Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday's Ways Not To Die


Alien (1979)

I put this DVD into my computer with every intention of doing this post about John Hurt's infamous "Chest Burster" scene - one of the most talked about death scenes of all time , and one that I haven't bothered to do one of these posts for yet...

... but my mind kept wandering off further along in the film to this, the deaths of Yaphet Kotto and Veronica Cartwright's characters. Perhaps it's just because John Hurt's scene is so canonized that it feels redundant to love on it more, or perhaps some of the shock's been lessened after all these years of watching it be parodied and replayed in successive scenes of this same series, but I've honestly always found this latter scene... well I'm not sure "more frightening" is exactly what I mean, but maybe more effective?

For one, this is the first solid full-body look we get at the alien itself, and as well all know by know, that sucker does not disappoint. Everybody give H.R Giger a hand-clap, right now!

Secondly, even though she's the panicky cry-baby character that so often annoys the audience to no end, I can't help but always love Veronica Cartwright on-screen and so seeing her worst fears realized in this completely horrific manner always hits me pretty hard. I think I'd probably be the Veronica Cartwright in this sort of situation, so I understand her pain. No way'd I'd be the Ripley, that's for sure. And that shot immediately following Yaphet's skull being split open, the one of the alien slowing moving towards her with its arms extended out, is one of the creepiest shots ever put on-screen, ever. It goes from this gore-explosion to this almost poetic, slow-motion, dreamy shot, and the juxtaposition is justly terrifying.

But what's the deal with the weird sexualized shot of the scorpion-like tail suddenly turning phallic, slowly going erect between her quivering legs. anyway? WTF, Ridlley Scott? Perv.

Previous Ways Not To Die: Fuck-Stuck -- A Vengeful Elevator God: Part 4 -- Lava Bombed -- The Cradle Will Rock... Your Face Off!!! -- The Food of the Nilbog Goblins -- The Slugs Is Gonna Gitcha -- Phone Shark -- Hide The Carrot -- Sarlacc Snacked -- Avada Kedavra!!! -- Hooked, Lined and Sinkered -- "The Libyans!" -- Axe Me No Questions -- Pin the Chainsaw on the Prostitute -- The Wrath of the Crystal Unicorn -- The Ultimate Extreme Make-Over -- Drown In A Sink Before The Opening Credits Even Roll -- The Dog Who Knew Too Much -- Don't Die Over Spilled Milk -- Inviting the Wrath of Aguirre -- An Inconceivable Outwitting -- The Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique -- Nipple Injected Blue Junk -- Your Pick Of The Deadly Six -- Thing Hungry -- Don't Fuck With The Serial Killer's Daughter -- DO Forget To Add The Fabric Softener -- Any Of The Ways Depicted In This Masterpiece Of Lost Cinema -- Rode Down In The Friscalating Dusklight -- Good Morning, Sunshine! -- Mornin' Cuppa Drano -- The Cylon-Engineered Apocalypse -- Tender-Eye-zed -- Martian Atmospheric Asphyxiation -- Maimed By A Mystical Person-Cat -- The Sheets Are Not To Be Trusted -- Handicapable Face-Hacked -- I Did It For You, Faramir -- Summertime In The Park... Of A Pedophile's Mind -- A Vengeful Elevator God: Part 3 -- Strung Up With Festive Holiday Bulbs By Santa Claus Himself -- A Vengeful Elevator God: Part 2 -- A Vengeful Elevator God: Part 1 -- Decapitated Plucked Broiled & Sliced -- Head On A Stick! -- A Trip To The Ol' Wood-Chipper -- Pointed By The T-1000 -- Sucking Face With Freddy Krueger -- A Pen-Full Of Home-Brewed Speed to The Eye -- Motivational Speech, Interrupted -- A Freak Ephemera Storm -- When Ya Gotta Go... Ya Gotta Go -- Hoisted By Your Own Hand Grenade -- Having The Years Suction-Cupped Away -- Criss-Cross -- Turned Into A Person-Cocoon By The Touch Of A Little Girl's Mirror Doppleganger -- Satisfying Society's "Pop Princess" Blood-Lust -- Done In By The Doggie Door -- Tuned Out -- Taking the 107th Step -- Rescuing Gretchen -- Incinerated By Lousy Dialogue -- Starred & Striped Forever -- Vivisection Via Vaginally-Minded Barbed-Wire -- Chompers (Down There) -- Run Down By M. Night Shyamalan -- Everything Up To And Including The Kitchen Toaster -- Sacrificed To Kali -- Via The Gargantuan Venom Of The Black Mamba Snake -- Turned Into An Evil Robot -- The Out-Of-Nowhere Careening Vehicle Splat -- "Oh My God... It's Dip!!!" -- Critter Balled -- Stuff'd -- A Hot-Air Balloon Ride... Straight To Hell!!! -- Puppy Betrayal -- High-Heeled By A Girlfriend Impersonator -- Flip-Top Beheaded -- Because I'm Too Goddamned Beautiful To Live -- By Choosing... Poorly... -- Fried Alive Due To Baby Ingenuity -- A Good Old-Fashioned Tentacle Smothering -- Eepa! Eepa! -- Gremlins Ate My Stairlift -- An Icicle Thru The Eye -- Face Carved Off By Ghost Doctor After Lesbian Tryst With Zombie Women -- Electrocuted By Fallen Power-Lines -- A Mouthful Of Flare -- Taken By The TV Lady -- Bitten By A Zombie -- Eaten By Your Mattress -- Stuffed To Splitting -- Face Stuck In Liquid Nitrogen -- Crushed By Crumbling Church Debris -- Bitten By The Jaws Of Life -- A Machete To The Crotch -- Showering With A Chain-Saw -- In A Room Filled With Razor Wire -- Pod People'd With Your Dog -- Force-Fed Art -- Skinned By A Witch -- Beaten With An Oar -- Curbed -- Cape Malfunction -- In The Corner -- Cooked In A Tanning Bed -- Diced -- Punched Through The Head -- Bugs Sucking On Your Head


