The Alien quadrilogy is a one of the greatest crown jewels of American sci-fi horror. It has been touched by many different producers, DPs, and screenwriters, even 4 of the biggest directors in the industry. The legions of fans suffering from horrific nightmares, however, is due largely to the love for and fear of that very grotesque, very angry alien, the design of which was inspired by Swiss surrealist artist H.R. Giger who unfortunately passed on Monday. To celebrate his incredible career, we've shared a few videos that highlight his delightfully terrifying work.
Though Giger had done quite a lot of artistic work outside of the realm of film, his monster designs for Alien garnered him quite a lot of fame and visibility, even winning him an Academy Award in 1980 for Visual Effects. In fact, he states in one of the videos we share below that working in film significantly helped him to finance his own art projects.
But where did the idea for his famous design of the xenomorph from Alien come from? Well, his Alien is the stuff of nightmares -- literally. Giger was known to have had suffered from night terrors, and because of this, he always kept an artist's pad near his bed so he could sketch what he saw. And one gloriously terrifying night -- he saw it, sketched it, created a lithograph, and named it "Necronom IV," and included it in the first major compendium of his work called Necronomicon. This book was shared with Ridley Scott in L.A. while he was still in pre-production for Alien, and the rest is history.
Ridley also made a statement after his passing:
I am very saddened to hear of Giger’s passing. I think back on how committed and passionate he was, and then consequently, all the security we built up around his ‘lock up’ studios at Shepperton. I was the only one allowed the honor of going in, and I absolutely enjoyed every hour I spent with him there. He was a real artist and great eccentric, a true original, but above all, he was a really nice man. He will be missed.
Giger was greatly influenced by artists Ernst Fuchs and Salvador Dalí. His"biomechanical"style has inspired, intrigued, and terrified those who have come upon his work. The melding of human bodies with machinery and their dark, nightmarish qualities are perhaps all the more interesting/disturbing because though he's a surrealist painter, his designs are eerily realistic in their depictions of what seems like a world where humanity has given in to the lifelessness of technology -- a world without vibrance, emotion, or love. Perhaps that's what made the Alien so scary.
Check out every xenomorph scene from both Alien and Aliens.
Here are a couple of videos highlighting Giger that you may find illuminating. The first one was commissioned by the "Swiss Design in Hollywood" exhibit several years ago, and we get to hear Giger talk about his work while sitting in his personal garden (when you see this "garden," it'll make you smile). The second is a twofer: the first 40 minutes is a piece about Giger's paintings. Proceeding that is a documentary about the making of Alien. (The video quality on this second video is pretty poor, since it was originally taken from a VHS.)
Are you a fan of H.R. Giger? Has he influenced your work? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.