A mysterious lifeform takes over a restricted area with no route for escape. There are a limited number of protagonists, who slowly get picked off by mysterious lifeform one-by-one. Eerie atmosphere is matched only by short moments of panic from said protagonists while they watch - or hear - their friends die to the mysterious lifeform.
While the recent efforts of Deep Blue Sea and Anacondas have been suspect to say the least, Ridley Scott's Alien brought this genre alive with its truly frightening extra terrestrial.
Sigourney Weaver - Empire's 5-star actress - takes the reins of leading actress, third in command on a freight spacecraft sent to investigate a distress signal. The above story takes place, with 'Alien' as the mysterious lifeform, Nostromo - the crew's gargantuan craft - as the restricted area and her other six crew members (and cat) as the protagonists.
Much of the film is spent in wonder at what might happen next as the tension is slowly built using many techniques that are commonplace in modern film. Chains are gently rattled, a shadow passes across the shot and the music slowly rises in tempo and volume.
During the scenes of action, the audience is rarely treated to a full shot of the 'Alien', instead having to piece together an image in their mind of the monstrocity. This technique was replicated cleverly in the 2009 film, Cloverfield.
Throughout it all Weaver rises in confidence - both the actress and her character. To me, she is noticably more expressive as the film goes on as her crew gets slowly whittled down. She seems much happier on central stage rather than playing second fiddle to her male 'superior' officers.
Despite all this, there was one final nag... I am about to watch Aliens - how could that improve on the original?