A bleak and intense conclusion to the Alien 40th Anniversary Short Film Project, Alien: Harvest is the most polished of the series.
Directed by Benjamin Howdeshell
And now, it’s complete. The Alien 40th Anniversary Short Film project has come to a conclusion, with the 6th installment, Alien: Harvest. The series, sponsored by Togal and Fox was a competition call for independent small film makers to pitch an idea, using familiar Alien tropes (particularly tropes from the Ridley Scott original) where Fox sponsored $30k to assist the creators in producing an original scene, using original characters within the Alien universe.
IGN has been the distributor of the finished project, and the way they released the films plays out a little like the life cycle of a xenomorph. Alien: Containment. Specimen, and Night Shift dealt with the face hugger and chest burster forms of the alien, and Ore, Alone, and Harvest deal with the creature in the adult form.
Of all these short films, Harvest best managed to maximize its budget. This one really felt like the conclusion to a bigger movie. The concept of the ship, The November, a comet plasma harvester looks awesome. The sets look like a Weyland Yutani cousin vessel of the Nostromo, and the full suited xenomorph was powerful and looks like it came off the 20th Century Fox lot.
We join the surviving crew, in media res, trying to escape the damaged and doomed vessel as it appears destined to collide with the comet in whose coma trail they are following. The crew, Mari (Agnes Albright), Hannah (Jessica Clark), Alec (Adam Sinclair), and Sturges (James C. Burns) aren’t given any background, but you absolutely know what is going down.
They are fleeing for the lifeboats, and there is a full-sized xenomorph stalking them. Added to the mix, Hannah is clearly pregnant, and it appears that Alec is the father… so there is additional incentive involved in getting off of this ship. Not that survival isn’t paramount anyways, but it provides an interesting wrinkle. Again, Harvest feels like a third act climax to a bigger film, and the tension is already ramped as high as it can go. It is very effective with the action and horror bits, and this one gives you a classic horror ending. That said, some of the other shorts seemed a little more self-contained story wise.
I really liked how each of the actors acted with their eyes. They conveyed a lot of emotion without much dialogue to back up the plot. And it’s the LAST look from Mari that you will remember this film for.
I have noticed that each of these short films feature character actors with a fair bit of Hollywood character actor experience. The Tongal requirements for each of the productions was to submit their own actors. Fox and Tongal did not assist the directors in casting, so for these actors, I wonder if they got paid much to be in these, given how expensive the effects, sets, and props look.
Here is how I would rank the short films relative to how much more I want to know about the characters and their plot scenario:
6. Night Shift: A little sloppy, but it offers up a big sandbox to play in.
5. Containment: Could be the start of something really cool. A tad predictable, but a fine introduction to the series.
4. Alone: The headiest short film of the group, asking some tough questions.
3. Harvest: The most impressive looking film in the project, if not providing much of a story. Felt like the conclusion of a bigger narrative.
2. Specimen: The best total story of the group. The protagonist dodged a bullet she didn’t know was fired, and the story is concluded. Self-contained.
1. Ore: Common people as heroes. Captures the ethos of the franchise. I want to see what happens next!
I hope that Universal was paying attention, and is willing to give The Thing the same treatment in two years! Thank you to Tongal, Fox, and IGN for doing this project. Supporting small horror films and their creators secures the future of the genre!