Friday, June 15, 2012

Midian Occupied

Everything is true...

God's an Astronaut, Oz is Over the Rainbow,
and Midian is where the monsters live.

As you all know by now, I had a fascinating, genre-film filled weekend that culminated in what's only been the second showing of the "Cabal Cut" of Clive Barker's infamous 1990 horror film most commonly known as NIGHTBREED.The victim of it's own ambitious scale, the film was actually an adaptation of Barker's own novella, Cabal, about a world in which classic "monsters" were the secluded, and unfairly persecuted victims of the more commonly accepted human society. Less a horror film and more a grotesque, surreal fantasy that segues into a bloody class war in the final act, it was shunned by test audiences who basically wanted to see the next Hellraiser and didn't see why we should give a shit about characters with horns and tails and poisoned spines over the 'real' people who just wanted them fucking dead. Massive cuts were made, reshoots were ordered to increase the presence of David Cronenberg's (creepy as hell!) character, and new dialog was shot to dramatically simplify the character development between the film's romantic couple, and leave two of the film's more likable characters breathing by the final scene. In the end, Barker finished a project that bore less resemblance to his own novel than he'd ever hoped, and me more or less washed his hands of it upon release. Urban legend had it that the version of the film Morgan Creek initially accepted was 126 minutes, but that either they or the film's final distributor, 20th Century Fox, made roughly 25 minutes worth of cuts before releasing the film to the public. Worse yet, despite Clive Barker's next esoterically minded not-quite horror film Lord of Illusions having been given new life on home video with an expanded Director's Cut, Morgan Creek has said for years that because the film wasn't a commercial success, they don't see any reason to release whatever additional footage still exists.

For well over a decade, I assumed that whatever it was Clive Barker had wanted to put up on the screen was simply lost to the ether. Thankfully, the people behind the OCCUPY MIDIAN "movement" - particularly Mark Miller of Barker's own Seraphim Studios, and Russell Charrington, video editing professional - took that as something of a challenge. Piecing together no less than two VHS workprints and the same master used for the commercial DVD in final cut and using Barker's original treatment as their template, not to mention the extended Danny Elfman score and some long overdue ADR work from Doug Bradley, these men have finally restored Barker's original, grandiose vision to an almost shocking 153 minutes. As you can imagine the quality isn't perfect; the VHS masters are quite dark and covered in print damage, some of the restored dialog is only half-audible, and there are plenty of extended scenes that only have score where it's clear ambient sound and, at times, even dialog would have been added in post... but it doesn't matter. I saw that rough cut from a 23 year old videotape on as big a screen as you can imagine, and frankly, I was enthralled just to see what all the fuss was about!

So, what's been restored? It'd be unfair to say anything but "Everything". Despite the runtime suggesting a roughly 50 minute difference between the two versions, this isn't entirely true, as with one exception, all of the re-shoots ordered by Morgan Creek have been completely deleted. Without a copy to compare on hand I'd guess that at least an hour of new footage, some of the most notable additions being...

And just incase it wasn't totally, blatantly, 100% crystal clear, MASSIVE SPOILERS for Nightbreed follow!

Right after the opening titles we're given a completely different sequence between lovers Boone and Lori, in which he promises to see her sing at the club. Decker calls him and convinces him to meet up with him the next day, and Boone gets upset, acknowledging that he "fell apart" some time before and that people are just waiting for it to happen agaion. The scene in Decker's office unfolds in much the same way, but after he takes the "medicine" we see Boone go to the club to watch Lori sing, but see him get increasingly disoriented until he wanders out into traffic - this was supposed to be a side-effect of the drugs Decker gave him, not an a suicide attempt. (All of this except for the scene in Decker's office was replaced with a short, generic scene of Lori and Boone in bed discussing that Decker wanted to talk to him for unspecified reasons.)

Following the murder of the suburban family, we're introduced to Detective Joyce, who gives more background on the masked killer as the bodies are hauled away.

We actually see Boone jump out of the hospital window, and this leads to a scene where Joyce and Decker discuss what might have happened to the body. Later on, after meeting her new friend in the ladies room, Jodi explains her bizarre circumstances and the woman at the bar thinks the whole thing is bizarre, but offers to help her out all the same. The scene ends with a man who "embodies class" buying her a drink.

