When asked to describe my favorite horror movie, why did I choose Aliens (1986) over any other over every other horror movie I’ve ever seen, including the first Alien? It’s very simple. Aliens was the first horror movie I ever watched, way back at the age of three.
Back in the day, my father used to have hundreds of movies on VHS thanks to connections with friends and family. When I was 3-4 years old, I would simply pop in a tape, sit down and watch whatever was on that cassette. Eventually I found a tape that had Terminator, Ghostbusters and Aliens on it. So not only did I become the biggest Terminator and Ghostbusters fan growing up, but I also became an Aliens fan as well.
The reason it struck me was that I had never seen anything like it before. I was used to Sesame Street and Geoffrey the Giraffe videos. Over the years, I’ve seen hundreds of slashers, gore films, thrillers and other horror movies and I’ve always been able to handle it. Even as a child, my father was impressed with my ability to be able to watch movies that even adults couldn’t handle. Of course, my problem was I would act out what I saw on TV… Yes, I was one of those kids.
The movie opens with the salvaging of Ellen Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) ship which becomes a horrifying dream sequence with Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) telling Ripley that she’s been in hyper sleep for 57 years. The fact that I watched that scene at age 3 and didn’t crap my pants is proof that I was a horror fan even at that early age. This leads me to one of the reasons why I love Aliens – its level of bad-ass skyrockets once you meet the marines. As a child I idolized Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn: The Terminator 1984) and his calm demeanor even when everything seems to be crumbling.
Private Vazquez (Jeanette Goldstein: Terminator 2: Judgement Day 1991) was one of the first female bad-asses that I can recall. I remember reading somewhere that the new Ghostbusters wasn’t written for old fans of Ghostbusters but for the little girls growing up today that need a hero. Bravo to Jenette Goldstein for kicking off such an important role model!
Bishop the android was played perfectly by horror movie icon Lance Henriksen. Sergeant Apone (Al Matthews: The Fifth Element 1997) was awesome as the leader of the crew in the movie’s first act with some of the best dialogue ever written. William Hope as the overmatched Lieutenant Gorman showed a human element that not everyone is fit for command.
Then there’s the star of the show, Bill Paxton’s Private Hudson. He had the best dialogue in the movie and really showcased a developing character. Before the battle, he talks non-stop in this bold, brash and cocky style but once the crap hits the fan, he instantly becomes a cowardly lion, spending the second half of the movie protesting everything. Then in the final act, his courage returns and he goes out in a blaze of glory. Add in Carrie Henn’s Newt and we got an all-Star cast that had great chemistry and some of the most well known one liners to this day.
What made the movie great apart from the action sequences was the dialogue: Private Vazquez yelling “Let’s rock!” before they start lighting up the xenomorphs; Corporal Hicks coldly asking, “What is it we’re dealing with here?” Apone saying “Absolutely bad asses!”; Hudson asking Vazquez if she’s ever been mistaken for a man and she counters by asking if he has as well; Vazquez saying, “I only need to know one thing…where…they…are.”
That last line also showed director James Cameron and writer Walter Hill’s ability to turn the movie into a roller coaster. The first act has the marines on their way to LV426 where colonists have gone missing. Everyone from Apone to Hudson are confident that this is going to be cakewalk. Then, when the xenomorphs attack and wipe out half the marines, the movie turns into survival horror as the remaining characters must find a way to get off the planet.
The dialogue shifts from cocky and brash to hysterical, nervous and angry. As you watch the movie, your mood shifts along with the characters. By the time of the final act, you’re out of your chair cheering on Hudson going absolutely berserk and Ripley saving Newt from the all-powerful Queen.
Speaking of the Queen, another reason to love the movie is the aliens themselves. In Ridley Scott’s Alien, you’re introduced to just one xenomorph stalking Ripley’s crew. In this movie you get hundreds of them, all designed to attack their prey and prepare them for incubation. The facehuggers – creepy crawly spider like creatures – make your skin crawl as well as the worker xenomorphs. The design of these aliens make you want to grab an M41A pulse rifle and go to town, but beware!
In a brilliant bit of writing, the aliens have concentrated acid for blood so watch where you shoot. Private Vazquez found that out when she decided to wrestle with a xenomorph near the end. Even though the movie was designed for adults, what kid wouldn’t want to pretend to be a bad-ass alien killer? That was the appeal to me at age four and to this day. The xenomorphs with their trademark scream made the perfect antagonists for the marines.
Without spoiling too much, the emotional roller coaster by the end has you on the edge of your seat. Fans will scream as the xenomorphs attack, laugh at the dialogue and cheer on every bullet fired. Even though modern day video games dropped the ball, the spirit of Aliens still exists today in film and culture. As other movies came and went, Aliens remains my favorite because of it was one of the first horror films I saw and it had the action element that I love the most. It makes me want to strap on body armor, load up a machine gun and go shoot some xenomorphs. Before everyone reading this rushes off to watch this amazing movie, there’s only one last thing to say…Let’s rooooooock!!!