Mike z said...

Probably my favorite scene in horror. The sound design is really what makes it so effective: the screams and choakings blaring over the PA system.

SeangSTM said...

Totally agree...the scene with VC always makes me very squirmy.

One interesting thing to note - those are actually Parker (Yaphet Kotto)'s legs with the phallic alien stinger betwixt them, not Lambert (Veronica Cartwright)'s. The scene is edited to make you think it's Lambert, but her character wears ratty cowboy boots and Parker wears the white sneakers.


Not sure why the scene is edited in that matter, probably because a woman being probed (or the suggestion of) is horrifying, but also more palatable than a man being subjected to the same treatment. Not sure...

Interesting, though.

Jason Adams said...

Wow, that's an awesome call, SeangSTM. I assume that means that was some sort of decision that went down after the shoot in the editing room. Hrm. I wonder what the scene was meant to be like when they shot it. And what Lambert's original fate was. I don't think I've ever read much about the making of Alien; I wonder if that info's out there - if there's an early draft of the script or something. Fascinating.

shaun said...

Completely agree...I find VC very relatable here and in Body Snatchers (hell, even in the Birds;o). She's right up there with Barbara Shelley from Hammer's Dracula, Prince of Darkness in the "I'm Understandably Losing My Shit Here -- Why Isn't Everyone Else?" Club (which admittedly exists only in my head).

Joe Reid said...

My first experience with Veronica Cartwright was her stint on The X-Files where she also played a "losing her shit and don't care who knows it" character. Chameleons are great, but I love an actress who can nail down a type so definitively.

Anonymous said...

There's an argument to be made (and I think Dan O'Bannon might have made it) that part of the horror of Alien is that the men characters are the ones getting raped. It's a pretty pervy film all around, I'd say.