Another horror movie has hit cinemas. The movie "Life" is set in space and aimed at getting audiences pulses racing with suspense. The plot is similar to other horror movies in the past where the innocent little creation meant for good turns into a vicious, scary monster that is out for blood. Unfortunately, the movie comes off as a cliche and very predictable. 5 out of 10 stars.

Chris Columbus’s Mrs Doubtfire is a rather funny movie about a man (the buoyant Robin Williams) who decides to dress up as a woman after his divorce in order to get access to his children as a housemaid. It could be said that it is an interesting, touching and very comedic movie adequately directed, and sufficiently acted. But look no further than 34 years back and we will find Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot, about two guys who dress up as women to hide from gangsters. Some Like it Hot is one of the greatest movies ever made, and downright the finest comedy anyone anywhere ever committed to the screen. Taking this into consideration, and with all the similarities, Mrs Doubtfire then becomes a cheesy rip-off.

Of course, in comparison to the horror movie genre, comedy movies do not rip each other apart as much. A truly original horror movie is a very rare occurrence, appearing only ones every decade or so. In the meantime, we have to make do with, well, Life.

Life is a movie currently showing at the local multiplex, refreshingly in commonsensical 2D. It takes place entirely in a space station (the International Space Station) orbiting the Earth. Inside it are the crew, comprising a pilot, commander of the crew, biologist, engineer, medical officer and a quarantine officer. By the way, this is the sequence of which they die.

The perpetrator is, at first, a very cuddly looking micro-organism, brought all the way from lifeless Mars. The name given to it is Calvin. Like all great movie monsters, it grows quickly – into something that looks like an octopus. One of the crew members comments on the makeup of the organism, saying that it is all muscle, all brain and all eyes. It is also all mouth – a pretty formidable villain.

What happens next is obvious, an even an eight year old could predict. Calvin somehow escapes, and terrorises the crew in the loneliness of space, killing them – not two, or three, at a time – one by one. And to make the movie juicier, and more like a horror movie, the crew loses all communication with anyone from “Houston”. It becomes a race against time to make sure the creature never makes it back to earth.

It is now the time to call attention to Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece Alien. Set in the far future, a group of explorers stumble upon a peculiar egg, which hatches into a very ugly, very contemptible remorseless killer. The movie heralded the new age of sci-fi horror movies, which would later give us movies like The Thing. It was wonderfully directed, evoking an atmosphere of dread and claustrophobia. The film also contains one of the greatest movie deaths, in which an unfortunate John Hurt has an infant alien burst straight out of his heart.

Seen today, Alien may look like a cliché that is going through a predetermined mainstream horror movie path. But the movie was made in the late 70s before the formula became a cliché. It is one of the first – if not the first – to do it. One could almost say it created the formula.

Life, in itself, is not such a bad movie. The performances are passable. Ryan Reynolds has the right sense of humour, and macho indignation; incredibly enough, he is very modest in the film, taking only very few scenes. Ariyon Bakare, though less known, is very touching. And Jake Gyllenhaal, a most underrated actor, who almost always gives an impressive performance, is effective as always.

I also had nothing against the direction or where the camera is put, maybe not at the most interesting of places but at the right ones. Enough is done to make the audience feel the isolation the characters feel in space or the claustrophobia of the space station. I even liked Calvin or rather loved to hate it. I admired how it was presented as faceless in the first half of the film. There are not a lot of monsters who look cute but are not. Some of the ways Calvin disposes of its opponents is also unforgettable.

Are we all supposed to pretend to have never heard of Alien?

Are we supposed to say, bravo, for a respectable reproduction of a highly admired horror masterpiece?

Surprisingly, this movie, for some reason, has a script. It is a good thing because this means someone has a job, makes a living. It is a bad thing because the film written by this person has to be released to the general public. It is a bad thing because the time that could have been used to watch Alien, which has the exact same plot, has been lost.

By Christian Tesfaye
Exclusive to Fortune

Published on Apr 01,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 882]



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