In cinemas, EVERYONE can hear you scream…
Despite its shift to a more action-oriented tone in later entries, the ALIEN franchise is most definitely a horror series.
From the dark, claustrophobic corridors and anterooms of the Nostromo, to the flooded mess hall of the USM Auriga, there is terror and death lurking around every corner.
As for the Xenomorph itself, this 8 foot high, acid-bleeding, jaw-extending, face hugging, chest bursting monstrosity is the most famous Extra Terrestrial in cinema history (apart from, well… you know…), who will either bite your face off or secrete you to a wall for harvest.
Nice choice, eh?
With each new entry in the mainline ALIEN franchise, alongside the supplementary ALIEN VS PREDATOR spin-offs, writers and directors have looked for new ways to terrify us, and have sought to outdo each other in the ‘gruesome kill’ stakes.
Ever since audiences were traumatised by the sight of Kane convulsing horrifically on the table in 1979’s original ALIEN movie, fans have born witness to more xeno kills than we would care to remember.
Here, then are the ten most gruesome kills in the ALIEN franchise.
10. General Perez – Aliens On The Brain (ALIEN: RESURRECTION)
1997’s ALIEN: RESURRECTION is definitely an acquired taste.
Penned by Joss Whedon, it abandons the franchise’s trademark slow, creeping horror almost entirely, in favour of more mainstream, ‘popcorn’ action.
In this 4th chapter, actor Dan Hedaya plays General Perez, the top dog of the USM Auriga – a medical research ship – whose scientists have perfected the delicate art of cloning. Having successfully replicated both a version of Ellen Ripley and the alien Queen she ‘birthed’ on Fury 161, a new brood of Xenos are brought into existence.
Inevitably, all hell breaks loose, and the queen’s children are free to roam the ship, slaughtering scientist and soldier alike with claw, tail, and…tongue?
I’m going with tongue.
Having tossed a grenade into a stricken and alien-filled escape pod with Jedi-like precision, Perez throws a salute to the crew members within.
Lurking in the background, however, is another Xenomorph.
With lightning speed, its tongue (still not sure on that) smashes through the back of Perez’s skull.
With the life ebbing from him, he has just enough time to pull a globular piece of his own brain matter in front of his eyes before both he and his obscene shoulder hair are gone for good.
9. Bishop – Getting Ripped (ALIENS)
Okay, technically not a “death” as Bishop is an Andr… sorry, artificial person (he may be synthetic, but he’s not stupid), but it’s still pretty brutal nonetheless.
After slowly gaining Ripley’s trust and respect over the course of the second chapter in the franchise, following her horrendous treatment at the mechanical hands of god-damn robot ‘Ash’ 57 years earlier (now there’s a sentence…), Bishop is instrumental in the escape of the few remaining survivors of the LV426 massacre.
In the classic one-last-scare mould, Ripley, Newt, Hicks, and Bishop have seemingly escaped the literal clutches of the alien queen (I wonder if they can abdicate…?), and are preparing to get all tucked in for cryo-sleep.
Ripley and Bishop are chatting away in mutual appreciation when BANG – the queen’s razor-sharp tail burst through Bishop’s torso – nicely mirroring the famous chest burster trope – spraying milky white “blood” (anti-freeze?) all over the place.
Emerging into the light, the queen looks pissed…
Casually tearing Bishop in half, she tosses his bisected body to opposite ends of the hangar as casually as throwing a cat into a canal (wait, what?).
8. Purvis & Dr Wren – Splitting Headache
A two for the price of one, here…
Poor old Larry “WHAT’S-IN-FUCKING-SIDE-ME?” Purvis… Kidnapped by space pirates, sold to a mad scientist, and impregnated with an alien, by an alien.
Not your average Tuesday.
Taken along for the ride by Ripley, Call and co. En route to the Betty and ultimately to safety, Purvis – played by the always excellent Leland Orser – starts to feel the twinges in his chest which set the rest of the team on high alert in anticipation of the inevitable.
Assuring them he’s okay, they double their efforts to get back to the ship where he can be frozen and hopefully saved.
Upon arriving at the Betty, the villainous Dr Wren – the man responsible for the aliens’ resurrection (See? Clever…) has taken the android Call hostage.
The knowledge that it’s too late dawning on Purvis – his waters having broken, if you will – he charges at Wren like a man possessed, shrugging off gunfire in his single- minded haste.
Beating the LV42-Shit out of Wren, Purvis proceeds to grab him and spin him round, just in time for the alien to burst its way out of Purvis’ chest……. and straight through Dr Wren’s skull.
7. The Engineer – Kraken Up (PROMETHEUS)
Maybe less ‘gruesome’, and more…… unsettling, this one.
