The first 18-rated film I saw was Alien. I’d been dying to see it ever since seeing its poster on display at the old East Grinstead cinema. A glowing green egg, and the words “In space no one can hear you scream”. It seemed like the perfect recipe for an SF movie, and the fact that they didn’t show the alien on the poster just made me all the more keen to see it. (I have a real hunger for monsters.)
Unfortunately, I was only 8 years old at the time. I couldn’t believe I had 10 years to wait. At one point it came on TV. I savoured reading the article in the TV Times that said even the film’s writer had nightmares about his creation, but my Mum wouldn’t let me watch it for that very reason. Another time, I walked into a model shop in Croydon and was amazed to see they had an action figure of the alien. How could that be? Surely the appearance of the alien ought to be some closely-guarded secret? I was disappointed to find the alien had a basically human shape, but managed to convince myself they’d altered it for the action figure; the real alien in the film would be something much stranger, less human…
And then finally I got my chance to see it. My brother and I were on holiday with my Dad in Scotland. We were visiting some people Dad knew who lived in a large country house (which I for some reason insist on remembering as being a castle, but that can’t be right). Someone there had a video of Alien. My chance to see it at last.
One thing marred that first viewing. Halfway through, the VCR was commandeered by a mum whose young boy just wouldn’t go to bed without watching his favourite video. So, shortly after the alien actually got on board Nostromo, we had an intermission of The Little Donkey, which sort of broke the mood a bit. Then it was back to the film. I can’t remember if I was disappointed to finally see the alien itself, but having subsequently watched the film countless times, I can’t believe I was. What I do remember is, having watched what must be the scariest film I’ve ever seen (bar The Sixth Sense, I suppose), was that we then had to go to bed, and our beds were not in the large country house itself, but in a building a short walk away. Nothing to worry about, surely. We said our goodnights, then left the building… And found ourselves in absolute darkness. That must have been the first time I realised that out in the country, when it’s dark, it’s dark.