I had some X-Men 93 Flare trading cards back in the day.
This was the period of my life where my family lived in New Jersey.
Sometimes we would play with the trading cards outside. Yeah, we were dorks like that.
We’d hold on to the card we wanted to be and we would pretend we were those characters.
Of course, now I’m missing two and my Reeper card is bent. But those were awesome times.
One day, buddy brought over some Alien trading cards. I was in 3rd grade at the time. It was 1995.
I didn’t know what Alien was, yet, but it sounded really cool. My buddy talked about the Aliens and how scary they were, but how awesome they were, too.
Shortly after, I consulted with my neighbor, who lived two houses away.
He was a year older and didn’t like to hang out at school because he was a grade above me and didn’t want the kids at school to think we were friends.
Yeah, I was that kid at school.
Anyways, I consulted my neighbor and he confirmed that Alien was “fucking awesome,” as he put it.
It was too scary for us.
I decided I was old enough to watch Alien, though. I used the argument that I had seen scary stuff already, and I wanted to watch Alien. I continued, saying that other kids my age had seen it and I was the last one who seemed to know about it.
The argument worked, and lucky for us, my parents owned a copy of Alien on LaserDisk.
Everything about horror movies completely works when you’re a child. If there is suspense in a film, the child will completely absorb it, if there is comedy, the child will laugh along—even if they don’t understand the jokes (I cracked up like crazy watching Blues Brothers and those jokes totally went over my head for a good ten years until I watched the movie again in high school).
Alien scared the shit out of me.
It was not even close to a Goosebumps book.
Everything about it felt completely visceral and real. There were times when I didn’t want to watch it anymore, but I remembered how I had argued to watch it. I was trapped. If I backed out, I couldn’t tell my friends at school that I had seen it, and my parents may not let me graduate to other mature movies.
So I endured the movie. I watched, unspoiled, as the alien burst from the chest of one of the characters.
The scene with the water and the cat, where the alien drops down behind one of the characters? Totally got to me.
And my heart was beating like a cylinder engine when the flamethrowers came out. I was cheering for all of the characters. I thought more would make it.
Spoiler: not the case.
I’ve watched the film since, and I’ve also gotten more into Geiger’s work, who designed the Alien. It’s a total masterpiece of a horror film. It’s so much more than just horror or science fiction. It is a film that stands alone in its originality.
I wanted to write about this because it was such a lasting moment to me.
My journey as a writer of horror has been an unintentional one. It was never my goal to grow up to be this type of artist.
And while I’ve absolutely been embracing the genre, I’ve spent many days wondering exactly how I got to this point.
That’s where some of these posts will come in. It’s me doing my best to figure out where my inspirations come from.
I’ll, of course, be hovering around the various genres. I find a lot of things to be inspirational.
But I’ll try to bring it back to horror as often as I can because it’s become such an overpowering genre in my creative work these past few years.
Will I be creating things outside of the horror genre? Absolutely. I believe I’m pretty open about that.
I’ll probably always return to horror in some capacity though.
To close this up, I think Alien was a movie that impacted me greatly because of the absolute grittiness of it. It took itself so seriously that it almost felt like a documentary. Especially when I was young.
Every effect worked, and the plot felt so tight. Even today I can rewatch that movie and disappear within it, not worrying about jolting scenes that draw me out of the story.
When I write fiction, I try to remember to keep things tight. To cut the fat and make sure I also pay attention to continuity while leaving some mystery.
Because if there’s one thing that Alien does amazingly well: it leaves the viewer with plenty of questions. And the unknown is often the most horrifying thing of all–especially to a child.