Alien: Covenant (M18)
Starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterson, Danny McBride
Directed by Ridley Scott
If you get down to the basics, Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi classic Alien is really a haunted house-cum-slasher flick — except the house isn’t a house but a cavernous space ship, and the slasher isn’t a ski-mask wearing madman but a salivating crustacean beast with acid for blood.
In the following years, Scott left the sand box for other directors to dabble in — save for James Cameron’s Aliens, essentially a war picture, the other sequels (and spin-offs, if you count Alien vs Predator and Aliens vs Predator: Requiem) didn’t stray too far from the cat-and-mouse chase formula.
Flash forward to the present, Scott is back in the house he built, so to speak. Picking up a decade after the events of 2012’s Prometheus — Scott’s quasi-Alien entry — Alien: Covenant follows the crew of the titular colony ship (including Katherine Waterson, Billy Crudup and Michael Fassbender) taking an ill-advised detour from their original mission to answer an SOS from an unexplored planet.
Baaad idea, guys. You know the drill: They land on the planet. They get infected by the Xenomorph. They give birth to hybrid Xenomorph, followed by lots of running and screaming down shadowy, claustrophobic corridors. Let’s face it: All the human characters are part of the moveable feast; Happy Meals for the monster on the loose.
Between the scenes of heart-stopping mayhem, Fassbender steals the spotlight, pulling double duty as David, the synthetic butler from Prometheus, and his descendant Walter. The droids may look identical, but they run on different OSes.
Their conflicting theological takes on the nature of creation provide the philosophical underpinning for the bedlam. One memorable moment has David teaching Walter to play the flute. The scene is playful, creepy, suspenseful, and dare we say, robo-erotic.
Covenant is yet another haunted house movie albeit a high-end one. It plays like a greatest hits collection of scares, jumps and yucky shocks from the previous Alien instalments, except they’re souped-up and come with a few bonus ‘tracks’ thrown into the macabre cauldron of chills. (One such addition is the gruesome, not-for-the-faint-hearted ‘spine-burster’ sequence. Yes, it’s as painful as it sounds.)
Sometimes you can’t help but wonder: Isn’t Ridley Scott a little over-qualified for the job? It’s like hiring a gourmet chef to prep a hamburger. Then again, who cares if it is just as tasty (or nasty)? (***1/2) (Photo: 20th Century Fox)