Horror Shorts: The Alien 40th Aniversary Short Film Project

In space, no one will see your fan-made homage to Alien.

That is, unless 20th Century Fox funds your film as a winner in their 40 year anniversary of the landmark Ridley Scott movie! Catch the trailer for the upcoming short film releases.

To state the obvious, Alien is one of the most influential movies ever made, regardless of genre. Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece is a benchmark film for production design and raw fear inducing moments. It also is the #1 horror film of all time, in our Scariest Things top 100 horror movie poll that we conducted last year.

And, to continue on in the pointing out the obvious, the sequels have had, shall we say, diminishing returns, and even Scott himself has not proved that he could fully recreate the magic that Alien and Aliens gave us as the one-two punch. So, how best to celebrate the 40 years of influence? Fox decided to launch a short film competition. (Great idea!)

Fox launched this competition through the online creative platform Tongal, where filmmakers were invited to submit their pitches to Fox. The Studio would select their six favorite pitches, and fund the short films $30,000 and award each pitch winner $5000 as a bonus. For an effects-laden short film like what the trailers show, $30,000 will get stretched very thin… I’m suspecting the actors may have gone unpaid for these gigs. From the looks of it, these filmmakers KILLED it, and it’s a testament to the classic can-do horror filmmaker efficiency that started so many great careers in the genre. Damn the budget! Let’s make this thing!

Each of these short films was to use original characters only, but that they should respect the legacy of the original movie, and was to be 5-9 minutes in length. They requested that the shorts reflect the blue-collar nature of the crew of the Nostromo, the use of a powerful female protagonist, and the trademark slow atmospheric build-up of the story.

Tongal also listed a number of interesting seeder ideas, as suggested starting points. I will be interested to know the decision process of the pitch winners, since, like a job interview, if they offer a suggestion, how closely do you show that you’ll adhere to that, and how much wild creativity do you wish to show. Is it more important to follow the rules, or to show imagination and talent? An age old question for all job interviews.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Fox received over 550 pitch submissions, and the studio selected the six best shorts and will be releasing them through the comic convention circuit. The first release of these efforts will be released this weekend at Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, followed by C2E2 in Chicago, and then Wondercon in Anaheim. (Really, Fox, you couldn’t do a release at Wizard World Portland, while we were there? C’mon!)

Here are synopses of the Six Finalist Films:

Alien: Alone — Hope, an abandoned crewmember aboard the derelict chemical hauler Otranto, has spent a year trying to keep her ship and herself alive as both slowly fall apart. After discovering hidden cargo, she risks it all to power up the broken ship in search of human life. Written and directed by Noah Miller.

Alien: Containment — Four survivors find themselves stranded aboard a small escape pod in deep space. Trying to piece together the details around the outbreak that led to their ship’s destruction, they find themselves unsure to trust whether or not one of them might be infected.  Written and directed by Chris Reading.

Alien: Harvest — The surviving crew of a damaged deep-space harvester have minutes to reach the emergency evacuation shuttle. A motion sensor is their only navigation tool leading them to safety while a creature in the shadows terrorizes the crew. However, the greatest threat might have been hiding in plain sight all along. Directed by Benjamin Howdeshell.

Alien: Night Shift — When a missing space trucker is discovered hungover and disoriented, his co-worker suggests a nightcap as a remedy. Near closing time, they are reluctantly allowed inside the colony supply depot where the trucker’s condition worsens, leaving a young supply worker alone to take matters into her own hands. Written and directed by Aidan Breznick.

Alien: Ore — As a hard-working miner of a planet mining colony, Lorraine longs to make a better life for her daughter and grandchildren. When her shift uncovers the death of a fellow miner under mysterious circumstances, Lorraine is forced to choose between escape or defying management orders and facing her fears to fight for the safety of her family. Written and directed by the Spear Sisters.

Alien: Specimen — It’s the night shift in a colony greenhouse, and Julie, a botanist, does her best to contain suspicious soil samples that have triggered her sensitive lab dog. Despite her best efforts, the lab unexpectedly goes into full shutdown and she is trapped inside. Little does she know, an Alien specimen has escaped the mysterious cargo, and a game of cat and mouse ensues as the creature searches for a host. Written and directed by Kelsey Taylor.

The Scariest Things, as you all know, is a huge proponent of the short film format as a delivery method for scary ideas. To see 20th Century Fox use this format to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Alien is worthy of applause, and we here at TST can’t wait to see the results.

Scary DVDs! Woo!

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