I recently watched Alien: Covenant, the sequel to Prometheus and the prequel to the original Alien movies. I’ve always been a big fan of cold, grim sci-fi, and while sci-fi/horror isn’t my preference, the Alien movies (at least the first two) are near masterpieces of high technology and primal terror.
Like most people, I was a bit disappointed with Prometheus as an Alien prequel but it was an interesting film in its own right. Naturally, I was very excited to see Covenant be the bridge between Prometheus and Alien (though there are still gaps with room for at least one more movie). And like most people, I was more than a bit disappointed in Covenant for a variety of reasons. Rather than listing them here, just watch this hilarious spoof trailer from the comic geniuses at Screen Junkies (I have yet to see an Honest Trailer that I didn’t agree with).
One of my biggest complaints with Covenant (which some of my friends have also mentioned, as does the Honest Trailer) is that the alien xenomorph is overexposed. We hardly got a good glimpse of it in the first film, and even in the second film where there are multiple aliens, the camera rarely gives us more than its freaky drooling grin and elongated cranium. Every horror director knows that the most terrifying thing you can do to an audience is make them use their imaginations. You can frighten yourself more than any writer or director can, and the more information you have, the less terrifying the horror becomes.
Fear comes from a lack of power. We do not fear things over which we have control. And since knowledge is power, the more you know, the less you fear. What is the simplest way to gain knowledge of something? Turn on the light.
You hear a bump in the night. It could be anything…but when you turn on the light, you see that it’s just a book that fell off the shelf. (But wait, how did that book fall off the….? *cue creepy violin music*). Seeing what something is gives us more information, and more power. This was a major flaw in Covenant, in my opinion. We see the xenomorph jumping around in broad daylight. It’s still pretty freaky but far less so than when it skulks through the narrow corridors of a spaceship. I was really more interested in figuring out if it was a man in a rubber suit or motion capture. B.B. King said it best: “The thrill is gone away.” I’ve seen the xenomorph in full view before but after so many movies, and in such well-lit surroundings, what should have been a scary scene was very underwhelming.
The same principles can be applied to sin and even the devil himself. As believers in Christ, we have literally nothing to fear, for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Of course, we are still weak, fragile human beings and fear comes as naturally to us as breathing. Yet we do not have to fear the mysteries of sin and evil. This world is full of darkness and insidious forces, but the more we know about the power of the Holy Spirit through us, the stronger our light becomes and the smaller and less scary sin and evil become.
Imagine hunting for a spider in a dark room using only a candle. Spine-tingling, right? You’d probably be terrified that it might jump into your hair at any moment. Now imagine that room has giant fluorescent lights and with the flick of a switch, you could illuminate the entire room. The spider is still there, still creepy-crawly, but you know exactly where it it, how big it is, and how to catch it. You now have the power (you always did, even with the candle. It’s just a spider, for crying out loud). The important thing is to realize the light we have and how powerful it is. John 1:4-5 says, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (NASB). The power of light can turn a walking nightmare into a CGI curiosity.