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Short Cuts: “Alien” Universe Edition

Thursday, April 25, 2019 | Short Films

Last month I let you know about Twentieth Century Fox Film and global creative community Tongal’s plan to roll out six new short films set in the Alien Universe to celebrate the original’s 40th anniversary.  Being a huge fan of the franchise, I was so excited to get my hands of them that this month I’m devoting the entirety of Short Cuts to them.  

If you’re interested in taking a look at the films for yourself, head over to IGN as they started releasing one short a week back on March 29th.  On May 3rd they will all be available on the official @AlienAnthology social channels and, along with exclusive behind-the-scenes content. 

Now, let’s see what these directors can do when given access to play in the xenomorph’s sandbox.

ALIEN:  Containment
Length: 10 minutes Director: Chris Reading Starring:  Gaia Weiss, Theo Barklem Biggs, Sharon Duncan Brewster
Containment takes the audience back to what it felt like in the first act of the original Alien, before you really knew what being “infected” means in a world where xenomorphs exist.  As four people look to escape catastrophe on a space station, they find themselves on a small shuttle craft with suspicions that some of them may have been exposed to a pathogen being experimented on in the facility’s lab.  The film leverages suspense by putting us in the mindset of people who don’t know what’s coming, and letting us squirm with the knowledge that we do.

ALIEN:  Specimen
Length:  11 minutes Director:  Kelsey Taylor Starring:  Jolene Anderson, Aubrey Wakeling
Specimen is a very claustrophobic film featuring a botanist, her dog, and a recently delivered plant sample that seems to have a rather hazardous egg stowed away in it.  Kelsey Taylor submerges most of this movie in darkness, giving us quick peeks of danger through the narrow beam of a flashlight.  It all comes to a satisfying climax in what turns out to be a really interesting twist to a long-running Alien trope.

ALIEN:  Night Shift
Length:  10 minutes   Director:  Aidan Brezonick Starring: Amber Gaston, Terrance Keith Richardson, Christopher Murray, Tanner Rittenhouse
The Alien films make for interesting science fiction partially because they forgo a lot of the flashier tropes seen in a lot of sci fi and focus on the average grunts still doing their routine jobs hundreds of years in the future.  Such is the case in Night Shift, where a couple of truckers stumble into a supply depot looking for a drink after one of them wakes up without any memory of how he became unconsciousAdmittedly, I question some of the character decisions made for the sake of giving the young supply worker a hero moment, but on the flip side there are some really great practical effects on display.

Length: 11 minutes  Director:  The Spear Sisters Starring: Mikela Jay, Tara Pratt, Dalj Brar, Steven Stiller, Ambrose Gardener, Theresa Wong, Alexandra Quispe, Julie Boersema, Bola Omodara, Calder Stewart, Christian Lagasse
I’m just going to say up front that this was my favorite short of the bunch.  Its a basic premise, with a group of miners stuck underground with a creature who just killed one of their fellow workers.  But it’s executed so well, incorporating a lot of what makes the Alien franchise interesting and supplementing that with some great performances, particularly from the badass grandmother heroine.  Everything culminates in an ending that packs an emotional punch that I wasn’t expecting.  Definitely check this one out.  

ALIEN:  Harvest
Length: 10 minutes Director:  Benjamin Howdeshell Starring: Agnes Albright, Jessica Clark, Adam Sinclair, James C. Burns, Alex Ward
In the Alien movies you never quite know where the danger is going to come from, even if you happen to have a motion sensor.  Such is the case in Harvest, where four people are trying to get to an escape pod without running into the business end of an extending mandible.  You’ll probably see where this one is going before it gets there, but I think director Benjamin Howdeshell had to have known that would be the case given the franchise’s history, and I think he uses that to play with the audience a bit.

ALIEN:  Alone
Length: 13 minutes Director:  Noah Miller Starring:   Taylor Lyons, James Paxton
Alone looks at the effects that isolation can have on us, and how even the most seemingly even-keeled person can go a little mad when there’s no one to talk to.  In this case, the protagonist is the only person left on a ship who breaks into the one room that the ship’s computer has been keeping restricted from her for unknown reasons.  OK, we know what the reasons are.  But what’s interesting here is how the protagonist interacts with the specimens she finds.  I won’t get into too much detail suffice to say I was reminded of a twisted version of Tom Hanks’ relationship with Wilson the volleyball in Castaway.



Bryan Christopher