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Movie Natters: October 19, 2007 Archive

"Aliens" thoughts

Posted at 11:41 AM on October 19, 2007 by Euan Kerr

As a parent of teenagers I join many of my peers in quietly grinding my teeth and wondering where the years have gone. Being a movie fan doesn't help. I was genuinely taken aback when I realized it's been two decades since "Wings of Desire" came out.

I have been meaning to check out the rest of the "Aliens" series for what I thought was a few months, and now I see I've somehow let more than 15 years slip by since that germ of an idea entered my brain.

You've got to be in the mood for horror movies, and somehow when Sigourney Weaver and her doomed crews were blasting their pulse rifles at the acid drooling beasties so deep in space "no-one can hear you scream," it all just passed me by.

We were living in Glasgow at the time, with two bairns in diapers, so getting out was a rarity. But I got interested in the Aliens trilogy because of a story I worked up for the BBC and for NPR.

It was about a couple of "Aliens" fans who were so obsessed with the films that they somehow managed to get a crew listing for the film. They spent months calling each person on the list to ask if they had any old props from the film lying around. This was at a time when transatlantic calls were pretty spendy, and neither of these guys seemed to have a lot of dough.

Remarkably they ended up with a huge collection of all sorts of things, including, joy-of-joys, a facesucker.

They then decided to mount a little production of their own and created what amounts to a Aliens-style haunted house in an area under some old railway arches in the center of Glasgow.

It worked this way: a couple of space marines would take you and a group of five or six other nervous gigglers into a space station, with a warning that it could be under attack at any moment. The doors hissed shut behind you and seconds later the radio crackled to life saying something nasty was loose in the station.

For the next terrifying 15 minutes you would be led at high speed up and down corridors which got darker and darker, all bearing evidence of an alien presence.

At one point everyone crowded into an elevator in an attempt to escape to another level. But seconds after the door closed the power went out, and we could hear something on the outside was trying to get in. Whatever it was pulled the door open enough just enough to insert a huge scaly hand, which then grabbed on of the nervous gigglers from our group and dragged him out even as he screamed for us to help him. Then the door snapped shut.

It was terrifying. And it was about to get worse. The marine told us our only option was to make a break for it. He shoved the door open and lead us full tilt around the corner - straight into the huge menacing form of an acid drooling alien, lit only by the sparks from the ripped up wiring round its head.

Man, we turned and booked it the other way. Somehow we got to the outer door and found ourselves back in the cool damp of the Glasgow evening.

The "Alien Experience" was a raging success, particularly with the post-pub crowd. There were stories of people standing in line for five hours to get in. It made a lot of money.

I was lucky enough to get to go behind the scenes, and see how the terrifying effects were simply done with carefully placed strobe lights and fog machines. The fellow customer dragged out and apparently done in by the beastie was a plant.

I even got to meet the Alien itself, standing there hissing and breathing in that spark-lit corridor.

And you know what? It was still scary. I felt the fight or flight surge of adrenaline

And that's why when I recently watched "Aliens" I was a little disappointed. The acting seemed wooden, and the storyline underdeveloped.

The real issue was I knew these particular aliens are much scarier in person.

October 2007
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