Captain Eigerman is shown attending a press conference, where it's revealed to him that Boone was already killed once in his jurisdiction. This leads to the scene where he storms in and demands answers from Decker.

Jodi is given a power to see through Babette's eyes, which leads to a scene where she watches as the police begin their march on Midian. This is dropped completely from the theatrical cut.

When Captain Eigerman gets ready to march on Midian, he goes to the police armory and we're introduced to a gun-obsessed cop who points out every piece of firepower at their disposal like an excited salesman. This is followed by several scenes of rednecks piling trucks up with firearms and riding off to Midian.

Several extended scenes of Nightbreed being mowed down by the Police and Rednecks. We see at least two-dozen nameless "minor" characters shot in cold blood underground - men, women and children shot as they run for their lives. When Boone fights off several armed men and sees that the Nightbreed have all resigned themselves to their fate, he tells them to fight - "If not for yourselves, then for your children!" He then leaves the refugees and Jodi in Narcisse's care.

Through the film, Decker hears voices in his head from the "zipper-face" mask he wears when he kills. Through the entire Midian battle he spends most of his time chasing after Jodi above ground, and actually decapitates Narcisse when he tries to save her.

It's made clear from before the war between the police and the Nightbreed that Father Ashberry feels there's no evil within Midian, which he tells to Captain Eigerman while he's setting booby traps. This builds up to the scene where Captain Eigerman nearly shoots him, only to be knocked out by Boone. In the theatrical cut, it looks like Eitgerman runs away once the Berserkers are unleashed; in the theatrical cut, he finds the transformed priest who swears revenge against Baphomet. Eigerman drops to his knees and begs Ashberry "Take me with you!" - the priest snaps his neck in reply.

When Father Ashberry continues down towards Baphomet's chamber, he watches several Nightbreed flee, one of them being a leopard-girl riding on a giant lizard.

Babette is saved by Joyce, not Jodi, who finds her amongst the carnage and picks her up, shielding the child as best he can. Also, Babette's mother never kills a man by punching through him; she plays the role of a pacifist through the original cut, which makes much more sense considering how she acts around Jodi in general.

After Midian is destroyed, the theatrical version ends with Boone and Jodi meeting up with Narcisse. In the extended cut, Boone and Jodi wake up outside the graveyard and the scene plays out in silhouette; Jodi begs him to take her with them, and when he refuses she slits her own belly. Boone hesitates, but bites her to transform the dying girl into a Nightbreed. There's a long moment of silence, and Boone shrieks, thinking his lover dead, until she comes back and tells him she'll never leave him. They embrace, and then it cuts to the surviving Nightbreed hiding in the barn, unsure when, or even if, they'll see Boone again.

There are a number of brief additional scenes of violence, including extended takes of Narcisse peeling off his own skin, Decker slitting the throat of the chubby father early on in the film, and the fat monster with the worm-like appendages yanking the man's eyes out; in the Cabal Cut, you actually see the yanked out eyeballs in the worms claws.

Scenes NOT included in the "Cabal Cut" include when Rachel punches through one of the invading rednecks, Boone and Jodi meeting up with Narcisse after the destruction of Midian, the theatrical opening scene with Boone and Jodi in bed, and Decker's resurrection at the very end of the movie. What IS included from the reshoots is the scene where Decker interrogates his victim wrapped in Christmas lights, explaining his plans for the Nightbreed.

With at least an hour of new material I haven't quite mentioned everything, but surely you get the idea; the movie has a number of character arcs restored that were once left on the cutting room floor, there's more time spent establishing who the real monsters in the story are, and yes, there's a goddamn musical number to boot. The "Cabal Cut" fills in several gaps left by the theatrical cut, and adds in a number of ideas that were present in the original Cabal book but largely fell by the wayside during the adaptation from novella to screenplay. It's a long-lost artifact, and a testament to Clive Barker's vast and totally unique vision... but is it a revelation?

