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Horror Shorts: Alien 40th Anniversary Short #2: Specimen


Cat and mouse, or rather, dog and facehugger square off in the second of the Alien 40th Anniversary short films, which has a very interesting unexpected twist at the end.

Directed by Kelsey Taylor

You know the trope. The dog always gets it, right? The second of the Alien 40th Anniversary short films, Specimen, plays off of that old chestnut of a trope, and blends it in with the Alien-specific facehugger on the loose scenario. In this way, the short feels very much like the scene in Alien where Ripley and Newt are trapped in the lab with a pair of facehuggers.

Julie (Jolene Anderson), a botanist in a colony greenhouse, is working the late shift and her sensitive lab Doberman, Maggie, is highly suspicious of some soil samples that have arrived. Julia suspects that the soil is contaminated, and that’s what the dog is there for. Maggie is a sniffer, and by George, there is something definitely wrong with the recent barrels that were brought in.

Of course, this being an Alien short film, you know that there is something awful in those barrels. Julie continues her shift duties, and since she is rocking out with her headphones on, she does not hear the alarms go off, triggered by the tipping over of the SUSPICIOUS BARREL. Now the greenhouse is in lock-down, and there is something slippery and goopy coming out of the barrel.

The audience knows what this means. Facehugger! If you’ve seen Alien 3, you also know that the dog is also vulnerable to these nefarious parasites. So, here we are, dog and human, trapped in a greenhouse, with plenty of hiding spaces, and the lab in emergency lock down. Cue tension!

I really appreciated the end of this film. There were some serious nitpicks that I had about the way that Maggie was being used… until the end, and my feelings completely reversed. It was fantastic storytelling, using all the lore possible for this scenario packed into one ten-minute piece.

There is some clever foreshadowing in the line “Jules, you shouldn’t name them.” in reference to Maggie. It turns out, it isn’t for the reason you might suspect. Smartly written, playing upon our expectations and then giving it a knowing wink at the close. Maggie did her job, indeed. Good girl!

Tongal and Fox have developed and produced six short films, as an anniversary tribute to Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece. You can see more about the 40th Anniversary shorts program here. IGN is showing all of the trailers on their website.

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