PROMETHEUS definitely divided the ALIEN fanbase,with many wanting a straight-up prequel to the original film and did not appreciate the grandiose, philosophical tones of this quasi-reboot (sort of).
Others loved the movie, as it gave us a much deeper understanding, a richer lore behind the Xenomorphs who had hitherto painted as one-dimensional movie monsters.
The key to this new understanding were the Engineers; the creators of life, seeding backwater planets with the microbes and amino acids necessary for the beginnings of sentient life to take hold.
Having released an Engineer aboard the derelict space craft which is central to the movie’s plot, the remaining crew are beset by all manner of dangers and revelations.
Present, too, are proto-Xenomorphs which have evolved from a viscous black substance (goo?) having bonded with human DNA.
Enter the Trilobite. (Bruce Lee’s unreleased Sci-Fi film…)
A huge, tentacled, slimy, multi-eyed horror, the fore-runner to the more compact and presumably more aerodynamic face hugger, the Trilobite proceeds to attack the Engineer.
In a scene which is all legs, arms, tentacles and other appendages, the Engineer is overpowered and, well, impregnated by this newly released Kraken.
It is not this bizarre, awkward encounter which ultimately kills the space jockey, however, as that honour is reserved for the resulting birth of the accidentally adorable Deacon.
6. Murphy – I’m A Huge Fan (ALIEN 3)
Who doesn’t love a bald Englishman?
ALIEN 3 is, according to certain people (*cough* Me *cough*), the most underrated and unfairly lambasted entry in the entire franchise.
Eschewing the all-out action of its predecessor, ALIEN 3 went back to the mould of one single alien stalking and picking off its prey, which served the original ALIEN movie so well.
Using the air ducts and ventilation shafts to move around, the Xenomorph is an unseen terror.
With dark, damp, and infinitely foreboding corridors acting as a constant backdrop, the sense of tension and dread in the third instalment is palpable.
Of Murphy, we first meet him and his dog Spike at the EEV crash site, from which only Ripley walks away (not literally).
Murphy is unaware that Spike – the unwitting victim of a stowaway face hugger – has served as the host for a new breed of Xenomorph: the Dog Alien.
Walking on all fours and wagging its tail, this breed comes running the second someone opens a packet of crisps and proceeds to wipe its ass on the carpet.
Performing his duties cleaning the cavernous air ducts within the prison complex, Murphy steps on what turns out to be a freshly-discarded alien skin.
Thinking he may have glimpsed his missing dog in a smaller hole off to one side, Murphy investigates, only to have acid unceremoniously spat in his face by the death dog.
Howling and rolling away in agony, Murphy backs into an enormous, rotating fan and is decimated; identifiable now only by his boots.
5. Ben Ledward – Breaking Back (ALIEN: COVENANT)
ALIEN: COVENANT was met with much the same reaction as its predecessor, PROMETHEUS: a resounding “Meh” from fans and critics alike.
Despite its modest box office takings, ALIEN: COVENANT did a lot of things right, and gory deaths are certainly among the positives.
Part of the expeditionary team which set out to explore the mysterious Planet 4, Private Ben Ledward served as a security officer aboard the Covenant.
Accidentally releasing spores by stepping on a weird, mushroom-looking specimen, Ledward is infected by these seemingly sentient particulates as they enter his ear canal.
As we know from PROMETHEUS, this infection is a death sentence which takes hold of Ledward extremely quickly.
Vomiting up all manner of bile and slime, shaking violently and succumbing to the literal alien parasites while still planetside, the team must get him back to the safety of the med bay.
Ensconced safely within, his condition does not improve.
In an expectation-subverting twist on a familiar formula, Ledward’s convulsions of pain and trauma do result in an alien bursting its way out of him, not through the chest, but through the back.
Tearing Ledward’s spine asunder on its way to freedom, this Neomorph leaves Ledward’s now limp, spineless corpse to flop unsettlingly on the medical table.
4. Dale Collins – Harvey No Face (ALIENS VS PREDATOR: REQUIEM)
Bully, jock, and all round dick-bag Dale Collins is a typical American teenager archetype, who has no idea he’s been thrust into the middle of a centuries old war between two rival alien species.
Too bad for the floppy-haired ruffian who just wants to punch people and throw their keys down drains.
As Xenomorphs are loosed on Gunnison, Colorado in the immediate aftermath of the original ALIEN VS PREDATOR movie, a Predator “fixer” is dispatched to clean up the mess his brethren have left behind.
Affectionately known as “Wolf” in homage to Harvey Keitel’s character in both Pulp Fiction and Direct Line car insurance adverts, he sets about his task with tactical precision, dispatching Xenomorph and human alike in his murderous endeavours.