I'm inclined to think that while it's overall a notable improvement on Nightbreed as the world has known it since 1990, the so-called Cabal Cut still isn't perfect. Obviously the video quality of the VHS workprints is god-awful, and there's a number of scenes present with (essentially) music only, no voice overs or synced sound effects, but these are a minor annoyance in the face of the film's new epic length. The last thing I want to do is quash the enthusiasm we should all feel just for this footage to have appeared in the public eye after 20 years of curiosity, but the fact is the "Kitchen Sink" approach to this cut does drag and get a bit tiresome in spots, particularly the oft-repeated snarling from Dirk Lyseberg that "the laws have been broken" which he does seemingly every ten minutes here. The restored sub-plot about Jodi sharing a psychic link with Babette is a neat idea, but ultimately it does little for the story, and only serves to complicate the already surprisingly dense narrative. Similarly, while I do like the idea that Decker is getting "messages" from the mask that propel him to commit his heinous acts of violence, the realization feels a bit like it was shoehorned in because it made sense in the book, not because it would make sense in the movie based on it. This was a flaw that Barker largely avoided when he adapted Hellraiser from his own novella The Hellbound Heart, but here he has a lot of elements and not nearly enough time to focus on all of them. The producers behind Barker did Nightbreed no favors by removing an hour from its runtime, but how much better the film gets with every second of that footage restored will be a highly personal matter.

What I will give Barker and everyone behind this unique project is that the film has had two of its more important talking points restored: Boone and Jodi's love story, and the now-indisputable core that Man is the real monster, not the maligned and largely ambivalent Nightbreed. These are the two things that the leaner, meaner cut of Nightbreed lacked, and as Barker - himself an "outsider" in the eyes of the typical scope of heterosexuality, or even those who lack an affection for the sadomasochistic and the just plain moribund - seemed to want to impress those two messages through the film more than any other, restoring every scrap of footage, whether it worked as intended or not, to get them back is a small price to pay...

Well, I suppose not EVERY single scrap of footage ever made for the was present; it's mentioned on the Clive Barker website that on the first draft of the Cabal Cut, Captain Eigerman dies twice: First was his original fate from the original script, and the second death was from the reshoots. This footage doesn't appear in the Theatrical or Cabal cut of Nightbreed, and that leaves me to wonder what else might have been included on that 126 minute cut Clive Barker submitted to Morgan Creek that was removed between his involvement and the producers re-cutting the film however they saw fit. The Cabal Cut is absolutely the director's original vision, but can we call it "Ultimate" if there's footage on those workprints that we still haven't seen after over two and a half hours?

The film has always had some flaws that cut far too close to the bone, and I can't say all of them are improved upon here. The film's acting has always been a little confused, with Cronenberg's turn being deliciously layered and the two leads being... attractive. They're not terrible, mind you, but the over the top shtick of the Nightbreed and the hard-nosed world of the cops trying to piece it all together walks a fine line between clever and absurd. I also don't think that Danny Elfman's score - used in its entirety for the first time here - was ever what Barker wanted to accompany what's, by far, the closest thing to a world-spanning epic his small stint as a genre director allowed. It's not that the score is bad, it just seems to belong to a considerably schlockier, sillier film than it's playing on top of. I wouldn't say that this soundtrack being someone else's idea is an unfair guess, either; let's not forget that he wanted the industrial band Coil to do the original soundtrack for Hellraiser, only to be vetoed by producers and get a "classical" score by Christopher Young further into production.

The whole reason they're showing this analog Frankenstein is to raise awareness - and money, but more on that in a minute - that this footage still exist, and that with the right level of incentive (ie: an audience willing to put their money where their mouth is), Morgan Creek might be willing to dig through the vaults and see what they can find for a new, extended Blu-ray release. According to the producers they sounded interested as of last week; this is a big shift in tone from 2010 when their only reply was "Not now, maybe down the road." Unfortunately, nobody at this point in time is certain how MUCH of the film still exists on archival 35mm elements; is there still a master print for the 126 minute print featuring all of the reshoots? Could 35mm dailies still exist for every scrap of footage used to create the Cabal Cut? Nobody's really sure at this point.

