Alien: Covenant Review *Spoilers*

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Phibes…Thanks, Kinky Ho-bo! ;)xoxo)

“Here at least we shall be free; the Almighty hath not built. Here for his envy, will not drive us hence: Here we may reign secure, and in my choice to reign is worth ambition though in Hell: Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.”

-John Milton, Paradise Lost

 

“I’ll do the fingering.”

David, Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant is a strange beast. It’s both a sequel to 2012’s Prometheus and an apology for it. Director Ridley Scott still seems to be interested in the ideas and conceits explored in that film, but also wants to satisfy the fans who were vocal in their burning hatred for it. As a result, Alien: Covenant is a hybrid of Prometheus and the original Alien: a monster mash of high-minded concepts and ghost train theatrics. If you were hoping to see the return of Prometheus‘ Shaw (Noomi Rapace) or more of the Engineers (the extraterrestrial creators of mankind) in this film, I’m afraid you’ll be sorely disappointed. However, if you’re hungry for atmospherics, gore, nostalgia, and tons of monsters, this is the film for you.

Set a decade after Prometheus, Alien: Covenant  concerns the crew of the colony ship Covenant and their discovery of what appears to be an uncharted paradise. It’s revealed that the planet is inhabited by hostile creatures and… well, you know the drill. The film more-or-less plays out the way you’d imagine, though that’s hardly a bad thing. What we have here is essentially a “Greatest Hits” of the Alien franchise. Eggs are hatched, distress signals are answered, creatures burst from stomachs, and faces are hugged. The film does nothing new with the series, but it’s a highly enjoyable return to basics. In that regard, it’s the Star Wars: The Force Awakens of the the Alien series.

Like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Alien: Covenant  is a soft reboot masquerading as a sequel. Prometheus is essentially jettisoned in favor of a more familiar bit of sci-fi terror. Unfortunately, that means that most of the characters/creatures left alive at the end of Prometheus are disposed of. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) is given a, um, less-than-happy ending, which I thought was pretty lame. After building the character up and setting up further adventures for her at the end of the previous film, Alien: Covenant gives Shaw the ol’ “Newt/Hicks” treatment. I personally believe that Dr. Shaw deserved a better send-off, but I suppose the studio wanted to distance themselves from Prometheus as much as possible. In fact, the only element from that film that is used to a significant degree in this film is also the one element that was universally praised:  Michael Fassbender.

R.I.P. Dr. Shaw.

Michael Fassbender does double duty as the diabolical David and Walter, the unfortunate android aboard the Covenant. Mr. Fassbender is brilliant in both roles, imbuing both machines with their own distinctive identity. However, it’s David who steals the show and makes this film fantastic. David is delightfully, cartoonishly evil. He’s Michael Gough, Vincent Price, John Carradine, and a cobra fused into an unimaginably hammy chimera of urbane villainy. It truly is a shame they didn’t give him a cape and a mustache to twirl.
There’s also a weird, sexual tension between the two Fassbenders, starting with what is likely the most erotic cinematic flute lesson. The sequence does bring to mind a lot of the weird poetry Prometheus had going for it, and it is probably the most fascinating scene in the picture. At this point, the film takes turns to what could almost be described as “Fassbender porn.” And the internet has already picked up on this. Alien: Covenant isn’t even a week old, yet there’s a disturbing amount of Fassbender X Fassbender fan art. If you think I’m not going to include any of it here, you are deeply mistaken.

While the film generally plays out like a classical monster movie, some of the heavy ideas and literary references of Prometheus do pop up. Questions about the nature of creation are brought up and religious symbolism is scattered throughout. Percy Shelley. Lord Byron, and John Milton are quoted in thematically appropriate ways and Wagner’s Entry of the Gods into Valhalla plays at the end. It’s a little on-the-nose, but it’s all intriguing for what is primarily straightforward creature feature.
As for the rest the rest of the film, it’s loaded with great sci-fi gore, but nothing as intense as Alien‘s dinner scene or the surgery sequence in Prometheus. Katherine Waterston is a fine heroine, but she’s less compelling than the two before her. Is it, as one reviewer put its, a “masterpiece of fear?” No, but it’s an entertaining slice of Alien terror. I wish they had stuck to Prometheus more, but it’s loads of fun.  Alien: Covenant is mostly awesome… mostly.

#FBF: The “Alien Pours It On” Edition

A fine Alien: Covenant Day to all you XXXeno-ho-mies out there! We’re celebrating this glorious day with a cold, refreshing can of vintage terror! It’s your friendly neighborhood XXXXenomorph in a gut-bursting commercial for Pepsi!
To promote the release of 1992’s Alien 3, Pepsi unleashed the beast on the most radically ’90s teens imaginable. After being cornered by the eXXXtra-terror-estrial, the XXXtreme dudes resort to their most powerful weapon: the crisp flavor of Pepsi!
How magical is that? Coke may cause “Mean” Joe Greene to give you his jersey, but Pepsi keeps movie monsters from eviscerating you! I’d say on usefulness, the point goes to Pepsi… with no offense to Mr. Greene.
Can you imagine how many horrible deaths would have been prevented had Ripley just given the beast a Pepsi? It’s not like she wasn’t aware of the awesome power of Pepsi! Here she is having a Pepsi Day without a single care for the fate of humanity! YOU’VE DOOMED US ALL, RIPLEY!

