With the latest entry in the “Alien” series about to burst out of some poor soul’s body cavity and into theatres on May 12, “Alien: Covenant” star Michael Fassbender is opening up about moviegoers’ ongoing fascination with the sci-fi horror series that began with 1979’s “Alien”.
In the latest issue of ShortList, Fassbender discusses the sophistication behind the making of the films, why viewers love to be frightened, and how the original film scared the bejeebers out of him when he first watched it as a kid.
“I remember being very quiet that night,” says Fassbender of watching “Alien” when he was a child. “I don’t know why my parents let me watch it — they wouldn’t let me see other 18-certificate films. This one, though… I think they recognized that there was a sophistication to it. It had a profound effect on me.”
Speaking of sophistication, Fassbender explains that “Alien Covenant” director Ridley Scott “understands sophistication, that’s how so much of this franchise is still effective all these years later. Whether it’s a little red blip on a screen, that flashing dot, that monotonous beep. I watch the first film now and the scene with the red blip triggers anxiety in me every time. It seeps into your psyche.”
“Alien” and its sequels, he says, tap into a very primal fear. “It’s about more than just an alien species, because that species has evolved biologically, like humans,” he says. “The concept of [something] growing inside of you is terrifying on a deeper and more profound level. Something parasitic, incubating inside of us, and using us as a host. It triggers our fear element in a very elevated way. The idea of giving birth almost, as well, and the birth killing the host. Humans have a fear of that; our own nature turning against us in some way.”
Ultimately, though, he thinks the ongoing success of the franchise can be reduced to one simple reason.
“People like to be scared. There’s a pay-off, there’s adrenaline and, I think, ultimately, that’s what cinema is… It’s the safest way to be scared s**tless. You know as well that you’re being played with; someone’s about to pull the trigger the whole time,” he says.
“That’s part of the fun, though,” he adds. “Being scared is a lot of fun.”
You can read more with Michael Fassbender in the latest issue of Shortlist.