As I've already said, the Cabal Cut is not perfect... it is, however, the film that Clive Barker actually set out to make, and while I think the world can agree that Hellraiser is his most satisfying work, it absolutely deserves a second chance to anyone who wanted to know what the full story was. Honestly, if we could even get the 126 minute version in High Definition and had the rest of the deleted scenes as an extra, or the full 153 minute VHS workprint as a bonus DVD, I'd still be pretty damn excited.

You may all get your chance to judge for yourselves soon enough; as of TODAY, the producers at Morgan Creek have officially given Clive Barker the go-ahead to raise the funds for a new Blu-ray release. I don't regret having spent just shy of $20 getting myself and the missus in to see this new cut, and if that small fee helps get the Blu-ray rolling, all's the better!

And so, what is below will no longer stay below...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Something to Shout About

Shout Factory has released a wide variety of typically older movies and TV shows that fans of the eclectic probably know all too well. They've been no strangers to horror and cult arena, having released the first legitimate HD print of a Takashi Miike film with Audition, as well as having finally saved Rocko's Modern Life from a lifetime in the 21st century of short, broadcast-cribbed Youtube clips. And before you fear that a line like this will slip into obscurity before they're out of the gate, they aren't stupid; they're raking in all sorts of sweet, sweet Brony money by being the distributor for a number of current TV shows, including My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Still, their track record is long and surprisingly stable, so it's without hesitation that I'm excited to see them having thrown down the gauntlet and created "Scream Factory", a new sub-label focusing on producing special edition BD/DVD presentations of cult horror films. Their inaugural release is a one-two punch including a bonus-features laiden special edition of Halloween II ('81) and Halloween III: Season of the Witch, with Terror Train being the next title in line. Also announced were new DVD/BD editions for Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse, Wes Craven's Deadly Premonition, Death Valley, and the two titles I'm most excited to pick up personally: Don Coscarelli's Phantasm 2 and John Carpenter's They Live!

This is one big pleasant surprise* as some of these titles have never even had a proper R1 DVD release. Also of note is that every title will contain a host of all-new bonus features, and in the case of Halloween 2, that includes a second DVD with the rarely seen "TV Version" in its entirety. I've always loved seeing completely alternate cuts of a film included when they were substantially different, and as the TV master was made by speeding up footage and re-dubbing lines left and right, including a host of "Deleted Scenes" - as Universal did on their release last year - is only half the masochistic fun. Word is they can't get the Carpenter/Piper commentary for They Live!, which is a damned shame, but I have little doubt they'll either record a new one themselves or come up with something just as satisfying. Better yet, while I think the three faux-vintage covers Scream Factory have come up with are pretty fun in their own right, every single release promises a reversible cover with the original poster are on the B-Side.

*Well, pleasant enough. I personally can't stand THE FUNHOUSE...

While their Audition Blu-ray transfer was, sadly, not very impressive, it's pretty well established that the elements for that film have never been very good to start with. Yes, it could have looked substantially better, but somehow I find myself hard-pressed to get too upset knowing the original negative still exists and they were flatly refused access to it. They scanned an Internegative made for international distribution and then said, "There, done." Odds are most of these films have their negatives readily available, and as major studios like Paramount and Universal would likely be doing all of the transfer work, I have little doubt that we'll get some stunning looking presentations out of the deal... and if not, you bet your ass I'll be one of the first to let you know about it.

If you needed any more incentive to pick it up, ordering HALLOWEEN II from Shout Factory's site nets you a Haddonfield Memorial Hospital nurse's cap, while for SEASON OF THE WITCH you get a poster with their newly-commissioned cover artwork. A clever little incentive to get fans to give the distributor as much for these titles as they can, but as Amazon already has those two up for $20 a piece, these neat little paper goods (limited to "Less Than 500" each) just aren't enough to get me to go balls deep at MSRP-plus sales tax and shipping.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Firestarter: A Few Thoughts On PROMETHEUS

Ridley Scott's freshly released Science Fiction feature PROMETHEUS is, though a decent Science Fiction and action/horror film, a terrible prequel. Having this site all to myself and feeling twitchy about my latest experience at the cinema, I'm going to abuse my position and rant like a crazy person with everything that I felt was wrong about it. Just so we're clear, I am going to spoil the everliving SHIT out this brand new movie. I don't usually do that, but I've got some things to try to work out in my skull and I can't think of a better place to do it than here, so... yeah. If you haven't seen it, just do what everyone else is doing and exploit an loophole to get a free ticket. All the cool kids are doing it, which, of course means I was a sucker and paid out of pocket.

