Jen’s October Flicks: Alien

This October, we’re trying something different. From October 2nd to the 31st, Jen will be writing up horror movie recommendations on a daily basis! The selection will weave between well-worn classics and the smaller fare, but they’re all special in their own way. If you watch one and want to let her know what you think (or judge her taste in films), you can find her on Twitter at @jbu3!

Alien hardly needs an introduction: this movie spawned countless sequels, prequels and parodies, along with several attempts at compelling licensed games that (with a few stellar exceptions) fell flat on their face. It’s been analyzed to hell and back and endlessly reverberates within our culture, rightfully earning its reputation as a must-watch for horror buffs and film nerds alike. Is there much point in asking folks to watch this well-worn classic when it’s probably sitting on their shelf somewhere?

If anything, an often-overlooked element of Alien feels more prescient than ever. Weyland-Yutani, ever-present in the sequels as naïve, mustache-twirling villains on the frontlines, are visibly absent here: this crew of contracted workers only refer to their employer as “The Company.” If they want their meager living on a ship they don’t own, they must follow Company policy to the letter or risk forfeiting their share. This begins as a mandate to investigate distress signals (reasonable, even responsible), but once their unwelcome guest is on board, Ripley and her coworkers slowly discover that The Company’s handbook puts its new property over the living humans it hires. “Mother” and Ash’s violence toward the others, which looks unhinged and unexpected from the outside, is nothing more than a set of actions to meet mission parameters.

In 2017, The Company’s method of business is alive and well in the gig economy. Granted, maintaining and operating a spaceship is more technical than acting as a third-party cabbie, but both jobs are operated through contractors and temporary help to skirt full-time employment laws. If you doubt Uber would put you in the same room as a face-hugger or full-blown xenomorph, it might be worth revisiting the last few years of scandals and subterfuge that saw its public-facing CEO run out on a rail. By all means, rewatch Alien for its unforgettable mix of performances, lighting and future-past tech. Just remember, if you sign up for a gig that ends with a monster on the loose and little to guard yourself, you were warned.

No streaming service for this one either, sadly, but Alien can be rented just about anywhere for $3-5.