Alien – How Suspense is Done Right

By: Corey Lack


Alien was the 1979 movie starring Sigourney Weaver and is considered one of the best sci-fi movies in cinematic history. It is still a scary and well-done movie and is still worth a watch despite it being ancient for movies. For those that have somehow managed to not see this movie by this point, let me give a basic overview of the plot. Alien has the crew of the “commercial space tug” Nostromo, which is essentially a starship version of a semi-truck. While they are in stasis in order to pass their long trip back to Earth, they are woken by the AI that runs all the systems in the company in order to investigate a possible SOS on a nearby planet. While they’re on the planet, the crew picks up a…stowaway and that is when the real trouble starts. I should warn you that there will be a few SPOILERS here.


The suspense is phenomenally done. The movie somehow manages to start building the suspense with just the title on screen. As the title slowly forms, each block of each letter appearing over the course of several seconds, the viewers can feel the dread starting to build. Then, the movie starts and it’s just completely silent as the camera moves around the ship, making the viewer wonder what’s about to happen before the computer suddenly wakes up with a loud and unexpected ping. As the ship wakes up and the lights turn on, the crew wakes up and the viewer will take a deep breath because they know it’s safe for the time being. Then, comes the part where they go onto the planet. They start building it up here as the crew discovers everything alongside the viewers and the viewers, especially those familiar with the earlier horror movies, will feel the dread starting to build again as they expect at least one crew member to die on the planet, but the movie takes its first surprise turn by having none of them die. Granted, one is a little worse for the wear, but they all survive. The movie does this a few times throughout the plot, taking what seems to be an obvious set up and doesn’t follow through, only to hit the viewer with a new surprise.


When it comes to the acting, there really isn’t much to say. It works and the characters are all very believable, even when one of the characters does something suspicious, the actions can usually be believed to be harmless. In regards to the special effects, yes, they are a little dated but they are still passable and believable.


I highly recommend this movie to anyone that likes sci-fi and horror movies. The building of suspense and the developed characters make this movie a timeless classic. I’d give it ten strange eggs out of ten.

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lackcb View All →

I am a graduate student at Northern Kentucky University. I like writing fantasy and science fiction, playing video games, and watching movies.

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