Viewing posts tagged alien

Shabcast 31 (Chatting 'Species' with Josh)

Happy April 14th to you all.  The Shabcast is back once again (slightly more structured and sobre than last time), featuring the return of one of my favourite semi-regular guests, our very own Josh.  This episode is a tie-in with his last essay, and features the two of us chatting about Species (1995), perhaps the very definition of a movie that is really interesting despite being pretty bad.  Josh's redemptive reading is fascinating, and we also ponder such imponderables as why people like Ben Kingsley and Forest Whitaker agreed to be in it, why cars explode when they crash in movies, and why this film goes out of its way to feature a scene where Natasha Henstridge stares bemusedly at a stuffed fox.  Plus there are the usual digressions.  H. R. Giger, dinosaurs, Captain Kirk, Avital Ronell, etc.

Download the episode here.  Beware spoilers and triggers.

Also, here are some links to things we mention:

Here is the Vimeo video comparing Species to David Lynch's Mulholland Drive.

And here's the (excellent) article about how and why Kirk is misremembered, by Erin Horáková at Strange Horizons.

 

Sensor Scan: Alien

I actually went back and forth a bit on whether to cover Alien or not. It is certainly one of the most important movies from this period and a landmark in its genre: I'm not disputing that. The influence on Star Trek, at least of this particular film, is tenuous at best, but it's not like that's ever stopped me before and Alien does do many things right that subsequent science fiction works should emulate more frequently. The catch was never whether Alien was an important movie worthy of discussion, but whether or not it was an important science fiction movie, because in spite of its futuristic outer space setting, Alien is actually more properly thought of as a horror movie.

However, there's simply no getting out of talking about the sequel in 1986 and there's another movie related to this one I'd kind of like to talk about a bit once we reach the 1990s, so to LV-426 we go.

Like Star Wars before it, Alien is a movie about which I have extremely little to add to the discourse that's already out in the wild, and this time I don't ...

Prometheus Underground

Warning: Triggers and Spoilers.  And waffle.


Sex & Monsters

In Prometheus, the Engineers are ancient Titans who created humanity... and, it is implied, seeded the galaxy with their DNA. There is something very noticeable about them: they are all men. Meanwhile, there is a definite vaginal look to a great many of the alien bio-weapons they created and which then subsumed them. However, I don't think its really possible to read the battle between Engineers and their bio-weapons as a battle of the sexes. The weapon creatures are also phallic and penetrative, as in previous iterations of the Alien universe. All the same, it's true that presenting the creators of life (in their own image) as exclusively dudes does imply that generative power resides in the male alone. It is enough for one Engineer to dissolve his DNA into the waters of a planet to kickstart the process that will lead to animal life (if that's how the opening scene is meant to be read). The Engineers are male but apparently sexless, capable of asexual reproduction. The deadly runaway bio-weapons, which seem hermaphroditic, look like the intrusion of sex into a male but sexless world. Sex is ...

When Titans Clash

Spoiler Warning


Prometheus tries to evoke the aesthetics of Alien in a way that is borderline obsessive. Even down to making sure there are cream-coloured leathery/cushiony pads on the spaceship corridor walls. Still greater attention is paid to replicating H.R. Giger's design concepts for the derelict alien ship, cockpit and pilot from the original film. The really weird thing is that, even as Prometheus deliberately and slavishly tries to evoke and/or copy the aesthetics of Alien, it completely overlays them with an entirely different, clashing aesthetic sense.

Look, why is this image so powerful?




There are, I think, a number of reasons.

Most importantly, it's because it is just explicable enough to make sense while also being inexplicable enough to unnerve.  We are plainly looking at a navigator or pilot in a cockpit.  We understand this.  We are also looking at something inhuman and estranged, something that evades any attempt on our part to relate to it directly.  The 'Space Jockey' (as it is sometimes called) is a pilot, evidently, but it is also a giant, a fossil, a mammoth, a skeleton, a statue, a cyborg, a petrified outgrowth of flesh embedded within a colossal ...

Skulltopus 2: Bad Night at Fang Rock

Further to this post, in which I sketched out the ideas of the author China Miéville concerning the relationship between the tentacular and the Weird, and the superpositioning of the Weird and the hauntological in monsterology (please read that before you read anything below), here's my first attempt to look at Doctor Who through that lens.

'Horror of Fang Rock' (1977) seems like an obvious first port of call.  Set just before the First World War (in other words, in the years of the rise of the semiotic octopus, just before the explosion of the Weird), the Rutan is a tentacular monster, though the tentacles are rarely seen and, on the whole, the creature seems more like a jellyfish (even down to its "affinity with electricity").


It seems to be a manifestation of the nebulous electrified military modernity that the character Reuben so resents and fears.  It seems permeated with technology through its affinity with electricity.  It uses the generator, speaks of its ability to shape-shift as a "technique" and leaves bits of its own alien tech all over the place, including a "signal modulator" that chimes thematically with all the concentration on the lighthouse's wireless telegraph ...

Sex, Death & Rock 'n' Roll

The Curious Orange, before he got the Lee & Herring gig.


In the mid-1980s, Doctor Who (perhaps influenced by a cultural context in which a strict matriarchal figure was punishing the British people for their own submerged desires) developed a habit of delving into surprisingly murky and morbid corners... and no story has corners quite as murky and morbid as 'Revelation of the Daleks'. The undercurrents in this strange tale include unrequited love, lust, suicide, alcoholism, putrefaction, mutilation, cannibalism and even – obliquely – necrophilia. This is a story that has a perverse, sexless, destructive, sado-masochistic anti-romance at its core, relegating all the stuff about galactic conquest to the sidelines.

Naturally, displaying obtuseness that is almost customary, most commentators have missed this and worried volubly about the least of the story’s delectable sins: the onscreen violence, which is only startling when judged against the largely implicit jeopardy of the Davison era and hardly compares to the extremes of, say, ‘The Brain of Morbius’. But ‘Revelation’ looked tame even then, even by the standards of material made for kids. Have you seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? It’s torture porn for finger-painters.


THE DORIAN MODE

The literary novel that ...

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