Allowing “us just to LIVE there”: Atmosphere and Audience Evaluations of the Alien Film Series

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In 1999, Will Brooker turned his attention to the existing and expected transmedia sequels associated with Star Wars, Blade Runner and Alien, and the ways in which they were debated and evaluated within the emergent internet fan communities of the time. Brooker here noted the distinctiveness, in this regard, of the Alien film franchise. Each instalment having been directed by an auteur filmmaker, with an identifiable style of their own, meant that the Alien series was distinct as a franchise and exhibited a marked ‘openness to diverse authorial styles’ (1999:64). Consequently and for Brooker, as fans observed Ripley being ‘flung’ across the series ‘from one aesthetic and generic universe to another’, they evaluated the Alien canon in a particularly open and flexible manner, with the ‘respective qualities’ of each film in the series being ‘entirely open to debate’ (1999: 53 & 63). This chapter builds on (and, in some ways, challenges) Brooker’s observations through an analysis of discussions of the Alien sequels gathered as part of the 2012-15 Alien Audiences international audience project. Drawing on key discourses employed in these responses (which, crucially, include assessments of Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien series with Prometheus), this chapter will explore the significance of atmosphere, mood and tone as a set of evaluative criteria employed by many respondents to measure consistency and continuity (as well as difference) across the film series, and the ways in which this can allow audiences to excuse flaws of plot and characterisation within particular Alien film instalments. The paper will draw on Robert Spadoni’s analysis of the textual employment of atmosphere within particular horror films in order to consider how this critically prized but ‘nebulous’ – and to date still relatively under-theorised – ‘thing we call atmosphere’ can serve as a key anchor for invested audiences of the Alien series (Spadoni: 111), allowing them to foreground evaluative criteria which maintains the franchise’s perceived strong relationship with highbrow horror and genre production.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHorror Film Franchises
EditorsMark McKenna, William Proctor
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication statusSubmitted - Apr 2020


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