The Oscar-winning sci-fi classic Alien, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, went where no sci-fi horror had been before in 1979 – straight to the top of the box office, going on to take a staggering $200m worldwide. Astonishing numbers for a film with no big star names, that was, effectively, a haunted house picture set in outer space. Film-makers around the globe took note, and in no time at all the market was flooded with a host of Alien ‘rip-offs’, featuring stranded astronauts being chased around spaceships by bloodthirsty creatures. These weren’t so much tributes to the film – like the recent high school stage show that lovingly recreated the iconic masterpiece – as straight ahead, often clumsy and shameless cash-ins.
First out of the escape hatch was Italian director Luigi Cozzi’s endearingly daft story of an astronaut tracking down aliens threatening to take over the planet, released the year after Alien caused a sensation. Cozzi apes that film’s extraordinary, cavernous HR Giger-inspired alien spaceship interiors, but this time with a papier mache tunnel crammed with pulsating plastic pods.
Inseminoid (aka Horror Planet) (1981)
In Alien, Nostromo crew member John Hurt is memorably latched onto by a facehugger that gestates a lifeform inside him. Here, Judy Geeson is rather more graphically impregnated by an alien, which turns her psychotic. Director Norman J Warren’s British horror shocker didn’t quite have the budget 20th Century Fox lavished on Alien, so used Chislehurst Caves in Kent for the sub-zero planet the ill-fated space crew are exploring.
Galaxy of Terror (1981)
In this sci-fi horror from legendary exploitation producer Roger Corman, a spaceship lands on a mysterious planet after picking up a distress signal from another craft. So far, so Alien. The film continues its Alien, ahem, ‘homage’, as the crew are picked off one by one in gruesome ways. In this instance it rather ups the ante on Ripley being cornered by the lurking Xenomorph. Here, one of the female crew members has all her clothes torn off and is molested by a giant, slimy worm. As the tagline put it ‘Imagine your worst nightmares coming true’!
While the nasty creature comes out of the victim’s chest in Alien, in Parasite, the toothy little critters burst out of the stomach, in glorious 3D! The stars of Alien are rightly proud of their roles in that superlative film, but it’s unlikely Demi Moore will have put her appearance in this 80s schlocker, that critics described as ‘lethargic’, ‘banal’ and ‘badly acted’, very prominently on her CV.
Alien Terror (1980)
This film was cheekily titled Alien 2: On Earth when it was released in the US, suggesting it was a sequel to the original. It was no such thing – an Italian made cheapie, rushed out a year after Alien set the box office alight, it starred Belinda Mayne as a caver being hassled by infected astronauts. Following the success of Alien, Sigourney Weaver went on to the A-list, but Belinda would turn up a few years later playing a masseuse in an episode of the soap opera Emmerdale.
Forbidden World (1982)
Scared astronaut walking down an ill-lit spaceship corridor? Check. A slippery, slithering creature mutating before your eyes? Check. Said creature latching onto a victim’s face? Check. This sci-fi horror, again from Roger Corman, has everything you could want from an Alien rip-off, and more – that’s to say, it rips off Star Wars a bit, and throws in some gratuitous nudity as well.
Titan Find (aka Creature) (1985)
This Alien clone, about a space crew being hunted down by a monster, benefits from having the great Klaus Kinski as a star, but suffers from looking very shoddy indeed. As one IMDb reviewer says “In space, no one can hear you scream for a bigger budget”. Its actual tagline might be one of the most peculiar ever – ‘In space, man is just another butterfly’, whatever that means.
Event Horizon (1997)
Paul W.S. Anderson’s 90s shocker took Alien’s idea of the haunted house in space and took it to the next level, with this genuinely creeper sci-fi horror in which a space crew investigate a mysterious ship only to find something mysterious onboard (yes, it’s that plot again). The set designs, although admittedly very impressive, owe a huge debt to Alien. Star Lawrence Fishburne said on a chat show that Event Horizon was the ‘the scariest movie ever made’. Ironically, this was one of the taglines used for Alien.
Although based on a shoot-’em-up computer game, this action horror starring The Rock, about Space Marines coming under attack at a research facility on Mars, has enough people running around a metal walkways in a panic, before getting mulched by gruesome beasts, to warrant Alien comparisons. A new film Doom: Annihilation, due out this year, appears to involve a distress signal and a spaceship filled with monsters attacking the rescuers – hmmm, sounds rather familiar.
Roger Christian, Oscar nominated for his work as an art director on the original Alien, and much-maligned for his John Travolta sci-fi Battlefield Earth, directed this late-entry imitator, starring Christian Slater as an astronaut dealing with a crew being driven mad by an alien infection and a little beastie running round the spaceship’s air ducts. The film is very environmentally friendly, using a repurposed space station set from a Canadian sci-fi series, and the recycled plot of Alien, although rumours of several thousand DVDs ending up in landfill is perhaps not so good for the planet.
ALIEN 40TH ANNIVERSARY is out now on 4K Ultra HD™ Blu-ray™ and Limited Edition 4K Ultra HD™ SteelBook®