kWelcome to the Kill Count, where we tally up the victims in all our favorite horror movies. I’m James A. Janisse, and today we’re looking at Alien, released in 1979, and potentially the most influential film I’ll ever talk about on the Kill Count. I mean, this shit’s preserved in the Library of Congress! Despite its obvious Science-Fiction setting and subject matter, Alien is just as much a horror film as it is Sci-Fi, using the classic structure of a murderer stalking down a group of people until there’s only one survivor left. Just, in this case, the murderer is an extra-terrestrial and the group of victims is the crew of a space ship. Alien launched the careers of many involved into full-blown stardom, including director Ridley Scott and star Sigourney Weaver, who plays the iconic character Ellen Ripley. Weaver would reprise the role in all three of the original Alien sequels, which I’ll be covering over the course of this month. The sequels quickly become more action than horror, and eventually get pretty freakin’ ridiculous, but all of them and everything else in this universe (the comics, the games, the novels) can be traced back to this film and the original characters that got murdered so memorably. So let’s pay some respects, and get to the kills! The movie begins in the year 2122, with a spaceship, the Nostromo, and the giant haul it’s tugging headed back home towards Earth. Everything aboard the ship is quiet as a space mouse, since the crew is fast asleep in their hibernation beds; that is, until the ship receives a message and tells its crew to rise and shine. This zombie-lookin’ fella is Kane, and he’s doing a perfect imitation of what I look like every morning when I wake up for work. In fact, since we’ve only got a seven-person crew here, let’s meet ’em all real quick. Like I said, the early bird of the group is Kane, the second-in-command played by the late John Hurt. Fellow Brit Ian Holm of Bag End plays science officer Ash. There are two technicians: chief engineer Parker, played by Mr. Big himself, Yaphet Kotto, while the late Harry Dean Stanton plays Brett, whose thing is always saying “right.” Right, Brett? “Right.” The navigator is Lambert, played by Veronica Cartwright, in a role that won her a Saturn, and the captain of this hunk of junk is Dallas, played by Tom Skerritt’s beard. And, of course, there’s Ripley herself, who’s the third in command. After a wake-up meal, Dallas goes to his little bright-light cubby hole and talks to the ship’s AI, named Mother, where he learns that their alarm went off way too early and that they’re nowhere near Earth– Whoa-oh! “We’re only halfway there.” Whoa-oh! They’re livin’ on a prayer! –all because Mother intercepted a beacon signal, although it’s unclear who it’s from or what it means. Despite some resistance from the technicians, Ash says the crew is contractually obligated to the company to go check it out. They detach from their payload and land the Nostromo on the planet that the signal is coming from, but the landing rocks the boat, baby, and, while it doesn’t tip the boat over, it does damage it pretty bad. The tech crew tells the others it’s gonna take a while to fix it. “This is seventeen hours, fella.” “At least twenty-five hours.” “Yeah.” While that’s going on, might as well go check out that signal, right? “Right!” So, Dallas, Kane, and Lambert suit up and venture out to the inhospitable surface of this rock as Ash (and his spirit fingers) guides them from the bridge They discover a crashed ship that kinda looks like a wishbone– like the bone, not the delightful storytelling dog –and, determined to get some sweet, sweet marrow, they head inside and find a truly awesome image: this oversized alien, dubbed “the space jockey” by fans, lookin’ like he’s trying to find a new planet or somethin’. It appears as though he’s been dead for a while (like, possibly millennia) and that the cause of death was an acute case of “hole in the chest.” “Bones are bent outward, like he exploded from inside.” While Lambert and Dallas play coroner, Kane finds a big ol’ hole in the ground. He rappels down it and into a gigantic freakin’ chamber that’s got some crazy blue stuff squigglin’ all over some eggs. “It’s a…a layer of mist just covering the eggs.” Something in the mist! And that something is Kane, whose clumsy ass fell inside, right next to a whole bunch of them eggs. While he’s checkin’ ’em out, one of them blossoms like a beautiful butterfly, and as Kane peers inside, he gets a faceful of alien when the newborn creature jumps out and gets friendly. Meanwhile, back on the Nostromo, Ripley decodes some of the transmission and discovers that it’s not an SOS signal. “It looks like a warning.” Ash prevents her from going out and warning the others, saying it’ll take too long, and he’s not wrong, since they’re back pretty soon thereafter. Dallas and Lambert tell Ripley to let them in, but when they mention the organism suckin’ face with Kane, she brings up a good point. “If we let it in, the ship could be infected. You know the quarantine procedures.” Dallas tries to order her to open the doors, but she stands her ground like a total boss until she’s undercut by Ash, who opens the hatch for them on his own. They