Thursday, May 7, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The Movies That Made Me (Part 11)

ALIENS (1986)

Released in the UK on the same day as yesterday's movie comes another endlessly quotable piece of cinematic brilliance. ALIENS goes down in my history as the first 18 Certificate movie I saw at the cinema. I was just 18, by a few months, and I don't think I saw it on opening weekend. That probably went to Highlander. However, while I only saw Highlander once at the cinema (and devoured it on VHS later with dozens of repeat viewings), I went to see ALIENS four times during its initial cinema run (then again when our local cinema decided to do the "trilogy" back to back in one afternoon).

I had a strange relationship with ALIEN - when it came out back in 1979 I was way too young to see it at the cinema. SciFi was the coolest thing ever in my book, especially as I'd just seen Star Wars, but I was far too young to go and see ALIEN. I do remember the adverts on TV for it, and I have a distinct memory of our school form tutor (and English teacher), Mrs Perkins, being very enthusiastic about ALIEN when it came out. She went to see it one evening and then for the twenty minutes or so after registration in our form period at the beginning of the day, she decided to relate the whole story of ALIEN to us from beginning to end.

She was a natural storyteller, and we were all gripped listening to the story of this movie being told to us scene by scene.

I wanted to see it, but I wasn't great with horror movies in my youth. It does say something about the genius of ALIEN that it is a horror movie with very little gore compared to other horror movies that were out there at the time. When it finally aired on UK TV in 1982, I sat up to watch it on my little black and white portable TV in my bedroom and spent a great deal of the movie cowering behind a pillow. I knew what was going to happen, and that probably made it worse.

By the time ALIENS happened in 1986, I was older. Wiser, and certainly more tolerant of horror movies. I'd developed the stomach for it. But ALIENS wasn't a horror movie. It was a war movie. A brilliant, tense, and awesome war movie where the squad of marines were fighting not just one xenomorph, but hundreds.

I knew a bit about what was going to happen thanks to the magazines - the Official Collectors Edition magazine that showed you the behind the scenes filming and making of the movie. I used to collect all of those things, and especially the poster magazines. Heck, I still have them somewhere. I even had the ALIEN poster magazine years before I saw the movie. No wonder I was traumatised, having that poster on the wall as a pre-teen...

Anyway, I was determined to go and see ALIENS. I'd seen the making of the movie that aired on ITV the opening weekend, and it looked awesome. I can't remember who I went to see it with first, but I remember going multiple times in the end with various friends. It was just awesome. And so very quotable.

I think we were all really excited by ALIENS, and Pete decided that his homebrew RPG system (Odyssey) would make a fine RPG for ALIENS. JR was the Gorman of the group, staying in the APC, and the rest of us played marines of varying skill. I thought Vasquez was the coolest and generated a smart-gunner. We were sent into some hairy situations, like quelling rebellions from colonists trying to splinter off from the Earth government, but a lot of the situations went horribly wrong. I remember it was probably our third assignment when the xenomorphs started appearing, and I have a distinct memory of the encumbrance rules coming into play as we tried to get away from the nuclear reactor at the heart of one of the terraforming plants, with the countdown to its destruction echoing in our ears... Drop all the equipment and we may be able to run fast enough to escape the blast...

Now, decades later, there is a new official ALIEN RPG, and bloody tense it is too. We played the Chariots of the Gods scenario and there were no survivors. No player characters, no aliens, no ships. We managed to destroy them both. It was messy, but brilliant.

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