Hot Docs review: Memory: The Origins Of Alien

Alexandre O. Philippe marks the 40th anniversary of Ridley Scott’s horror classic with a deep-drive into the famous chestbuster sequence

MEMORY: THE ORIGINS OF ALIEN (Alexandre O. Philippe, U.S.). 95 minutes. Rating: NNNN

After making the illuminating (and cheerfully nerdy) Psycho documentary 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene, Alexandre O. Philippe set out to mark the 40th anniversary of Ridley Scott’s deep-space nightmare by making a similarly focused look at that film’s groundbreaking chestburster sequence, where… well, you know. But he found himself pushing further and further into it, looking at the mythological, psychological, social and cinematic elements that screenwriters Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, creature designer H.R. Giger and director Ridley Scott used to construct a moment that clarified, and continues to resonate through, all of horror cinema.

Memory: The Origins Of Alien – which takes its name from Dan O’Bannon’s original title for the project – takes its time getting to its centerpiece, first considering the long, complicated road to the film’s production, and how unlikely it was that a blue-collar look at space travel could even get a green light in post-Star Wars Hollywood. The late O’Bannon and Giger are present through archival clips, as is director Scott, who declined to participate in the doc. (So did Sigourney Weaver.) But Scott’s absence almost enhances the idea that this thing came together of its own accord – as though we all somehow shared the same nightmare for two hours in 1979, and it just won’t let us go.

May 4, 3:45 pm, TIFF 2

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