saw Kane’s helmet in half, but when they remove the pieces, the facehugger alien just tightens its grip; same thing happens when they try to pry off those nasty-lookin’ crab legs– it just hugs Kane harder to show how much he loves him. A scan shows the alien is keeping Kane alive by feeding him oxygen, and although Ash kinda wants to just let the thing be, Dallas insists on taking a laser to it so they can free Kane’s face. But that just results in some nasty yellow blood that appears to be acidic. “That crap’s gonna eat through the hull.” “That thing’s gonna eat through the goddamn hull! Come on!” They chase it down layer by layer and find that it’s thankfully stopped short of giving the Nostromo a free new porthole. Dallas tries to zen out with some classical music, but he’s called to the med bay because Kane’s face is lookin’ awfully bald all of a sudden. Y’all gonna go leave him lots of comments, too? After a brief search, the alien falls from the ceiling onto Ripley, but it appears to be dead, with nothing left to offer but some postmortem reflexes. Ripley wants to jettison the corpse, but Ash insists they hold on to it for…science? Ripley tries to get Dallas to agree with her, but he says Ash is a company man and that they’ve got to follow the company plan. “Standard procedure is to do what the hell they tell you to do.” He also mentions Ash was a last-minute replacement of Dallas’ usual science officer. Hmm… With the ship repaired, they take off from the planetoid and connect back to their money maker so they can shake it back to Earth. Kane appears to be doin’ much better, despite a little bit of memory loss, so everything’s great! Have of round of smiles on the house, Nostromo crew! It’ll be the last time you’re able to, because while eating a pre-“beddy-bye” meal, Kane starts coughing, and it’s not because of Dallas’ cooking. Nope! He’s just rearin’ up for one of the most memorable scenes in film history as a phallic-lookin’ alien bursts from his chest, getting blood all over everyone else and giving us our first kill of the movie nearly a full hour in. And just like that, this movie became a classic. This thing is obviously one nasty bitch, but when Parker goes to kill it, Ash freaks out like someone stole his ring. Chesty the chestburster makes his getaway, leaving the crew to say a solemn goodbye to their fallen crew mate by giving him a burial at space. They then arm themselves up with cattle prods and nets and this nozzle thing that makes it look like they’re about to blow up an air mattress for the alien to crash on. The nozzle-box is supposed to help them locate the alien, but when it starts going off, the only thing Ripley and the techs manage to find is Jonesy the cat. Space cat! He’s meowing in space! Parker tells Brett to go get the cat so they won’t pick it up on the tracker again, and wandering off by yourself right now sure seems like a great idea, right? “Right.” So Brett leaves them and begins another memorable sequence as he searches for Jonesy “Here, kitty kitty!” During his search, he finds some nasty skin on the ground and some water dripping from a room that they probably wound up reusing for Hellraiser: Bloodline. I had to look up where the water was coming from because I was so grossed out by the way Brett friggin’ baptizes himself in it, but I guess it’s just condensation from cooling towers. Still feels nasty. When Brett finally finds Jonesy hiding by a wall, the full-grown alien drops behind him and lifts up his big ol’ dome head. Brett turns around to become our second kill of the film, getting impaled by the alien’s second set of teeth that shoot out of his mouth like a powerful little piston. Jonesy watches it all go down with the trademark impassivity of a cat. The rest of the crew figures out that the alien is using the air ducts to move around, so Dallas volunteers to chase him out into an airlock so they can blast him into space. As they monitor his progress on an Atari screen, they also pick up a signal on the alien. “It’s moving right towards you!” Lambert tells Dallas to move, move, move, but he heads the wrong way, straight into the arms of an alien. Now’s a good time to mention that I’m working from the theatrical release, so don’t expect to see cocoon-Dallas later. Lambert wants to take the shuttle and escape the ship, but Ripley says it won’t support the four remaining survivors, so they’re gonna stick to Dallas’ plan, and since she’s now in command, they’ve gotta do what she says. Her promotion also wins her access to the VIP bright-light room where she has a Mother-daughter talk and finds out that the ship was rerouted specifically to pick the alien up and bring it back to the company for…science? Crew expendable. When Ash peekaboos behind her, she wo-manhandles him so roughly he starts bleeding out…milk? What? Then he attacks Ripley, tearing her hair out and just throwin’ her around, which should tell us somethin’s up since she’s got at least six inches on him, easy. He takes a rolled-up magazine and tries to kill her with it like he’s the world’s worst dog owner, but Parker shows up to get him off of her. Ash gives him a titty twister, so Parker pays him back by hitting him with a pipe, which causes the science officer