Without any further ado, here’s the commercial. Just remember…

 In Space, No One Can Hear You Say “Pepsi, Please.”

Happy Alien: Covenant Day, Kinky Kreeps!

Final Girl of the Month: Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, Last Survivor of the Prometheus

Happy Alien: Covenant Eve, cool ghouls and groovy ghoulies! We’re celebrating this glorious occasion with a look back at one of the franchise’s greatest heroines… and she’s not Ripley, believe it or not! My dear creeps, we’re taking the time to ho-nor Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, the chick who met her maker and lived to tell the tale!
We all know Ellen Ripley’s the baddest badass to ever bruise those bestial brutes known as Xenomorphs, but I think Dr. Shaw doesn’t get enough love. She made her debut in 2012’s Prometheus, a film that’s as divisive as they come. Personally, I love the heck out of that film and Dr. Shaw is one of the reasons why. While it’s tempting to compare her to Ripley, Shaw is actually very different from that alien slayer in nearly every way. In fact, the only real similarity is that they’re both survivors in Alien films.
The primary difference between Ripley and Shaw is motivation.  Ellen Ripley is a pragmatic woman  whose main objective is survival. She’s the sort who just wants to kill the freaky monster threatening everyone and move on. On the other hand, Shaw is motivated by knowledge. Elizabeth travels beyond the stars to find the answer to the question that has plagued us all since we first walked upon the earth: where did we come from? She’s interested in studying the unknown, something Ellen had no desire to do. Her intellectual pursuits not only set her apart from Ripley, but make her a endearing protagonist in her own right.
Shaw is also awesome in how darn positive she remains throughout the film. While she is  a devout Christian in the film, she’s less a fanatical zealot and more a spiritual optimist. Shaw loses everyone she cares about, has her faith challenged by just about everybody/everything, is nearly killed by one of mankind’s less-than-friendly creators, and experiences unimaginable physical pain. And yet, despite every ghastly thing thrown at her, Shaw still maintains her belief and quest for knowledge. To Shaw, there is always hope. That undying optimism is hard not to admire.
Of course, Shaw also gets mad love for being a complete badass when it matters. In one of the most horrific scenes in modern horror, Shaw discovers she is pregnant with a FREAKIN’ ALIEN SQUID!!! Being an Alien film, you might expect this to be the end of our feisty redhead. No siree, Bob! Shaw takes the awesome approach to the situation. She runs off to an automated surgery table configured for male use and reprograms that shite to perform a C-section on her to remove that tentacled beastie! She did what no other Alien character has done and survived a Chestburster(-like) attack! If that’s not enough for ya, she avoids being crushed by an alien ship and getting killed by an extraterrestrial… while still recovering that nasty surgical wound!

Here’s to you, Dr. Shaw. The truth is out there, so keep searchin’! 🙂
P.S. She also gets major points for being the daughter of a character played by Patrick “SeXXX God” Wilson!

Yes, yes I do.


#WaybackWednesday: The “My First Xenomorph” Edition (aka Happy Alien Day!)

Happy Alien Day, Xeno-Homies! Is that eXXXcitement you’re bursting with… or are you having a “John Hurt” moment? Either way, you’re in the right frame of mind! 🙂
The Alien series is just about the greatest Sci-Fi/Horror franchise in the cosmos. It has some perfectly gruesome monsters, tons of thrills & kills, and one of the most badass badasses in the history of badassery in the form of Ms. Ellen Ripley. Even the worst installments in the franchise (I’m looking at you, Alien3!) are still solid monster movies and that is beyond rare for any franchise. In short, the Alien series kicks all the Xenomorph ass! 🙂

In ho-nor of the frightening franchise, I thought we’d look at the heart of any sci-fi franchise… TOYS!!! 🙂
The Alien series is a dark, grotesque series of gory horror films loaded with lots o’ swearing and phallic imagery… so it only makes sense to make a toyline based on it! Well, that’s what the folks at Kenner thought! In 1979, Kenner brought the terror and gloom of Ridley Scott’s Alien to toy shelves everywhere with a target set, a board game, a “movie viewer,” and an 18″ action figure based on the extra-TERROR-strial.

The latter of those (understandably) frightened the heck out of folks back then. Parents bombarded the company with a good many angry letters about how terrifying the 18″ horror was. Parental outrage and poor sales forced Kenner to pull the figure off shelves, so I guess you don’t need to blast an alien into space to kill it…
Kenner’s figure may have died, but, like Ripley in the fourth film, it was resurrected decades later in a big, bad way. In 2014, a toy company called Gentle Giant a released 24″ reproduction of the original 18″ figure. The fear figure retailed at $500… and sold out almost immediately!


Since that initial failure, Alien has spawned many successful toy lines, including an Aliens-based one by Kenner in the 1990s.