The movie’s ragtag group of protagonists – survivors of the unprecedented and unlikely alien invasion – seek to escape the nightmarish town (can’t blame them, to be fair).
Holding out against aliens whilst attempting to get to the chopper (do the voice, you know you want to), the group loses members along the way.
When our boy Dale is jumped on by an alien in a sports shop (no baseball cap is going to fit that head, mate), he struggles in vain to toss it off (stop it).
Enter the Wolf.
Taking down the alien with a well-aimed plasma bolt to the face, Wolf inadvertently causes the death of Dale too, as the alien’s deadly acid blood pours onto Dale’s face, melting it down to the bone in seconds, putting an end to his dastardly, key-throwing ways.
3. Engineers – It’s Raining, Men (ALIEN: COVENANT)
Back to ALIEN: COVENANT.
In a scene which has some uncomfortable real-world connotations, ALIEN: COVENANT treats us to a flashback scene in which the PROMETHEUS’ David android reveals to the ALIEN: COVENANT’s Walter android what exactly happened when he and Dr Shaw arrived at the Engineer homeworld following the events of the first movie.
David explains that, upon the arrival of the famous, C-shaped spacecraft to its planet of origin, tens of thousands of the Engineer species were gathered in a staggeringly huge staging/landing zone.
Rather than landing to meet and greet the Engineers, however – as was the original plan – David decides instead to rain down upon the masses countless thousands of black, cylindrical containers, each housing the very micro-organisms found in the aforementioned spores and black goo.
In a scene of mass genocide, every last Engineer is overcome by the black cloud of death and decay.
Their bodies flake and crumble; they vomit up their very innards as their limbs melt away.
They scramble over one another in an attempt to escape the inescapable.
Uncomfortable, gruesome, and horrific to behold, but such a good scene.
2. Vinnie Distephano – It’s Just A Little Crush
We’re going back to the Betty for this one…
The events of ALIEN: RESURRECTION have already been outlined in earlier entries, but no mention has yet been made of USM soldier Vinnie Destephano; a member of General Perez’s (remember him?) private security.
Surviving a fire-fight with the Elgyn’s pirate crew, Distephano is disarmed and taken along with Ripley’s group; he was just doing his job and they cannot kill him nor leave him behind now that the inmates have taken over the asylum.
Scary inmates, with toothy tongues.
Earning the trust of his new-found allies, Distephano becomes an important part of the team and is instrumental in their escape plan.
Securely aboard the Betty and en route to Earth (“what a shit hole”), Distephano is sent to the hangar to check on Call who has gone radio-silent.
Armed, alert, and utilising all of his training, Distephano scours the ship for signs of anything out of the ordinary in his search for the missing Call.
At this point, amidst tense visuals and atmospheric sound design, Distephano becomes aware of something monstrous lurking nearby, and has his head literally crushed to pulp by the bare hands of an alien/human chimera: The Newborn.
1. The Newborn – Sucks To Be You
How’s that for a segue?
The Newborn was an original creation for ALIEN: RESURRECTION, and has not been seen since (though some of the PROMETHEUS / ALIEN: COVENANT designs share more than a passing resemblance).
A result of the cloning process, the alien queen inherited some of Ripley’s characteristics – her womb and human reproductive system, specifically – and Ripley, in turn, took on some of the Xenomorphs’ heightened senses, ferocity and, of course, corrosive blood.
From this cross-pollination comes the Newborn – a perfect human/alien genetic cross, complete with an actual, fleshy tongue and hauntingly human eyes.
Turning on all and sundry with devastating ferocity, it leaves only Ripley – its Mother – alive.
Having secreted itself aboard the Betty, unbeknownst to the crew until way too late, Ripley must take the only real option available to her and kill the creature; killing her own child, effectively.
Intentionally cutting herself on the Newborn’s tooth under the pretence of nurturing the creature, she flicks the resulting acid blood onto a small, glass window hatch, breaking the seal and leaving all within the stricken hangar vulnerable to the cold, unrelenting vacuum of space.
Herself and Call safely strapped down tight, Ripley must watch in horror and pain as the creature – its fate now known to it – is pulled by its very flesh through the small hole in the window.
As its skin bursts and its organs spill out, it is not so much the visuals which disturb here, but the sound design, as the hybrid is slowly sucked out into space.
The monstrous yet inexplicably human screams of agony, betrayal and – most distressingly – fear as this hapless creature meets its violent death, actually serve to cast the Newborn as a sympathetic victim as opposed to a murderous villain.
Article written by Chris Joyce