Alien: Covenant Review

Of all the countless films I’ve seen over the years, none have captivated me more than Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece, Alien. From the lonely atmospheric environment, to the fantastic H. R. Giger design work, all the pieces fell perfectly into place to create a one of a kind science fiction beauty.

The 1986 sequel Aliens, directed by James Cameron and once again starring Sigourney Weaver, also enthralled me, in a completely different way. Aliens didn’t try to recreate what made Alien perfect, it was its own entity, full of science fiction action and awesome one-liners.

My love for the first two Alien films runs deep, and they deserve a respectable prequel film. So, going into Alien: Covenant, I knew that I’d be judging it far more critically than most films. And for the most part, after viewing the picture, I felt this was a worthy prequel to my favorite movies of all time.

The plot, taking place some years after Prometheus, centers in on the crew of the spaceship Covenant, who are on their way to a distant planet to colonize. Leading this crew is now first mate Christopher Oram (Billy Oram), who takes over after damage to the ship leads to the captain being killed.

Christopher decides to end the spaceship’s voyage early by landing on a nearby remote planet, with the belief that it may have intelligent life. But when things go awry for our protagonists (as they always do in these movies), they must enlist in the help of an android named David (Michael Fassbender), who may not be the man he appears to be.

There were many moments in Alien: Covenant that felt like a complete retread of Alien. In fact, some were almost identical. We have the crew of a ship woken up from cryo-sleep, we have our characters investigating an unknown planet, followed by a bunch of unfortunate events that result in our surviving crew fighting an alien. So instead of getting a new sci-fi adventure, we get a rehashed version of the original. Despite this issue, I still enjoyed Alien: Covenant more than something like Prometheus. Yet I commend Prometheus for at least trying something new with the series, which is more than I can say for this.

The acting and dialogue kept me entertained, and I enjoyed the various different character personalities we’re introduced to. At times, certain conversations or line deliveries would get hokey and too melodramatic for my taste, but for the most part the characters interacted in an appealing way. I especially loved any scene with Michael Fassbender, as his character of David is both mysterious and brilliant in all the right ways.

The environment created for this film is visually impressive, and expands upon the vast lore previously established by the franchise. I’ve always been fascinated by clever sci-fi gadgets and landscapes, and Alien: Covenant really delivered in that department.

Unfortunately, along with the retreading plot, the worst aspect about this film is that many points and ideas just don’t add up. For example, Alien: Covenant suggests that it was David who created the Xenomorph, through extensive years of breeding. However, if this is true, then how did we already see imagery of the Xenomorph in Prometheus? If you’re just the casual moviegoer with low stakes in something like Alien, then I’m sure this won’t bother you. As for a die-hard fan like myself, major inconsistencies like these tend to get on my nerves.

Overall, Alien: Covenant doesn’t even come close to comparing to Alien or Aliens, but I’d be surprised to hear if anyone thought it would. And honestly, it didn’t have to! Alien: Covenant stands pretty strong as its own piece in the series. It gave just enough back story to the inception of the Xenomorph (as well as other minor aspects) without spelling out every detail of Alien for the audience. Alien: Covenant is a film that respects its source material, and is full great science fiction scenery and technology. I’d recommend Alien fans and other science fiction fans to go ahead and check it out, as I believe the film is a pretty enjoyable experience.

I feel as though some individuals will be disappointed with Alien: Covenant, in the same way they were disappointed with Prometheus. In that, the audience still really doesn’t get any answers. There is no direct link made to any of the Alien films, other than partially furthering the lore along, which makes this flick feel very inconsequential. And if that’s the conclusion you come to after watching this, I would completely understand.

The Verdict: B-

-Zachary Flint

Phoenix Forgotten Review

From director Justin Barber and producer Ridley Scott comes another boring found footage movie, this time about aliens.

Similar to the premise of The Blair Witch Project, Phoenix Forgotten is a story about three teenagers who go missing in the Arizona desert while searching for UFOs.  These events take place only a few days after the real life occurrence of the ‘Phoenix Lights’, where thousands of people claimed to see UFOs. And, like most found footage films, I’m sure you can guess exactly what happens.

Unlike The Blair Witch Project, this film is completely unbelievable in its approach. I can’t tell if it was meant to appear real, or if the audience was supposed to know the events transpiring were fake. Either way, the writing was often pretty atrocious, making it very clear from the get-go that it was fake. Overall, I’m just not sure it’s possible to make a convincing (or even realistic) found footage movie in this day and age.

Another major issue with the film is how little it tries to scare the audience. I was actually shocked by the end of the film because of how insignificant the tension is. While I was glad Phoenix Forgotten didn’t resort to silly jump scares, I was expecting at least some thrilling moments. Instead, we the audience get next to no scares or thrills.

I considered the possibility that this was meant to be more about the characters and less about getting scared like your traditional found footage movie. Yet, I don’t even think that argument makes sense. There are plenty of plot points (like the love triangle between our three protagonists) that go absolutely nowhere. Even the few touching and heartfelt moments in Phoenix Forgotten feel like they are unresolved and go nowhere. By the film’s end, none of the character plots are satisfied, at all.

So if Phoenix Forgotten isn’t scary, isn’t believable, and isn’t the least bit fun, than what is it? Who was it made to please, or entertain? Well, I have the feeling we’ll never get that answer. Phoenix Forgotten is a messy and directionless film that I hope I’ll forget very, very soon.

The Verdict: D-

-Zachary Flint

40 Years of Horror: Best Horror Films By Year 1975-2015 (In Pictures)

My picks for some of the best horror related films of the past few decades.

1975: Jaws

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1976: The Omen

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Runner Up: Carrie

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1977: Suspiria

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Runner Up: The Hills Have Eyes

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1978: Halloween

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Runner Up: Dawn of the Dead

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1979: Alien

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1980: The Shining

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Runner Up: Friday the 13th

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1981: The Evil Dead

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1982: The Thing

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Runner Up: Poltergeist

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1983: Twilight Zone: The Movie

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1984: A Nightmare on Elm Street

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1985: Re-Animator

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1986: Aliens

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1987: Evil Dead II

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Runner Up: Hellraiser

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1988: They Live

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Runner Up: Child’s Play

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1989: Pet Sematary

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1990: Arachnophobia

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1991: Silence of the Lambs

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1992: Candyman

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1993: Leprechaun

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1994: Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

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1995: Se7en

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1996: From Dusk Till Dawn

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Runner Up: Scream

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1997: Anaconda

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1998: Ringu

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1999: Audition

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Runner Up: The Sixth Sense

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2000: American Psycho

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2001: The Others

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2002: 28 Days Later

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Runner Up: The Ring

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2003: House of 1000 Corpses

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2004: Shaun of the Dead

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Runner Up: Saw

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2005: Hostel

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2006: Slither

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2007: Planet Terror

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2008: The Strangers

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2009: Orphan

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2010: Insidious

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2011: The Cabin in the Woods

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2012: V/H/S

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2013: The Conjuring

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Runner Up: Mama

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2014: It Follows

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Runner Up: The Babadook

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2015: Krampus

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Zachary Flint