to start whirlin’ like a dervish and spitting up milk like a drunk newborn. Parker hits him once more and decapitates him, revealing that Ash is no man– “It’s a robot! Ash is a goddamn robot!” They hotwire his head so they can be like “what the fuck, man,” but he just tells them they’re straight-up boned because that alien is a perfect organism. “I admire its purity.” All right, dude, soundin’ a little “master race,” there, so how about we just shut it down? To make sure he’s permanently decommissioned, Parker torches his robot corpse with a flamethrower. And I’ll add Ash to the list, ’cause he was practically a person, just, y’know, with milk blood and a head you could hotwire. With one less body to support, they decide to go with Lambert’s plan to evacuate on the shuttle, but only after setting the Nostromo to self-destruct. Ripley preps the shuttle, which includes tracking down Jonesy and putting him in his little space-carrier, as Lambert and Parker go get coolant that they’ll need for the shuttle’s life-support. But the alien strongly opposes life, and he shows up and freaks Lambert out so much she’s unable to move or do anything. Parker charges in to save her, but the alien knocks him down and bares its teeth. Parker is killed like Brett, with the alien’s second mouth. The alien then turns towards Lambert and very suggestively extends his tail and wraps it around her leg. This is the last shot we see of Lambert, who we hear screaming through the ship as Ripley runs to save her. When she gets there, she only finds a dangling leg. This death may seem a little jarring because it was actually put together during editing after they ran out of time to shoot the original idea for her death. Ripley presses onward with the plan to nuke the Nostromo, activating the self-destruct sequence that’ll only give her ten minutes to get back to the shuttle and abandon ship. Sucks for her, then, when there’s a freakin’ alien in her way, but don’t blame him: he’s just jonesin’ for another kill. Ripley’s determined not to give it to him, running back through the Nostromo to try to “control-Z” that whole self-destruct idea, but she’s too late and Mother says “no take-backs.” It’s like she caught Ripley smokin’ a cigarette and now she’s gonna smoke the whole ship. With no other option available, Ripley makes her way back to the shuttle, which turns out to be easier than expected, because that alien’s nowhere to be found. She takes off in the shuttle, watching in her rearview mirror as the Nostromo and its payload have a supernova-like explosion that winds up giving us a little Stargate-lookin’ sequence. Yup, things seem to be lookin’ up for old Ellen Ripley, and Jonesy, too, who gets settled into a pod for a little cat nap. But then the alien shows its hand and reveals he’s a goddamn stowaway on this shuttle. Looks like he’s nestled up real cozy in there, just slimin’ over everything as he pleases. As the alien shows off his talents for Ripley, she gears up in a spacesuit and grabs a harpoon gun. Then she flushes the alien out of his special place, getting him nice and free, then opens the shuttle and blasts the alien into space. He tries to hang in there, baby, but she shoots him with her harpoon, hitting him in the gut and finally gettin’ that alien outta there! Too bad the gun gets stuck in the door, leaving this buggy bastard tethered to the shuttle. Ripley watches as he tries to get back in by way of thruster, but she punches it and burns him away, incinerating him in the engine blast and ending her nightmare once and for all. I’ve decided not to include the alien on the count because I’ve seen the sequels and I don’t wanna count all the xenomorphs that die in those. Sue me! Ripley ends her adventure with a captain’s log supplemental, saying that everyone else on board is dead. “This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.” She finishes and goes to sleep for one well-deserved rest in stasis. Someone better have a cup of coffee for her when she wakes up! Hope she’s able to sleep all right after seeing all her friends die like that. And how many exactly were killed? Let’s find out and get to the numbers. Five people and an android died in Alien, tying Child’s Play for our lowest kill count to date. Of the victims, four were human men, one was a human woman, and Ash was a douchey android. That’s…y’know…this ratio. Whatever. At a run time of a hundred and seventeen minutes, that comes out to a kill, on average, every nineteen point five minutes–I believe our slowest rate yet. Correct me if I’m wrong. Golden Chainsaw for coolest kill has to go to Kane; I knew it, you knew it, we all knew it. Yeah, Ash’s death is dope as hell, too, but just in terms of legendary scenes, there’s nothing in this series that’ll compare to this kill. Dull Machete for lamest kill will go to Dallas, who gets killed off screen in what is possibly just a big old alien hug. And that’s it! Alien was released in 1979, and I can’t really say much more about the impact it had. So I won’t! I will say I never saw any of the sequels until watching them for this series, so you’ll get my fresh opinion on Aliens when I go over that next week. Until then, I’m James A. Janisse. This has been the Kill Count!