Ridley Scott’s film Alien is considered one of the greatest films of all time, horror or otherwise. Released in 1979, it received wide acclaim and grosses $80.9 million domestically ($267.8 million in 2016 dollars) on an $11 million budget. With that kind of success, a sequel was inevitable. James Cameron’s Aliens was released in 1986 to widespread critical acclaim and a massive box office gross. Some say it even surpasses Scott’s film in terms of quality (personally, I think Alien is a better film but I would re-watch Aliens over Alien any day of the week). Why did it take seven years for Aliens to get released? It’s was a long, troubled road to get Aliens to the big screen, but it all worked out for the best.
After the huge success that was Alien, Brandywine Productions was fully intent on churning out a sequel. Alan Ladd, Jr., the president of 20th Century Fox at the time, fully backed the project (he’d have been a fool not to). Unfortunately, 20th Century Fox was put under new ownership towards the end of 1979 and Ladd left the company. Norman Levy was brought in as the new president and rumor has it that he though a sequel would have been too expensive for the company to produce. Meanwhile David Giler, Walter Hill and Gordon Carroll, the owners of Brandywine Productions, sued Fox over the disbursement of the profits that Alien had made. This lawsuit would not be settled until 1983, four years after Alien was released. Imagine for a moment what would have happened had neither side reached an amicable agreement. Or what if there was too much bad blood between Brandywine and Fox? We may have never had Aliens (or at least the version of Aliens we know and love).
By this point Fox had gone through more turnover and new executives were employed. Larry Wilson, the development executive sought out a writer for the film. He read James Cameron’s script for The Terminator and was impressed, so he showed the script to Giler who was equally impressed. The only problem was that Cameron had just started pre-production on The Terminator, so there was no way to fast-track production of what was then known as Alien II. Cameron wanted to direct the film so badly that he wrote a treatment anyway. That treatment was met with mixed reception and it was then announced that production on The Terminator would be delayed by nine months because Arnold Schwarzenegger was stuck filming Conan the Destroyer. That gave Cameron enough time to work on the script for Alien II. He turned in 90 pages (which equates to about 90 minutes in screen time) to new Fox president Larry Gordon, who loved the script. He loved it so much, in fact, that he agreed to wait until Cameron was done on The Terminator just so that he could direct the film, which then became Aliens.
While all of that nearly prevented Aliens from getting made, the hurdles during filming didn’t stop there. It turns out that locking down Sigourney Weaver to reprise her role as Ellen Ripley would be no easy task. She had rejected numerous offers from Fox to star in the film (before a script had been written), but even when she did show an interest after reading Cameron’s script, the contract negotiations took some work. Rumor has it that the negotiations were so drawn out that Cameron and his wife (Gale AnnHurd, a producer on the film) called Arnold Schwarzenegger’s agent saying that they were going to write Ripley out of the film, knowing his agent would relay the information to Weaver’s agent who then told the Head of Production at 20th Century Fox. Soon thereafter a deal with Weaver was in place.
Production for Aliens was also somewhat tumultuous. The film was shot at Pinewood Studios in England and Cameron found it difficult to get used to their work practices (i.e., taking tea breaks that would bring production to a halt). There was tension between the crew and Hurd, who thought she only had her job because she was married to Cameron. Things got so heated at one point that the entire crew walked out after the original Director of Photography was fired mid-shoot (Hurd managed to get them all back on set). Composer James Horner ran into issues with Cameron as well. He was given six weeks to compose the score, but upon arrival in England realized that the film was not yet complete and they were still in the editing process. Because of this he had only three weeks to compose the score for the film.
As you can see, Aliens was loaded with problems from the get-go and it’s sort of a miracle it turned out as well as it did. If anything, the many problems Aliens faced should be comforting to movie-watchers. It just goes to show that even after many hurdles a film can still turn out alright (so those of you worried about the re-shoots of Rogue One can rest a little easier). Despite all of the issues, Aliens turned out to be one of the best sci-fi/action movies of all time (it even snagged seven Academy Awards nominations, winning two of them). Go give Aliens a watch today, just make sure it’s the far superior Special Edition.
There’s a cautious optimism that’s now felt by many Resident Evil fans in the months leading up to the arrival of the latest game that’s beginning to feel comparable to the legacy left by the cancellation of Silent Hills and Konami’s scorched earth campaign against designer Hideo Kojima that claimed, among other things, the brilliant P.T. demo.
This hasn’t always been true. It wasn’t until the promising P.T.-inspired Allison Road met the same sudden fate as its source material that my worries shifted. I’m eager to see if one (or more) of the various attempts indie developers are making to salvage something worthwhile from the blast radius of Kojima’s shattered vision for the beloved series, and right now, it’s in SadSquare Studio’s psychological horror game Visage that I can see the most potential.
In March, more than 3,200 people donated about $93,000 to help the studio realize that potential, so clearly I’m not alone. That’s a significant investment, and it’s one that its developer seems to be acutely aware of.
In a recent post on the game’s Kickstarter campaign, the team behind it promised to provide an update — even if it’s a slow month in terms of progress — with the community on the 13th day of every month. That same post also confirms Visage will is being built with optional support for virtual reality headsets, including the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
The game’s first-person perspective and the genre to which it belongs make it a wonderful candidate for virtual reality, which the writer of the post believes “is going to redefine the boundaries of how scary a horror game can be.” I couldn’t agree more.
In related news, Visage will feature animations enhanced by motion capture technology and aurally pleasing sound design courtesy of SilverJack Studio and Jonathan Wachoru, lead sound designer on Outlast. It’s currently expected to release next January for PC.
Sean Byrne, the director of the Aussie The Loved Ones, is continuing his festival run with his new chiller, The Devil’s Candy, which stars Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby, Pruitt Taylor Vince, and Kiara Glasco.
“In this creepily haunted-house tale a struggling painter is possessed by satanic forces after he and his young family move into their dream home in rural Texas.“
The Devil’s Candy had its World Premiere at the Midnight Madness portion of the Toronto International Film Festival last September. While we wait for news on a U.S. distributor and release date, the heavy metal horror film will release soon in Russia, which is where the following trailer hails from. Too bad it’s not in English nor has subtitles. At least you’ll get a taste of the imagery and production value.
Thanks to Fabien M. for the tip.