Alien Anthology All-Nighter @ FACT

Unintended jump-cuts and radio-silence seemed par for the course, but Kevin Hunt found out it made for an all the more enthralling fan-based experience…

Billed as a test of endurance, a movie marathon for only the most die-hard of fans, FACT’s Alien all-nighter presented the newly formed pentalogy of movies back to back, in a nocturnal nerd-fest of science fiction fun.

We begin our voyage in 2089 on the Isle of Skye as Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her lover Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) uncover perfectly preserved remains of ancient cave paintings; star configurations perceived by ever faithful Shaw as an invitation, but to where?

In an instant we are whisked trillions of light years across the universe, aboard research vessel Prometheus. It’s now December 2093, Christmas in fact, and this motley crew are en route to LV223 (that’s right, not LV426) and the origin of this prehistoric map. What ensues is a complex tale of wonderment, teeming with allegories on ethicality, the existence of god and the origin of our species, inherently riddled with references capable of going over, even the most hardcore fan’s radar.

Prometheus, ‘the prequel’, was always destined to be torn apart. Indeed any film anticipated this much (heightened by 20th Centruy Fox’s resolute marketing campaign) was inevitably heading for a fall from grace upon its release. In the midst of some astonishing set design, a grandiloquently composed score (parts of which were recorded in reverse to intensify its uneasiness) and a dream cast, we are thrust into an intricate fable, only to find the answers to the questions the film poses, are never fully elucidated.

“Prometheus, ‘the prequel’, was always destined to be torn apart”

How does Michael Fassbender’s brilliant David, (perhaps the movie’s only ‘rational’ character) a soulless android, decide he ‘likes’ Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia so much when he doesn’t have the capacity to feel?

Why does the remaining engineer decide in an instant, as he awakes, that he wants to travel halfway across the universe in an attempt to kill all life on Earth?

And what is the black goo anyway?

Three months on from the film’s release date and thousands of fan forums are as far from fathoming every single bizarrely illogical decision made by Prometheus’s crew, as they were whilst attempting to decipher its plot beforehand. Many will argue that the movie doesn’t match the magnitude and originality set by the preceding (or following, depending how you look at it) four films. Yet whatever they say, there is a scene; that one scene, which whatever you make of the movie, will embed itself forever in science fiction history.


No, I’m not talking about the eponymous ‘Fassbender’s head in a bag’ scene, but Dr Shaw’s (quite literally) gut wrenchingly realistic, self-induced alien caesarean, made all the more horrific by the fact she was impregnated by her subsequently dead lover’s contaminated seminal fluid, which was deliberately infected by a robot. Oh, and she’s sterile, so can’t actually become pregnant.

Confused yet?

Before we have time to think, we fast-forward 26 years and are aboard the Nostromo, a shabby elephantine towing vehicle trudging the backend of space who’s doomed crew set down on LV426 to investigate a signal of ‘unknown’ origin. We all know what they discover is one of the most terrifyingly monstrous species ever conceived in the movie world. H. R. Giger’s elegantly parasitical creatures are the perfect organisms, and their particularly repulsive offering of inter-species rape is as psychologically pertinent and challenging today as it was 33 years ago.

“They discover one of the most terrifyingly monstrous species ever conceived in the movie world”

As John Hurts Kane forebodingly affirms, “it’s like the Goddamn tropics in here”, whilst lowering himself to doom, FACT bring in the fans and iced water to keep us all going.

57 years on and Ellen ‘last survivor of the Nostromo’ Ripley awakes safe from the terror she destroyed, only to, at the drop of a hat, go back to the place of her nightmares. Perhaps the biggest absurdity in this, nevertheless, seminal film in action movie history, was that James Cameron’s shifted genre megabucks blockbuster established the story as a franchise and Sigourney Weaver as a staple favourite for its continuation.

Zooming on 6 real years and we have what has to be “the greatest science fiction movie never made” and director David Fincher’s addition, panned by critics, fans and despondently but inevitably Fincher himself. 1992’s Alien3 is a visionary tale of its time, a precisely shot, tentatively solemn affair, fucked up by an MTV generation of movie producers more concerned with box office figures and product placement (somehow managing to sneak Coca-Cola in there) than the film’s potential prowess as a poignant and fitting conclusion to a trilogy. This is Fincher’s troubled masterpiece, and 20th Century Fox’s greatest lesson in how it should have trusted this fledgling director’s vision.

It seems the less we say about Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien Resurrection, the better, and 10 hours into the night, drifting in and out of an enforced insomnia didn’t help to improve it in any meaningful way.

The glory of watching these films in their original, beautifully speckled 35mm quality had already been interrupted however, not once, but three times, cut short repeatedly (and quite literally when the film snapped at the critical moment in Aliens), our disjointed viewing pleasure was pitted with faults. During the original 1979 copy of Alien the crowd were treated to 10 minutes of total silence, just as Ripley legs it back and forth, up and down dark corridors dragging the cat with her.

Cue the evening’s finest moment, and something that could only happen in a room packed with über geeks gleefully cracking the most esoteric of in-jokes. Here we were treated to 10 minutes of unadulterated ‘beat-boxed’ sound effects and word-for-word dialogue intermingled with the hilarity of screeches as the audience mimed Jones the cat’s disdain as Weaver hurled him around the ship.

To quote Prometheus’s android David: “Sometimes to create you at first must destroy” (who’s quote, in turn, puzzlingly references German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche; a stream of referencing that continues virally even after the movies release date). The deterioration of the film in turn shaped the atmosphere of the night. ‘In Space No One Can Hear You Scream’, and in FACT it seemed (at times) no one could hear the movie, but as this full on geek-out proved, fan camaraderie ensured we all still had a great night.

Kevin Hunt

Posted on 03/09/2012 by thedoublenegative