“In space, no one can hear you scream.” Damn straight. (Those are the words at the end of the trailer.) I recently saw Alien in a theatre for the first time, and it was way better than any of the times I watched it on a TV screen — and I’ve seen it many times over the years. And I’m not talking about the “director’s cut” which even the director, Ridley Scott, admits was an excuse for the producers to double-dip on their profits — it’s an inferior cut. The original theatrical cut is pretty damn close to perfect just the way it is. And seeing Alien in a theatre is the best way to appreciate it. The inside of the ship feels vast; it has depth on the big screen. The cat, Jones, eats with everybody at the table after they first wake up. Who the hell ever noticed that on a TV screen? And their shoes look really comfortable. These are some of things I noticed for the first time from watching it in a theatre.
But what makes Alien work for me, even after multiple viewings, is the realism — it all looks and feels real. I’m immediately transported into a weird and frightening world where the unbelievable is believable. It’s convincing. The ship looks dirty and worn and so do the characters. These people react to an extreme situation (an eyeless alien on board that bleeds acid for blood and wants to kill everyone) like real people: they do their best to stay calm, but deep down inside they’re freaking out. The first few times I saw it, Alien scared the crap out of me. It was just too intense. I’ve seen it too many times to be scared by any of it now, but if this is the last time I’ll see Alien, I’m glad it was in a theatre. They don’t make movies like this any more.