Back to IndieWire

Watch: 9-Minute Video Essay Explores The Grisly Chestburster Scene From ‘Alien’

Watch: 9-Minute Video Essay Explores The Grisly Chestburster Scene From 'Alien'

We’ve all been there. You eat and eat and eat, and your stomach gets so full, you feel as if you’re about to burst. Well, if you were Kane (played by John Hurt) in Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” then burst it did. Though, not exactly due to too much food.

The “chestburster” scene from the 1979 film is one of cinema’s all time classics, and CineFix breaks down the mechanics and history behind it in this amazing new “Art of the Scene.” The nine-minute video starts with an introduction of the key players behind the “Alien” aesthetic, namely Scott, writers Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, and designers Ron Cobb, Chris Foss, and H.R. Giger.

Cobb, a former engineer, was largely responsible for the look of the Nostromo, the crew’s ship in the film. The dining room he helped bring about gave a sense of normalcy to the deep-space setting, which was then irrevocably shattered when the young xenomorph exploded from Kane’s chest. And what a hideous beast it was. H. R. Giger’s inspiration for the chestburster apparently came from Francis Bacon’s 1944 triptych, “The Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion.” I 100% buy that. Check out the paintings to see for yourself. Damn, they’re creepy. (While I’m on the subject, be sure to check back for updates on “Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World,” an upcoming documentary on the legendary designer.)

You’d think the design team would have had a lot of guidance from Dan O’Bannon’s script when coming up with the xenomorph birth, but that’s actually about as far from the truth as you can get. All the script offered by way of direction was, “This thing emerges.” That’s it. Can you imagine writing action description like that? And the result is one of the most iconic scenes in science fiction movies?! “This thing emerges” is about as cryptic a description as you can find. Read too quickly, and you’ve missed it. Yet, Ridley Scott knew what he had in mind for the moment, and he apparently kept it under wraps from even the cast, so as to ensure as honest on-camera reactions as possible. No one quite knew what to expect; it was sort of a take-it-as-it-comes moment for the cast and crew. The scene has since gone down in movie history.

Watch the full video below and head to Press Play for more background on the chestburster, the Nostromo, and “Alien.”

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: News and tagged

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox