with a continuation for Prometheus‘ higher speculations on life and creation through the last remaining character of that film. It’s an effort not unlike that of the infamous Dr. Frankenstein, however whether it is doomed to fail still has to be seen.

The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, suffers a near-catastrophic setback that leaves their options limited. At this critical juncture, the crew discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, a habitable world seemingly missed by all surveys of the area. Entering orbit, a scouting team descends to the surface, where an unusual mystery begins to unravel. Somebody has been there. And something else awaits them.

If there was a prevailing theme from my viewing of Covenant, it was that of mild confusion. I saw it after the opening weekend, so while I had not actually read any professional reviews in depth or absorbed spoilers, I was able to discern a large swath of general opinions on the film. In truth, I’m hard-pressed to remember a film that was more divisive than this one. And while confusion usually denotes disappointment with a film, in this case, it’s much more positive. Complicated, but positive.

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Covenant‘s opening is much more reminiscent of Scott’s Blade Runner than any other entry in the Alien series, beginning with an extreme close-up shot of an eye. David’s eye, in fact, during the first day of his existence, in the company of his creator, Peter Weyland (Guy Pierce). After a philosophically-weighty conversation brought on by David’s rendition of a Wagner piece, David asks a pointed question that not only harkens back to events in Prometheus, but becomes a focal point of this story: “You created me. Who created you?”

Flashing forward, the colony ship Covenant encounters a solar flare that damages the ship and rocks its crew awake from hypersleep. After unceremoniously killing off the Captain (in a hilariously short cameo by James Franco), the film settles into a stretch of character building. Katharine Waterston plays this film’s Ripley-counterpart, Daniels, with a believable hyper-attentiveness and concern for the crew, as the dead Captain was her husband. She is surrounded by a core of likeable people, chief among them being Danny McBride’s Tennessee and Amy Seimetz’s Faris, a rough-around-the-edges couple with Earthy roots and healthy senses of humor. Billy Crudup is Oram, the Covenant’s new Captain and presumably a man of faith, however more so a man punctuated by deep insecurities.

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During repairs, the Covenant receives a mysterious transmission from a previously-undiscovered planet, and from here, the characters freeze in mid-evolution from this point on in favor of sheer mystery. The high-tech interiors of the Covenant, which seem even more related to the Nostromo than the Prometheus, give way to a world known by the filmmakers as Paradise, lush with vegetation and spectacular views but devoid of any animal life. It is here that Covenant achieves its finest and most subtle melding of Alien and Prometheus; a foreboding and eerie environment, cloaked in earthen beauty and wonder.

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Once the eponymous Aliens show up, the film kickstarts into a more familiar gear, even if the new creatures themselves aren’t quite so familiar. The new birthing scenes are horrendously bloody and gruesome, and in my mind reach the same level of shock as the original chestbursting scene from 1979. The new beasts themselves are also incredibly ferocious, clawing through bodies like hot butter. The frenetic pace and incredible amount of bloodletting in these alien scenes does a swell job of distracting from the shaky CGI and often-times idiotic decisions by their victims.

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And I’m absolutely sure that this is how the rest of the film would have played out, were it not for the impeccable talents of Michael Fassbender. Playing dual roles as David and the Covenant’s more advanced yet emotionally-lacking synthetic Walter, Fassbender gets to eat up the screentime with breathtaking examples of acting prowess. Walter is stunted intellectually yet immensely likeable in the bond he forms with Daniels, quite the opposite persona to David. The curious android has changed much since Prometheus, having found a purpose for himself in the guise of artistic and biological creation. He’s become his father, filled with delusions of greatness coupled with the intense desire to make something that improves upon him. His quest for perfection even extends to his scenes with Walter as they spew weighty dialogue in masterful long-takes by Scott (as if he were composing the cinematic form of baroque), with two in particular taking me by surprise with an undercurrent of homo-eroticism between the two supposedly sexless automatons.

David’s evolution into a more villainous character is quite the welcome shift, and almost merits Covenant dropping ‘Alien’ from the title. Yes, the classic Xenomorph does show up for the climax, but he’s only there to please the crowd. David is the true man of the hour. He eschews classic Shelley poetry and commits horrendous acts of sexual violence and Frankenstein-ian meddling in creation that dangerously borders camp but pulls through quite nicely, echoing the pulpy roots of the Alien series. While Covenant may begin and end much like Alien did, its meaty middle is stuffed to the brim with the same bold ambition that Prometheus had, this time not swirling around ancient aliens and questions of the afterlife, but compacted into the metaphorical monster David has become. “Serve in Heaven, or reign in Hell,” he asks Walter. It’s clear which choice he has made.

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Alien: Covenant is an interesting film, one that I feel is both a compromise and a gamble. Ridley Scott has long felt an unneeded urge to overexplain the mystery behind his original film, and while this one seems to answer the big enigma of the nature and origin of the Alien itself (I don’t believe it does, however, as my fan theory can still hold up), Scott also reigns himself in, listening to his better artistic muses while saving enough time to deliver the guts and gore that he admits moviegoers wanted out of him. And in creating a series villain that dwarfs even the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, Scott may have landed his extraterrestrial baby into biblical waters of existential terror that were more hinted at in his previous effort. I had no idea what to expect going into Covenant, and I didn’t walk out of the film cheering; rather, I was pondering what a subversive work of genius Covenant might actually be. It may definitely be rooted in horror conventions, but Scott is obviously unconcerned with that. Time will tell, but for now, I’m slowly realizing that I have what I wanted from this film.

Something new to think about. Thanks for the brain-grain, Ridley.

Fan Edit Review: Derelict

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Original Films Directed by Ridley Scott, Alien written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, Prometheus written by Jon Spaights and Damon Lindelof
Fan Edit by JobWillins
Category: FanMix

Not all fan edits exist to simply extend a film or fix some perceived problem with its story or pacing. Sometimes, an editor wants to make a work of art. An interesting mix of elements from different films can be combined to create an incredibly unique experience, and that is just what JobWillins has done here with Derelict, a combination of Prometheus and Alien.

Obviously, it isn’t as easy as sticking both films together at the ends and calling it a day. JobWillins’ vision calls for a marrying of both films’ stories, shifting back and forth between each film. This creates a unique dual narrative structure that increases the mystery element in each film and heightens the dread surrounding each cast of characters.

Roughly 30 or so minutes of Prometheus has been cut and replaced with an hour of Alien, staggered at varying intervals according to how well each scene fits. Beginning with David aboard the Prometheus, Derelict aims for maximum ambiguity: without the beginning of time opening or the Isle of Skye scene, the voyage and David’s role in it become a mystery, one that only heightens when the ship reaches its destination, only for the film to jump 30 years later to the Nostromo.

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The unknown elements of Alien gain even more of a sinister edge with this approach. The repeated beacon that calls the Nostromo is now implied to have something to do with the Prometheus mission. The derelict vessel becomes an even bigger enigma once the Juggernaut is revealed. David and Ash become even more intrinsically linked. All of these new revelations aren’t specifically stated by the edit, just implied by the new ordering.

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The best bits of this edit are in how the films transition into each other. The touchdown of the Prometheus cuts directly to the Nostromo’s rocky landing from inside the cockpit. Shaw, Holloway, and David’s escape from the storm cuts directly to Dallas and Lambert with Kane at the Nostromo airlock. An excellent montage of Weyland’s group entering the Engineer pyramid plays over Ash’s speech on the perfection of the Alien. And don’t get me started on how tense the new, combined climax is. With each cut of three decades, this edit’s legitimacy as FanEdit.org’s Fan Edit of the Month gets more and more solidified.

As mentioned before, large swaths of both films have been cut. Dropped is most of Prometheus‘ first act, sadly losing some of the better character moments between Shaw, Holloway, and Vickers (poor Vickers suffers the most from the cutting). Gone too is some of Alien‘s better bits of banter between Brett and Parker and some of the third act scares, but it’s all in the name of creating a pacing that fits in both stories effectively without turning the project into a 4-hour monstrosity. Two deleted scenes from Prometheus are also used.

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Video and sound are presented at the internet standard of 15 mbps, at 720p resolution with a 2-channel soundtrack. Presented in high contrast black-and-white to cover the obvious differences between the films’ visual styles, Derelict does a great job at emphasizing Ridley Scott’s use of light and shadow. Sound is dynamic enough for a stereo mix and quite adequate.

Derelict is an example of the talent that exists outside the Hollywood system. Taking two films separated by 32 years and combining them into a single, flowing story is not an easy feat, let alone making it a unique and entertaining venture when both films have been pored over to death. JobWillins makes the project look easy-peasy. Highly recommended.

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HOW TO GET IT:
Derelict has been taken from Vimeo’s public listings, however, it still exists as an unlisted video. If you have a Tumblr account, hop on and follow @JobWillins. On his blog there he has the video link posted along with the password required to watch. Enjoy!

REVIEW: Prometheus (2012)

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Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Jon Spaights and Damon Lindelof, Based on Elements Created by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett
Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Guy Pierce, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall

Prometheus had been my favorite film of 2012 for a long time, and while I may have rethought my position on that moniker, it still remains high in my ranking of science fiction cinema, despite whatever mixed reputation it may have. While it remains an easy target for naysayers, Prometheus was a bold and fresh journey into an underexplored facet of the Alien universe, and while we may be turning back toward creature horror with Alien: Covenant, the effects of it’s unconventional premise are still being felt.

A group of explorers, including archaeologists Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), are on an “undisclosed” mission whose destination is a moon trillions of miles away from Earth. There, they find the remains of an ancient alien civilization which may be the forerunners of the human race. But some of the explorers have an ulterior motive for being there, including Weyland Corporation representative Vickers (Charlize Theron) and the android David (Michael Fassbender).

Opening on a primordial world, presumably Earth, Prometheus wastes no time in displaying the talents of Scott’s now go-to visual team of photographer Dariusz Wolski and editor Pietro Scalia. Together, they weave us through spellbinding sights of this ancient paradise, bolstered by Marc Streitenfeld’s romantic score, painting a picture of the wonder of a cosmic beginning. Stepping into this landscape is a lone humanoid figure, pale white and naked, who drinks an unknown liquid that dissolves his body into a nearby waterfall, where his DNA recombines, revealing the overture of the picture to be the start of life as we know it.

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If Alien was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre by way of 2001, then Prometheus is 2001 by way of Alien. The first hint of this influence is the cut from the primordial Earth to the 2090s, far eclipsing the millennia-jumping cut of Kubrick’s film in terms of history. A brief scene in Scotland establishes the main scientists, Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charles Holloway (Marshall-Green), and their mission, to find the alien source of ancient human pictograms, and then we are in space and on our way to the main narrative.

Here we get a more clean meld of 2001 and Alien, as the android David goes about his day, alone while the crew is in hypersleep, aboard the exploratory vessel Prometheus. It’s sleek lines and heavily-digital control surfaces evoke 2001, but underneath, there is a heavy current of the Nostromo to the design, inherent in the meticulous attention to detail and the familiar motifs of motion-activated lighting and European influence to its interior design. In short, one can tell that these ships definitely belong to the same universe, separated only by their purposes and the money spent in building them.

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David, however, is a far cry from his future counterparts Ash and Bishop. He is naturally curious and full of inquisitive insight. He even finds a role model in his solace; Lawrence of Arabia, as played by the great Peter O’Toole. David sees them both as equals, out of place among their peers yet superior, and deserving of praise. It is a role Michael Fassbender was born to play, injecting him with a starry-eyed happiness that later gives way to a sinister lack of empathy for his masters as the picture goes on.

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Dear God, I would kill to have that as my home theater….

While David steals the picture, Holloway and Shaw are an impressive couple in their own right. Holloway, a militant atheist, and Shaw, a devout Christian, display an impressive bit of character writing, as both have come to the same belief that extraterrestrials created us. Rounding out the main cast are Charlize Theron as Vickers, a no-nonsense, mean-spirited Weyland Corp. representative, and Idris Elba as Janek, the Prometheus’s working man captain, obviously cut from the same cloth as the Venture’s sensible skipper from King Kong.

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At their destination, the moon LV-223, the film ventures into Alien territory, taking the explorers into an ancient underground installation which appears straight out of H.R. Giger’s original concept work on that 1979 film. These Engineers are definitely familiar creatures, and every bit of the environment pays beautiful homage to Giger’s art.

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While Prometheus begins to morph into a horror film at this point, it is most certainly a thinking-man’s horror film. Instances of creature horror and jump scares are present, but play second-fiddle to an existential horror that evokes H.P. Lovecraft: the Gods are angry, and they will kill us all. The sense of wonder and cosmic purpose pervading the first half of the film subtly shifts to this fear of the known, rather than the unknown, as the crew slowly figures out that the base our forefathers guided us to may not have a benevolent purpose. Even if the Engineers aren’t evil, David once again swipes the spotlight to posit to Holloway, after the drunk scientist claims humans made the android because we could, “How disappointing would it be to hear the same thing from your Maker?”

But this isn’t even the most ambitious part of Lindelof’s and Spaight’s screenplay. The film’s boldest aspect isn’t that it raises these questions, it’s that it doesn’t answer them. This has been one of the chief knocks against the film, but Prometheus isn’t Aliens. Just as we will never truly be sure of our own answers, neither will Shaw or David. Prometheus is a film that is meant to be talked about, discussed, and theorized over.

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A Prometheus hater watching Prometheus.

That being said, even I have to recognize the shortcomings, mostly inherent in the supporting character writing. While I defend the characters of Millburn and Fifield as the comic relief-archetype, I will admit they are not written to the same standard as, say, Brett and Parker where in the first film. And yes, Vickers’ end was incredibly dumb.

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Whether or not one likes Prometheus, everyone had better start getting used to it, as Alien: Covenant, from early reviews, aims to continue its themes of human origins and the power of creation. It is well acted, superbly written (for the most part), and a nice experience for the senses. I suggest that if you are on the fence about it, now is the best time to give it another try.

Weirdo Cinema: Galaxy of Terror (1981)

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As a connoiseur of all films trashy, I happen to know more than anyone that sometimes, a good ripoff is good for the heart. Like off-brand candy, sometimes the taste just clicks in ways that the best Ferrero Rocher would never accomplish. In this analogy, if Alien is the Rocher, Galaxy of Terror would be the no-label Dollar Store chocolate.

Image result for galaxy of terrorMortal fear, or a hell of a migraine? You decide!

If Buck Rogers caught an Alien facehugger midair and hate-fucked it aboard the spaceship Beagle, Galaxy of Terror would undoubtedly be the mutated offspring. It tries to smash together Alien set-pieces, gorehound gross-out scenes, and old sci-fi serial characters with all the subtlety of a Presidential Twitter account, and believe it or not, the result is more entertaining than huffing a helium tank.

What’s that? You still need convincing? Well, if you’re not hung up about spoilers, harsh language, or general good taste, read on…

THE FILM

We begin with the dark and desolate world of Morganthus, and before you can wonder what Rennaissance fair reject came up with that name, a bunch of cheesy laser sounds signal the arrival of the beast of this terrible hellhole–sorry, I meant the title. Yeah, it’s just the title.

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Splurged for the italic font, I see.

Immediately, a man drenched in either sweat or alien piss stumbles into his spaceship and welds himself in with a laser rifle that the original Star Trek crew would find laughably fake. He’s alone, with only a dead body and its exposed brains to keep him company. Now, I know what you’re thinking: brains? Yuck, I don’t want that near me! Apparently, you’ve got a kindred spirit on screen, because he frantically smashes some buttons together before throwing his head against the wall behind him, seemingly summoning a rape ghost that pins him up against the bulkhead.

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And now we enter the truly weird territory. Far away on the planet Xerxes, some old woman named Mitri and a sentient Christmas light are playing an electronic board game.

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You were gonna say I hallucinated this movie on shrooms?

They are rudely interrupted by Leftenant Stuffy British Man, who informs them that they have lost contact with the ship on Morganthus. Mitri then bitches about Xmas Cheer cheating or something, I guess.

