ALIEN PORTRAYAL IN FILMS

I am at the end of my planning and development stage for my screenplay and have decided  it shall include horrors enforced by “alien” beings rather than any other powerful dark forces. I wanted to look at how Film as a whole have portrayed Aliens in the past, not just for inspiration but as a learning curve.

A Trip to the Moon (1902) Poster

A Trip to the Moon (1902) is reportedly the first film to ever show extra-terrestrials on the big screen, and it remained that way for a long time as only 3 films were ever released before the 1950’s that explored Aliens! However it was during the 1950’s which the trend and popular antagonist was truly introduced into Film. Since then however it has been a craze with at least one Alien horror or adventure being released each year.

In terms of memorable Alien antics there are of course a few that spring to mind! E.T will most likely be the name on most peoples lips and mind, as Spielberg created a timeless classic. Alien of course is another, which then went on to be a big-time franchise since then many have had their own shot at portraying the Alien from the likes of comedy Paul to most recently Dark Skies!

However for my own film I want to take the same approach as M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs (2002) which in my opinion created one of the most daunting, terrifying alien creatures in film history. Not only is the story chilling but the alien within really is spine-tingling and till this day it will also instigate a bit of shock. The look, the features, the physique its all very clever and brilliant.

I want to know what your favourite Alien film is, it don’t have to be as daunting as Signs or likewise as friendly as E.T! It would also be great though if you could comment what your opinion is when it comes to the most terrifying Alien portrayals!

Dark Skies (2013)

Genre: Sci-fi, Horror

Director: Scott Stewart

Writers: Scott Stewart

Staring: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo

Rating: ★★★★

It’s not very often sci-fi films attempt to horrify their audiences, I can’t think of many successful attempts in fact since M. Night Shyamalan’s 2001 Signs and its that film coincidently that Dark Skies plays very much to. Films focusing on “aliens” all have the potential to be frightening due to the real life possibly of their existence, well for some, however it’s making them believable within the film that decides its success. Dark Skies does this with intelligence, using the slow burning approach and showing the protagonists at the end. For me the Dark Skies is a suspense, thrilling sci-fi horror with a great storyline, cast and crew.

Throughout the film we follow the Barrett family, peacefully living life in the suburbs they are then shadowed by a series of disturbing events that eventually leads them to find out a deadly force is after them. The family as a whole is already experiencing their own individual problems but those that won’t compare to what awaits for them. Lacey and Daniel (Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton) the parents and head of the household are both struggling with their jobs and have a money issue causing conflict in their relationship, whereas their kids Sam and Jesse (Kadan Rockett, Dakota Goyo) are struggling to fit in and make friends. The family is slowly drifting apart, something that they have to change especially to survive.

As previously mentioned a series of unexplained disturbing events occur, I shall not reveal those but allow for yourself to be surprised and entertained. Somewhat desperate and obviously terrified Lacey and Daniel seek help in form of a specialist, Edwin Pollard a researcher who follows those haunted by this deadly force. He explains how “the grays” have taken over and are preying on the Barret family, it is then the most terrifying thought for an audience occurs as he explains “people think of aliens as these beings invading our planet in some great cataclysm, destroying monuments and our natural resources. Bits it’s not like that at all. The invasion already happened”. It gives you shivers and from this point on the film breaks free and the action you come to expect happens all in a thrilling, amazing and simply brilliant final half hour.

The storyline can be viewed as bland or plain and predictable it’s easy to see why, however the twist in this film steers Dark Skies away from those negative labels. Scott Stewart writer and director plays homage to Signs (2001), although there’s no tin foil hat scene there is the typical “last supper” and small connections such as kids drawings, and the story of their first Fourth of July. Is this pure laziness? A lack of original ideas? For me Stewart has highlighted the success of Signs and is simply trying to replicate that, just like those play homage to such classics.

The acting was good, something you’d come to expect from a big release. Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton make for a believable portrayal of parents, worrying as a mother and being the “let off” as a dad. However I do feel if this film missed a trick or a key element it’s that stereotypical sci-fi eery score that makes those hairs stand up on the back of your neck. The special effects were also decent however making our protagonists very un-detailed is slightly disappointing as it could have been the difference between this film being a classic and just a cinema release.

In the whole Dark Skies is a great film and a good horror, when compared to those released around the same time it certainly wins. It’s possibly for me my favourite film with Extratestorials since Signs however it doesn’t quite beat it. If you’re looking for a very watchable film that has some scares and will keep you entertained then it’s certainly one to watch. This could possibly be one of my favourite films of this year, and in my view it’s simply great although flaws and room for improvement it’s certainly more than worth viewing.

Signs (2002)

Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi

 Director: M. Night Shyamalan

 Writer: M. Night Shyamalan

 Staring: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin

 Rating: ★★★★

 Signs isn’t just a Sci fi film about aliens and crop circles, it’s a film about fate and how life gives you signs of what’s meant to be. Although inspirational to some extent it’s horrifying, M. Night Shyamalan’s has written and directed a fantastic film, the use of sound or the lack of it, in silence creates a fear of the unknown and a fear of the unheard. It’s an amazing film with an amazing crew as well as cast that will make you leave a few half empty glasses of water around your house.

 

The film follows the “Hess” family who owns a farm in the small town of Bucks County in Pennsylvania. Former Reverend Graham (Mel Gibson) has just recently lost his wife, with his faith being tested he then discovers crop circles up to 500ft big in his field, later finding out he’s one of many to suffer world-wide. He lives with his two kids Morgan, who suffers badly from asthma and Bo, a little girl who is more than a little picky when it comes to water and finally his brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) a former mini league baseball player known for his big swing. After animals start behaving strange, crop circles getting more than enough publicity world wide and some dodgy baby monitor reception they are all in too deep and are about to encounter the unknown and be tested as a family.

As I said before Signs isn’t just about crop circles, its about fate and signs that aren’t always visible in life giving an inspirational twist on a Sci fi horror making it stand out to the rest. It’s also a heart warming story about how a family sticks together and fights its way through hard times. M. Night Shyamalan has written a film that will make you shiver and give you chills not only due to horror but due to the relationships between the characters. The key element that sticks out is the sound, the use of silence makes you fear the unknown and creates a feeling of loneliness and helplessness, for me it was the best thing about this film alongside the cinematography and the suspense created by keeping the antagonist off screen until the climax.

M. Night Shyamalan was at his best when creating this film in my opinion, it deserves all the credit it can get. It’s one of my favourite films that discuss the topic of extraterrestrials due to its different approach and use of tin foil hats. It’s one to watch on a dark lonely night for sure, but don’t expect to get much sleep after.