As we are establishing in this series, opening scenes are important for setting a tone. This is especially true in horror. As we saw in the first dream sequence in A Nightmare on Elm Street or the first murder by Ghost Face in Scream, they introduce more than a single movie, but a whole franchise as defined by the villain. However, not all horror films show their monster / killer card in the opening scene. To illustrate this point, we present this week's film, Alien.
Before a creature bursts from John Hurt's chest and way before Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) warns "Get away from her, you b@$%!" (Aliens, 1986), Ridley Scott's space horror started with commercial mining starship Nostromo, and its crew, waking up from cryo-sleep (after an initial credit sequence spanning the space around the ship).
The scene itself is referred to as the initial sequence. There is no dialogue, no Queen Mothers, only silence and then slowly the computer monitors coming alive as systems are restored to normal operations. For me, this opening scene creates more tension than the alien attacking someone. It puts the audience in an eerie place, not sure what to expect. This is why this opening scene, though understated, is brilliant. They, and therefore the audience, wakes up in the middle of deep space and something, though we are unsure what that something is, will go wrong.
I was able to find a few seconds of the opening for you to watch. Though Alien is science fiction it sits firmly within horror as well and deserves its place this month alongside the vampires, the serial killers, the ghosts, and other creatures that go bump in the night. Watch it. Enjoy it. And marvel at its introduction. Then remember to check in next week for the final installment of this series.