So, let's get the good news out of the way first; it's a great looking movie, one oddity aside. Scott has always had a visual flair, and the reverse-engineered creatures that inhabit LV-233, such as the anus-worms and the squid-fetus, are pretty goddamn cool. The Prometheus ship itself is a sight to behold, and the technology - though hilariously out of place in what's supposed to take place before Alien, which has CRT monitors on a mother fucking intergalactic 18 figurative wheeler - all has a sleek, hip look that'll be kind of cool for about 10 years, and then look hilariously awkward thereafter. Yes I know, Scott's own Blade Runner still looks good 30 years later, but... well, let's just say that I'm doubting lightning will strike a third time in the man's career for a timeless, iconic, and perhaps even perfect science fiction film.

It doesn't pull any punches, either; everyone who was worried about a watered down PG-13 film had very little to fear. It's not exactly a non-stop gorefest, but the "abortion" scene alone is the sort of thing we, as a culture, will never let preteens in to see without a written note, and the grotesque explosion of the re-animated Engineer is a scene literally pulled from Scanners. It didn't sacrifice its aims for a PG-13, and in a world where franchises like Terminator and Die Hard and even that first deplorable "Alien Versus Predator" film have done just that, it's nice to see a film earn its rating without explicitly going out of its way to offend the viewer with blunt force.

Noomi Rapace is fantastic as Ripley 2.0, as I figured she would be, even if her native Sweedish accent comes and goes whenever it wants to. I'm actually a bit surprised how adorable Salander is under all that mohawk, and thought she was perfectly fine in a role that saw her broken down, piece by piece, until she was just crawling forward step by step towards survival. Michael Fasbender plays his role as the creepy android to the hilt, using stilted and awkward mannerisms to craft a character that's immediately recognizable as not quite human, but his weird boner for Peter O' Toole and gallows humor that neither Ash nor Bishop possessed are... confusing, to say the least. It's a great performance unto itself, it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense in the context of an Alien film. (Scott has suggested that this takes place in the same universe as Blade Runner which MIGHT help any further arguments, slightly, but let's... let's just not even go there.)

That's sort of the problem though; the screenplay for this film - likely one stitched together from three or four earlier drafts with completely different aims - is all sorts of fucked up. The IDEAS behind it, tying ancient aliens to the existence of God, are actually pretty cool, but... the dialog is sloppy and the characters are mostly dumb canon fodder. Rapace gets the most depth, but we literally learn about her because Fasbender is recording her dreams. It's as dumb as it is creepy, but whatever, I can deal with it. She's also supposedly sterile, but it's only mentioned in passing and never really explained; this is supposed to lead to a big TWEEST, of course, but the twist doesn't work because we don't know what's actually wrong with her. The biology of the Xenomorph has never been especially well defined, but this flick just makes shit up as it goes along.

Speaking of which? The Space Jockey. Did you ever look at H.R. Giger's masterful sculpture of a fallen alien and think, "Wow, I really hope that bio-organic monstrosity that's part Elephant Man and part La-Z-Boy turns out to be a dude in a skin-tight flight suit?" Baby, are you in luck! So yeah, not only is the Space Jockey smaller than we remember him, but he's actually "The Engineer", one of an ancient race of pre-humans who gave birth to us by sacrificing one of his brethrin on Planet Earth. I'm okay with the idea of mankind being, essentially, the cast-off bastard spawn of a race of giant, buff supermen, and while the design is kind of goofy unto itself, the strong, Kinski-esque facial features, bulging muscules and sterling white skin do, intentionally I think, recall the image of Greco-Roman sculpture as we know it today, stripped of its layers of gaudy paint and seen as antiquity. It's actually a cool idea... it just has nothing to do with Alien. Not only was the Space Jockey bigger and shaped completely differently from these assholes, but his mask connected to his chest. The "armor" may be a semi-organic construct in Prometheus - it does seem to literally grow out of his throat, like scales - but for fuck's sake, there's no way Giger's Space Jockey was just a really tall dude in a costume. I mean, just look at the two of them!