After Xmas barks orders, we are introduced to our intrepid space crew. Stuffy Brit is present, along with Captain Trantor, a no-nonsense commander who has no time for introductions, safety, or sense. Our crew consists of Major Mustache and his girlfriend, Baelon, the ship’s resident dick, a big, quiet guy who looks awfully familiar, the Rookie, Busty Blonde, the old cook, and pre-dead Freddy Krueger. Trantor, having not done anything crazy in the last 30 seconds, gets itchy trigger fingers and immediately launches the ship, giving everybody little time to strap in, almost killing Freddy Krueger in the process, who has to leap into Busty Blonde’s legs to survive takeoff.

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Can’t say I blame him.

Trantor then skips ahead of her own film’s narrative by jumping the ship straight to Morganthus, a process which I’m told is dangerous. The jump goes fine, but their ship ends up crash-landing anyway, giving us a thrilling sequence of computer readouts, switch flips, Baelon’s dickery.

Keep in mind that I still don’t know anything else about these characters, therefore I have no idea who the hero is. Who I’m supposed to root for. What in the hell Red Bulb is plotting behind their backs. Where I can get those sweet lighted backpacks. All I know is that soon it’s walking time, Mustache’s girlfriend is “psi-sensitive” because “they even pay her to do it,” and the Big Guy loves throwing his crystal ninja stars at everything in sight as much as he does creeping Rookie out.

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Now I assume this is a rescue mission for the crew that was lost at the beginning, but Big Guy and Major Mustache start burning bodies like they’re covering up a mafia hit. Soon enough, we get our first big scare: the Rookie gets eaten by a space cockroach.

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The rest of our intrepid heroes stumble upon an alien pyramid on the planet surface, and naturally decide to check it out. Wouldn’t you?

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Looks cozy.

I think I should add that now I’m finally starting to figure out the character names. Major Mustache is named Cabren, Psi-Girl is Alluma, the Cook is Kore, Stuffy Brit is Ilvar, and Busty Blonde is Dameia. I know what you’re thinking; those names are way better than mine.

After a perilous climb punctuated with Ilvar’s whining about his age and giving rapey vibes to Busty Blon–er, Dameia, they find a hole in the Pyramid, which Ilvar elects to explore it, meeting his end at the hands of giant space leeches who make Nickelodeon slime sounds.

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Back on the ship, Trantor and Kore are eating spaghetti.

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Stop calling me a liar. IT HAPPENED.

At the top of the pyramid, the crew finds a door, which opens and closes on them like a supermarket entrance. Big Guy tries to solve the problem the only way he knows how by throwing his stars at it, and when they inevitably break, he’s as devastated as a boy who shattered his lollipop. The crew splits up, with Big Guy, who is finally named as Quuhod (get these writers an Oscar, dammit!), staying behind to mope while the others follow Alluma’s intuition.

Quuhod, fed up with life’s cruelties, makes it back outside to see his stars suddenly reconstitute on their own. Giddy, he goes to pick one up, only to have it stab him in the wrist and break off a shard which starts traveling up his arm. How does he solve this rather dire predicament he finds himself in? Oh, it’s quite simple. He cuts his arm off.

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To which his arm promptly takes offense and throws the star into his chest. Four down.

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Busty Blonde…sorry, Dameia. I don’t why that keeps happening. Dameia. HER NAME IS DAMEIA. DAMEIA, finds his body, and promptly burns it. Is that a sign of respect for the dead in this universe? Because if it is, I want to be strapped to Chinese fireworks and launched into the heavens.

But it turns out, she should have set her laser to liquify, because a single maggot crawls off Quuhod’s severed arm and grows to gargantuan proportions, because fuck subtlety and sense, dammit. It roams the pyramid halls, tracking down Bust–Dameia with nastiness on its little pea-brain.

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Now, if you’ve watched a lot of B-movies like me, you’re probably sensing that Dameia’s death is near. But you also sense that we should have had an exploitive sex scene by now, preferably starring that boobiest of fair-haired fawns, Dameia. Da-mei-a. I think I’ve got it. I had the same thought, and the 13-year-old in me would have turned this dumb movie right off if it hadn’t been for the greatest scene in all of Roger Corman films history.

