Thursday, April 10, 2014

At Anorak: The Five Most Shocking Death Scenes of the ALIEN Franchise.

My newest article at Anorak has been posted.  "The Five Most Shocking Death Scenes of the ALIEN Franchise" gazes at the most surprising (and, invariably, violent) moments of the four Alien films (1979 - 1997).  These aren't the best death scenes necessarily, just the ones that most adeptly send audiences back on their heels.

Here's a snippet: 

FOUR movies strong, and spanning three decades (the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s), the cinematic Alien saga — consisting of Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992) and Alien Resurrection(1997) — is renowned for its titular creature, one of the most terrifying silver screen boogeymen of all time.
Given the nature of this franchise’s hostile (and perfect?) monster, it’s no surprise that the death scenes featured throughout the saga are frequently terrifying, bloody, and brilliantly-orchestrated.
Yet the truly memorable death scenes possess another quality as well. They’re shocking. These scenes strike with a combination of terror, disgust, sorrow, and surprise, leaving a permanent imprint on the viewer’s mind.
For a death scene to be considered shocking, it must be one that the audience can’t  see coming.  In other words, we expect that Colonial Marines fighting aliens by the pack are going to die, or that confused convicts running from a monster in a dark corridor will come to a bad end.
Similarly, a really shocking death scene must involve a character that we have come to care about. A death scene can’t shock us if we’re not engaged in what is happening on screen, or empathizing with the imperiled people.
Finally, the nature of the death — how gruesome it is, essentially — also plays a key role. To see someone you have invested time in suddenly taken out before your very eyes, often bloodily, can be quite bracing.
With this definition in mind, the following five death scenes represent not necessarily the best moments of the Alien saga, but simply the most shocking of the movie series’ death scenes, of which there are over two-dozen.
You may notice that the lion’s share of the shocking deaths, in my estimation, come from installments 1 and 3.
That’s in no way because Aliens (1986), the second installment, is a bad film.  On the contrary, it is because the James Cameron film goes to tremendous lengths to create memorable characters and character relationships, and many of those beloved characters expire horrifically…but in Alien3(1992).
In other words, Aliens brilliantly sets up the shocks of its own sequel, which then benefits from all that hard work
Similarly, Alien Resurrection is not represented at all in the following list below because by the time of that relatively-tired entry in the franchise, a sense of familiarity had set in like a hardening of the arteries, and though the deaths in the film may be effective at times, none are particularly surprising or unexpected, let alone “shocking” in the sense that the following five are. In fact, some deaths in the fourth film, such as General Perez’s (Dan Hedaya), are even played for cartoon laughs.


  1. Good article, I posted a comment. Well done.


    1. SGB: You are the BEST! Thank you so much, my friend.

  2. Anonymous8:06 PM

    Can we have a link to it?

    1. Anonymous, just click on the blue words. If for some reason you don't see them, here's the address:


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