Oh yes, it also says in no uncertain terms that the Engineer DNA and Human DNA are EXACTLY THE SAME THING. Hey, Science Bitch? I hate to break it to you, but a 10 foot tall race of albino hairless aliens are going to be at least a little bit different in terms of its DNA. I mean, hell, different people have different DNA, they just share the same number of chromosomes... unless they're born malformed. That's what we call down syndrome. So, yes, children born with unfortunate birth defects are different at their DNA level, yet somehow these Space Supermen are exactly the same as us? For fuck's sake... if the line were "The genomes have a striking level of similarity", I'd nod and say, okay, sure. But this? Come on, Scott. We're not braindead 12 year olds, but the film sure seems to assume we are sometimes. Case in point; the entire crew of the Prometheus seems in on the conspiracy to let Rapace get torn apart by her alien-baby, but when she gets it removed... nobody cares. It's obvious that Walyand and David are in on everything together, so I guess it makes sense that they don't react with shock when she shows up with a fresh Cesarean scar, but nobody else gives a curious "Wow, you okay?" line. They just kind of completely ignore the fact that she's covered in blood and a giant fresh surgery gash and go on with the next scene like it's no big thing.

Worse yet, it doesn't tell us some super-important stuff like... what does the black "life goo" actually do? Seriously, I don't have a fucking clue other than "it's bad". When an Engineer takes it, he becomes a life bomb and becomes the first Man; when a man takes it, it just makes him spew parasitic worms through his balls. When worms take it, they become proto-facehuggers that either kill or infect their victims with Rage Power; they aren't especially clear if the geologist* was throat-raped or just kinda fell face first in a puddle of that shit, so I honestly can't tell. (Also, the biologist nerd was throat-raped to death? The hell?!) That's the kind of gross, symbolic nonsense I'd expect from Zulawski, but here it's just... I mean, wouldn't the spores infect Rapace herself, not just her eggs? This notion that it turns males into alien inseminators is just a head-scratcher in a franchise built on bio-mechanical rape imagery.

*Am I the only one who thought the mohawked, sneering, "I'm gonna tote a machine gun with me?" dude might as well have had WEYLAND INDUSTRIES MERCENARY tattooed on his face instead of runes? An obvious idea that gets dropped by the wayside when the film figures he just isn't that important.

Also, what the hell killed off all of The Engineers to start with? We have holograms of them running away, even getting killed off in their escape of SOMETHING, but nothing's ever made especially clear. Did Xenomorphs already exist two-thousand years ago? Is that why there's green spooge all over the buttons built into the walls? If so, where the hell did THEY go?

I'm semi-okay with the biologist guy patting the Anus Cobra, and the other guy taking his helmet off once it's confirmed the air is breathable. Is it stupid? Yes, incredibly so. But the actors have described their characters as "X-Games Scientists" in interviews, so we just have to accept that they weren't taking this shit very seriously. At the end of the day it's still a pulp inspired Sci-Fi movie made for the masses, and there's plenty of throw-away moments in Alien that aren't that much smarter. For the record, the fact that over half the crew is basically nameless canon fodder kind of makes me shrug and cease to care; everyone was well defined in Alien, sure, but it had a considerably smaller cast. Developing 17 characters effectively when most of your runtime is dedicated to alien stuff is hard,so focusing on the two or three most interesting characters and treating everyone else as disposable when you already know they're pretty much going to die is hardly a poor use of your resources.

Also, why would said Protohugger give birth to a Protomorph that looks like a pointy, half-formed version of the Alien we all know and love? If this is a prequel to Alien that means whatever was on LV-426 burst out of a (giant?) Engineer, and if the Engineers are literally us, wouldn't it just, like... give birth to a regular goddamn Xenomorph? If Scott wants to ignore the notion of the "Queen" and everything that followed, okay fine, but that doesn't mean any of this makes a lick of sense - at best we're left with the "Original" alien that laid the eggs, but with zero explanation as to how it got off of LV-233, or why it happens to inhabit a crashed Engineer ship seemingly identical to the one it was born next to. Worse yet, there's no literal explanation for why the Xenomproh-creating goo exists; the captain calls it a "Weapon of Mass Destruction" as a passing insult to the whole shebag, but we don't actually know if that's what it is or not. I suppose that's fair - after all, Alien had its fair share of unanswered questions - but why craft a prequel only to raise further questions?

