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I'm a little late with this, but a few weeks ago we got a series of six short films to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original Alien, created by fans in conjunction with 20th Century Fox and Tongal. Now that they're all out and I've had the chance to watch them all a few times, I feel like sharing my thoughts on them.

Alien 40th shorts

Before I get into reviewing each individual short, some general thoughts about the project as a whole. I honestly wasn't too sure what to make of this when it was first announced, but I'm pleased to say I really enjoyed what we ultimately got. Sure, some of the films were better than others, and some of them had some obvious faults, but overall I was thoroughly impressed with what the people involved created. Big kudos to all the filmmakers who took part. And I have to make mention of James Paxton cropping up in two of the films, that was a really neat touch.

Alien: Containment: The opening shot of this, with the Borrowdale silently breaking apart in space, was absolutely superb. The rest of it couldn't quite live up to that incredible opening, but it was still a solid piece based on a neat concept. The production was obviously slightly handicapped when it came to creature effects, but they got around it reasonably effectively. The final shot of the writing on the shuttle door was another great moment visually. Also loved the shot of Nass' hand twitching post-'burst, a nice nod to Kane in Alien.

Alien: Specimen: Any concerns I had that these films might end up being no more than average was immediately dispelled by this short. Fantastic. Great concept, really well edited (loved the music montage, such a simple way to get us to connect with Julie), solid acting from Jolene Anderson in the lead, and a brilliant twist at the end that suddenly made everything fall into place. The Facehugger CGI was a bit ropey, but for the budget that's understandable and to be honest it didn't detract from an otherwise excellent short film.

Alien: Night Shift: Again, really liked the opening to this one, just wish they hadn't felt the need to so obviously acknowledge the Facehugger that was lying in the corner of shot; it was perfectly obvious that it was there and what it was, so pointing the camera right at it felt like a disservice to the audience. Some great creature effects in this one, especially the shots of the Chestburster moving under Harper's skin and pushing out of his gut. The end was pretty creepy too, but overall I found this to be the weakest of the six.

Alien: Ore: Another highlight. Great to see one of these using a bigger, ensemble cast, and the characters were all built nicely. Tara Pratt in particular impressed me with her performance as Hanks. Some eye-catching cinematography, especially in some of the transitions. Several of these shorts suffered from characters making dubious choices, but I completely bought their motivations in this one. And HOLY SHIT that CGI Xenomorph! The shot of it leaping onto the wall really made me sit up and take notice.

Alien: Harvest: Didn't like this much at all first time around, but with a repeat viewing it really grew on me. At least one of the entrants had to do the obvious "Alien stalks people through corridors and kills them" film, and this is it. I'm not sure it was what the director was going for, but I found the conclusion in the escape pod to be darkly hilarious, and all the more memorable because of it.

Alien: Alone: Probably the most divisive of the six, and definitely the most arty. Great to see one of the teams going a bit outside the box with the concept. Brilliant performance from Taylor Lyons, especially as she's flying solo for the majority of the film. I liked the idea of her being trapped with a Facehugger that couldn't really do anything with her. Another thing that made me smile in this one were the retro model shots, which really reminded me of Red Dwarf.

I guess the natural conclusion to any review of these shorts is to rank them. So, without further ado:

  1. Specimen
  2. Ore
  3. Alone
  4. Harvest
  5. Containment
  6. Night Shift

But as I said, regardless of ranking, these all impressed me in one way or another. Great stuff.

Now can we get them on DVD at home please :P

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