We’re coming up on the scary movie season and we have some great movies lined up this year. Before we get to that, though, I need to clear the decks. My son and I watched Alien 3 a couple months ago, so I need to add that. (I reviewed Alien last year here and Aliens here.) Not my first choice, as I remember it was quite poorly reviewed at the time, and I don’t recall anybody ever saying it was worth watching. But my son really wanted to see it.
So how was it? Hmm. Not good. But not as bad as it could have been. The premise was decent, writing and acting much better than usual for a horror film, even Sigourney Weaver was back. But it was still just…flat. Not scary. Or even suspenseful. There might have been a good horror movie somewhere in the footage they shot, but what made it onto the screen was not it.
One big problem is that Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has an alien queen egg implanted inside her. Apparently other aliens can smell or otherwise sense that, so they simply leave Ripley alone. Not very suspenseful when your main character is immune to the monster.
Moreover, there is only one alien here–after a whole planet full of them in the last movie. And even that alien is not used well. The tension doesn’t build, and the places where the scares should be are too predictable. During scary movies, my son will often go sit on the stairs out of view of the TV during scenes that are too tense–and he didn’t do that once for this one. A bad sign.
Quick plot recap: After escaping the alien planet in the last movie, Ripley’s ship crash lands on a prison planet. All the others on the ship besides her die in the crash, except one visitor they didn’t realize was on board–yes, they had an alien stowaway. The prison planet was once a major destination for criminals, but the prison is being decommissioned, and all that’s left are a couple dozen prisoners with life sentences, plus the warden and his assistant, and a doctor. The prisoners have fallen under the sway of one particularly charismatic prisoner who preaches that they can achieve salvation by living pure lives and keeping their thoughts pure as well. The female Ripley landing on the planet–the first woman any of them have seen for years–puts a terrible temptation before them.
Is Ripley safe from the prisoners? Are the prisoners safe from the alien they don’t realize is loose among them? Will the movie take advantage of a potentially interesting premise? I’d say the answers to all three questions are definitely “no.”
ALIEN 3 (1992)
Story/Plot/Characters–Good acting by horror movie standards. A good start to the plot but doesn’t follow through. Some characters seem interesting at the beginning, but aren’t developed. The only one we find anything about, the prison doctor, is killed halfway through. (1 point)
Special Effects–The effects, sets, and costuming in the Alien are consistently spectacular. But by this point we’ve seen it all before, and this movie doesn’t add anything new. (1 point)
Scariness–I guess the alien is inherently somewhat scary, but this movie is one of the worst horror films I’ve ever seen for building tension. It simply doesn’t do it. The editing is off, or something. There’s neither suspense nor jump scares. I mean, it’s not for kids, but nobody above the age of 10 is going to be bothered by this. (0 points)
Atmosphere/Freakiness–There’s some good atmosphere in the abandoned industrial settings of the once busy prison colony. That’s probably the best part of the movie. (1 point)