Quote'In Space No One Can Hear You Scream'. This schlocky, B-movie-style tagline betrays the subtle, creeping dread of Alien (1979). Much like its terrifying titular creature, it's a film that gets under your skin.
Forty years after its release, Ridley Scott's 1979 chiller is rightly regarded as a sci-fi horror classic. It has aged beautifully – its industrial yet futuristic production aesthetic retains a cutting-edge realism, H.R Giger's creature and ship designs are unsettling yet perversely beautiful and Dan O'Bannon's naturalistic dialogue is memorably understated.
Alien's pervading, gloomy atmosphere and sense of lonely terror ensure it remains a touchstone in 'haunted house' cinema. As in other genuinely frightening films, less is more: by cutting his camera away early, Scott leaves much in the minds of audiences. We fill in the blanks by conjuring up nightmarish thoughts and images.
Much commentary on Scott's film justifiably focuses on the film's technical achievements – direction, cinematography, music and the fearsome alien creature. What's less remarked upon is how its tension is amplified by Alien's realism, its sense of everyday life turned upside down. Yes, this is science fiction and this is outer space, but Alien feels real.