She gets raped to death by the maggot.

And you thought your teenage boners were confusing.

Back on the ship, Trantor loses her shit and starts firing the cannon at phantom enemy ships. Freddy Krueger, who I guess is called Ranger, tries to investigate and gets knocked out by Kore for what I am sure are completely sensible reasons. He tries to talk some sense into Trantor, but she doesn’t listen and runs out like a maniac, opening the main door and getting her skin burned off for the trouble. Are there random currents of fire on this planet? That would be so metal. To top off this wild ride of what-the-fuck-is-going-on, Ranger wakes up and tells Kore that “somebody” hit him in the corridor. For a child-killing dream demon, Ranger is one trusting dude not to suspect the painfully obvious.

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“I have no idea who it was, but he smelled like spaghetti and wasted dreams.”
“Shut the fuck up, Freddy Krueger.”

Baelon, Cabren, and Alluma find Madame Teet’s body. Goddammit, I meant Dameia. They find her body. And if you guessed that Baelon burns her too, than congratulations! You get a prize.

After a trip back to regroup, Kore and Ranger come along into the pyramid, where they find what I can only describe as a giant, drafty asshole.

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Which if you think about it hard enough and with the help of narcotics, must have been Corman’s way out of a lawsuit from H.R. Giger. You know, a “you paint your vaginas, and I’ll paint my assholes,” sort of thing. Gentlemanly.

One by one, they slide down the dry asshole (I am so sorry, couldn’t resist), emerging at the wall of another pyramid. What is it, some kind of Russian nesting doll? Damn, it’s Russian. Everything these days leads back to the Russians.

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Baelon finally gets his here, falling to his death after being eviscerated by an alien monster. Come to think of it, that was about the most normal sentence I’ve written in this thing so far. It felt like such a bummer to type that. How about instead of that, we imagine he gets killed by a giant space dick that shoots out acidic mini-dicks. It honestly wouldn’t be that out of place in this movie.

Ranger is next in line to die, and what arrives to do it? Himself! That’s right, two Freddy Kruegers! This movie just paid for itself.

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Meanwhile, Alluma, the claustrophobic, just decides to climb into a narrow tube for the hell of it. Sorry, Alluma. You lose this round of Who Dies Next, by way of explosive constriction.

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A.K.A. getting squeezed.

Now it’s just down to Mustache Man Cabren, Ranger, and Kore. Ranger decides to sit the rest of the show out, having figured out that the place is killing everyone with their deepest fears. I didn’t know rogue ninja stars and rapist maggots were fears, but then again, I’m still afraid to pee in a public restroom with someone else in it, so I guess it’s all relative.

Kore then reveals himself to be the human Xmas Bulb, something I’m told is the Master. He helpfully explains that the pyramid is an ancient alien children’s toy, designed to make them face their fears before entering adulthood. And you thought iPads were a bit much for your kids. The Master explains that he is testing our hero Cabren, as he was long before tested to become what he is. The Master throws him into a death match against all of the crew’s fears, and then the dead crew itself, allowing Cabren the chance to show off his supreme martial arts skills which he presumably learned in Bollywood.

In defeating them all, he passes the test, and takes revenge on The Master for killing his friends by killing him, with stomach lasers. Stomach lasers.

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At least they weren’t dick lasers.

And for his trouble, Cabren, our intrepid space hero, becomes the new Master. Somewhere, M. Night Shyamalan is rolling his eyes.

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Master Mustache.

And there you have it, Galaxy of Terror. A movie that taught me to face my fears or I’d get railed by gargantuan fly larvae. Or something along those lines. I suppose I could give it high marks for the inventive and rather good production value, sets, and gore effects, or that I finally just realized that Quuhod was House of 1,000 Corpses’ Sid Haig.

I could even go on the point out that future Oscar winner James Cameron was a visual effects artist AND a second-unit director on this movie.

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One of these things is not like the others…

But I cannot deny the truth, and that is this: I love this movie for what it is. It’s a movie that’s dumb enough to be fun. In your face, Ridley Scott.

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“Excuse me?”

Galaxy of Terror receives a rating of four Rape-Maggots.