One thing that makes the Alien franchise so interesting is that it grew from one of the simplest, yet most effective ideas that’s every been put to screen. Science Fiction has been a big part of cinema for a long time now, but it wasn’t until 1979, and the release of Alien, that people began to truly fear the notion of outer space, and life on other planets.
Films like War of the Worlds, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, The Day the Earth Stood Still all gave a threat of extinction at the hands of unfriendly E.T.s, but it was always okay, because we always ended up winning. They could come at us with the biggest, most efficient killing machines they had, and we’d still beat them.
That was, until 1979, where a film came along and said ‘how about just one alien on a ship’ – no worries, we’ll shit it – ‘okay, well it’s smart, has an armoured shell, is a great hunter and bleeds acid’ – we’re not so macho now eh. It’s a great, and like I said simple, formula that pretty much changed horror, sci-fi and the act of film-making as whole. And now it’s a franchise, which makes sense considering how popular it was – we even got a great direct sequel with ‘Aliens’, that is a masterpiece in its own right.
But how about a great, not official cuz it’s lying and pretending to be sequel that you’ve probably never heard of? Now there’s a treat amirite?
Alien 2: On Earth is, to be blunt, a pretty bad film, made even more awful by the fact that in Italy, where it was made, it was advertised as a direct sequel to Ridley Scott’s film. Of course, it’s not, that would never fly and to be fair to the filmmakers of this one, it was never meant to be one.
See kids, back in the 80’s when horror films (not rom-coms) were the easiest way to make money in the film industry, film studios (mainly Italian ones) would take a horror film that was supposed to be it’s own film, and somehow connect it to one that was popular in Hollywood at the time.
Thus, Zombi 2 becomes a sequel to Dawn of the Dead (Zombi in Italy), Shocking Dark becomes Terminator 2, and Alien Terror becomes Alien 2: On Earth.
So what is it all about? Well, firstly, I should point out that most of these Italian rip-off films aren’t very good, I mean you could probably guess that, but they do have a certain nuance charm to them. They’re always campy, with terribly dubbed lines and acting, and they just generally aren’t that great to look at. However, they do have some great soundtracks that only a synth can bring, some amazingly effective gore and every once in a while, some of them can be surprisingly good in their own way. Much better that what we see in horror today anyway.
To me, Alien 2: On Earth is no different – people call it a rip-off but it literally doesn’t try and copy Alien at any point. It’s a people trapped in a dark place with a monster story, that’s all. That monster happens to be an alien that was brought home by spacemen but soon after the first grisly death, you’ll forget that bit.
What’s surprisingly good about this one is it is fully aware of how low-budget it is, and doesn’t try anything it couldn’t pull of. True, we never see the alien that’s attacking which is kind of a bummer but we see it’s point of view sometimes, and it rips something off someone, or pulls out an eye, or eats a face occasionally so it’s not too bad. We get a few glimpses, but nothing solid which, because it’s set in a cave, actually makes this monster quite effective. A combination of the character’s reactions and the few flashes of appearance helps fill in the gaps, giving everyone their own unique perspective on what it could look like. Remember when the villain from the Inspector Gadget cartoon never revealed his face and all we heard was his voice? It’s a bit like that. This alien is Dr Claw.
Also, like many Italian horror films from the 80s, it has a fantastic score. I don’t know what it is about low-budget Italian horror films, but they really know how to make a keyboard sound ominous. There’s just something about the quality of the picture, the monster and the sound that can make a film like this really stand out. And hey – even if you end up thinking this film is just awful, which if you’re a normal, sane person, you probably will, at the very least it will get under your skin a little.