Oh, right, because Scott wanted to direct a big budget genre franchise. Guess only time will tell if that happens or not...

The only thing that "works" in my mind is the notion that LV-223 and LV-426 were completely separate testing facilities, and that the events on LV-223 are meant to give is just enough context to fill in the gaps ourselves as to what was really going on in Alien - that the eggs were a separate and unrelated experiment, and that the Engineers were the ones behind it. This would imply that the black goo created the Xenomorph from "something", which infected the Space Jockey, and then bam, Alien. This works less knowing that the Space Jockey is just an asshole in a permanent costume, since the mythology of the Alien has evolved in such a way that the parasite takes on genetic cues from its host; clearly Scott isn't going that direction, but if the Xenomorph's prototype doesn't have the Giger-esque level of exoskeletal armor and he didn't get it from The Engineers, where the fuck did it even come from? For a concept that claims to un-do Darwinism, removing "evolution" as an obvious factor only makes these muddy waters closer to syrup. And am I the only one that thinks the final shot screams of last-minute reshoots to satisfy producers who were promised an Alien prequel and felt they didn't get it? This is the only scene that kind of looks like crap; the rest of the special effects all have a level of finesse and polish worthy of a big-budget 3D experience, but the birth of the Protomorph is just... it looks like a cut scene from a middle of the road videogame. Is it emotionally satisfying to see it after 2 hours as someone who was too young to have seen the glory days of this franchise on their original release? You bet. But the more I think about that sticky, malformed little bastard, the more questions it raises, and the more frustrated I become for it.

I suppose all of this is rage under the bridge, though; at the end of the day it's a tense, exciting, and visually stunning Science Fiction/Horror hybrid which - much like Splice, come to think of it - a fascinating thrill ride that asks a lot of important questions about what it really means to be human, but it's just too convoluted to be any sort of masterpiece. Without being unfair, I had a lot of fun watching the icky mysteries of man unfold, I just think it was a bad idea to not separate it from Alien completely and treat Prometheus as a completely new entity. Like I said, it's a pretty good movie... it just fails miserably as a prequel. Scott has already said that we're "about two movies away from ALIEN", so at least he's perfectly aware of how much bullshit he's introduced without settling old business in the process - and perhaps he did that on purpose? I guess I should be satisfied that he knows what he did, but the fact that we're so far away from Alien after 2 hours is kind of ridiculous.

I must stress one more time: The film Scott actually did make isn't bad at all. It's a thrilling, fascinating look that casts a "what if?" light on both evolution and religion, and does it with a cast that's capable, even if most of them are given too little to do. If it were possible for me to stop cuddling my plushie Face Hugger and discount 20 years of fascinating with Scott and Giger's creation I'd probably think this was a very good (if only a bit clumsy) film all unto itself, and as such, if you're a bit less obsessed with the "Prequel" status than I was and Outer Space Horror is, kind of your bag, I think you'll be in for a treat. Scott has admitted that he requested a re-write to downplay the Alien connections, and I think that was a mistake; he either needed to embrace this as the sole stepping-stone between Prometheus and Alien, or cut the two from one another forever. Anyone saying we can't judge it by the same standard as Alien is lying to themselves; we can, we should, and as a spiritual successor, it does more harm than good. But that doesn't mean the film we actually got was a waste of 2 hours or some intense horror imagery, so while I totally understand why the long time fans of Alien are pissed and ready to call this worse than Alien 3 and Resurrection... I simply don't agree. It's by far the best part of the franchise in 25 years, and if that isn't something to celebrate, I'm not sure what is.

Fun Final Thought: Could the always lovely Charlize Theron have been a dude the whole time? Clearly that "male-calibrated" medical pod was there for daddy, not her, but that could have made the scene where she tells the captain to come to her room in 10 minutes pretty goddamn hilarious none the less.