It doesn’t matter whether or not fans prefer the raucous party that is “Aliens” or the slow burn terror that is “Alien,” no matter what there will never be another film like Ridley Scott’s “Alien.” Many have tried to duplicate the subtle horrific tale of a group of scavengers stuck on a ship with a creeping alien capable of striking them down at any moment, but very few have been able to capture that thrill and chill that Scott embodied so well with his fixture. Though “Aliens” is a welcome addition to any repertoire, not even James Cameron could capture the dark essence of the alien creeping in the corners of this creaky barge ready to murder and harvest any human host it could seek out. Ian Nicholas brings together an absolutely incredible compilation book that makes up the essential encyclopedia chronicling the development and making of “Alien.”
Though this compendium of facts and anecdotes does indeed spotlight the sequels, the real centerpiece is “Alien,” the horror science fiction film that forever changed the genre of horror and science fiction as we knew it. In a time where horror films had females strictly relegated to screaming running objects and tools, Scott’s horror film forever decided that the woman could do much more than run and hide. She could fight back. She could outwit the monster, and as we know it Ellen Ripley forever decided that the final girl could do so much more and be much more proactive in the end. There’s an entire chapter devoted to the power and strength of the character, and even highlights how Ripley was originally intended to be a male character. Ian Nicholas’s book is a wonderful companion for any movie lover’s coffee table providing so much material for the discerning science fiction geek even offering up pockets within the book featuring free prizes like plans to the nostromo, original conceptual drawings of the alien monster, snippets of various posters for the film, a sticker for the crew of the Nostromo and so much more.
Beyond that, much of “Alien Vault” revolves around the creation of this revolutionary genre hybrid that explores the nuts and bolts of this production down to the very last detail. There is even interviews with some notable genre icons who offer up their own thoughts on the film. Strictly this is for the movie lover who wants to comb over a landmark picture such as this and Nicholas is never scant on the details providing full color photos, rare behind the scenes stills and incredible looks at some of the earlier designs for the face hugger and alien monster. I appreciated such small details added to the book including a body count at the end of the book that profiles every staff member on the ship and their order of death. There’s also a look at the films “Alien” influenced and how it was originally received overseas.
It’s an interesting contrast to modern horror where we rarely see the alien in any of the publicity photos and posters for the film, where as a modern film director would have used the beast to lure audiences in. In all of the posters there isn’t a single silhouette of the alien beast. While it is in vogue to watch “Aliens” over “Alien” it’s worth knowing the facts about the predecessor because without Ridley Scott’s horror science fiction masterpiece, we wouldn’t have the James Cameron actioner and many more exciting duplicates that would litter the genres to this day. “Alien Vault” is a collector’s gem and one I intend to keep forever.