Those ’70s suckas may not have been ready for the radness, but Alien has since proven to be an unstoppable force in merchandising. Thank you, Kenner… you gave us one of the coolest monster toys of all time and opened the airlock for decades of awesome Alien toys.
Check out the commercial below for a classic Alien Attack:

Happy Alien Day, Kinky Ho-s…Here’s a ho-rrorday hug for ya! 😉 xoxo

 

#WaybackWednesday: The “Invasion Will Be Televised” Edition

1953’s War of the Worlds is, without a doubt, one of the seminal science fiction films of the 1950s. It has been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress, won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects, spawned countless imitators, and gave MST3K’s Dr. Clayton Forrester his name(clearly, the ultimate ho-nor ;)). Even after 63 years in Earth time, the film is still one of the greatest achievements in Sci-Fi cinema. There have been many adaptations of the H.G. Wells story, but the 1953 one towers above them all. Heck, I still get chills every time I watch this scene:

At the end of the 1953 film, the seemingly indestructible aliens perish. The narrator informs the audience on what has happened:

“The Martians had no resistance to the bacteria in our atmosphere to which we have long since become immune. Once they had breathed our air, germs, which no longer affect us, began to kill them. The end came swiftly. All over the world, their machines began to stop and fall. After all that men could do had failed, the Martians were destroyed and humanity was saved by the littlest things, which God, in His wisdom, had put upon this Earth.”

But what if that wasn’t the end? What if the aliens weren’t killed, but had slipped into a state of suspended animation? We didn’t really defeat them the first time, so what could possibly do to stop them? Unfortunately for Mankind, these grim speculative questions became a horrifying reality…

In 1988, the invasion continued with a TV series of the same name. The series was indeed a direct follow-up to the 1953 film, utilizing the same war machine designs and other familiar elements. However, these Martians are far more brutal than the originals ever were. These extraterrestrial devils gouge out eyes, pierce checks, and graphically burst out of human disguises. For a show from the ’80s, this was pretty gnarly stuff.

The producer of the original film, George Pal, actually started developing a War of the Worlds TV series back in the ’70s, but passed away before it came to be. Personally, I think the first season of this show is an excellent continuation, even if it’s a tad more gruesome than its predecessor. (That’s a plus in my book, but I know it’s not everyone’s cup o’tea. ;)) The second season changed the formula for the worse, but I still recommend the first to my fellow Earthlings.

Watch the pilot below and witness the War of the Worlds:

Life (2017)

If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, Sony has just paid Alien (1979) one heck of a compliment with Life. That’s not to say that Alien didn’t borrow from a few films. As co-writer Dan O’Bannon famously put it, “I didn’t steal Alien from anybody. I stole it from everybody!”. But Alien had a distinct flavor of its own. From the one-word title to the ever-evolving creature stalking a team aboard a spacecraft to Rebecca Ferguson’s diary logs à la Ripley to the tracking device on the monster to the very tone, this picture owes everything to Alien. There is no way this film could exist without Alien. However, for a fellow like myself who enjoys a good rip-off, this is very much a positive.

I’m honestly glad to see this sort of film with a budget. In most ways, it’s a mockbuster version of Alien, very much in the same way Creature (1985) and Forbidden World are. What’s peculiar about this film is that it was made in 2017. While the other films were capitalizing on something that was a few years old, Life is capitalizing on a film that came out 37 years prior. Strangely, I feel this gives the film a kind of novelty. Were I a betting man, I’d wager this film was not intended to be an homage to the Alien mockbusters of the past… But it does feel a good deal like one.

I apologize if I’ve given the impression that I do not care for this picture, because nothing could be further from the truth. Life never escapes the enormous shadow of Ridley Scott’s picture, but I don’t think it ever really tries to. Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator is referenced by name, suggesting that the filmmakers assumed that their audience has enough film savvy to pick up on the Alien connection. This film does nothing truly original, but it does it so very well. There’s some wonderful, terrible tension throughout that had me chewing my nails to the tips. Without directly spoiling anything, there is a “Marion Crane” moment that did catch me off-guard, and how grand it to be truly surprised. As for its ending, I did predict it, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t love it. In fact, it had me laughing in the right way.  It’s that kind of beautifully morbid punchline that The Cryptkeeper would surely get a kick out of.

The film is structured like a slasher film, with the hapless crew being brutally picked of one by one. As such, we are treated to some fun monster-kill sequences that play with the weightlessness of space in a groovy way that’s likely to satisfy my fellow ghouls. The monster itself is not as memorable as the Giger Alien, but it certainly get the job done. Really, you could say the same of the film. I doubt it will become one of the favorites of the genre, but it’s a gas. Between this and Kong: Skull Island, it seems like the classical monster movie is making a major comeback and that’s peachy-keen in my book. Not every film that comes out is going to be a timeless classic, so it’s good to flick that’s just great fun from its first second to its ending credits. If you can’t look past its similarities to Alien, I can’t lie to you about your chances of enjoying it, but… you have my sympathies.