Beauty of the beast
After blowing minds and soiling underwear back in 1992, the men behind Alien War are returning to the Arches. Henry Northmore meets the makers of the ultimate interactive monster mash-up
In 1979 Ridley Scott’s Alien quite literally burst into the public consciousness as the ultimate in sci-fi horror. In 1986 James Cameron upped the ante with the heart stopping action of sequel Aliens and even if David Fincher’s Alien3 (1992) wasn’t as well received, it still had its moments with a return to the claustrophobic cat-and-mouse tension of the original. Even 1997’s Alien: Resurrection had the visual flourishes you’d expect from Jean-Pierre Jeunet (who gave us Amelie, Delicatessen and City of Lost Children).
In creating Alien, artist HR Geiger designed perhaps the greatest extra terrestrial of all time, complete with a complex but logical and terrifying life cycle – the creeping Facehuggers attaching themselves and implanting eggs in the human body, gestating until the Chestburster erupts from the host’s body cavity, shedding its skin until maturity, as a spiky, vicious, acid-blooded xenomorph.
Now you can immerse yourself in that nightmare first hand with Alien Wars, an interactive experience inspired by the classic sci-fi films, a new take on Alien War which first reared its head in Glasgow in 1992.
‘We just thought “Wouldn’t it be great if we could pull people out of their armchairs and throw them in with the action – in with the actors, and above all, in with the aliens?”’ explains co-creator Gary Gilles. ‘Basically it’s a ghost train on foot,’ adds fellow creator John Gorman.
It was a successful creation. Over 100,000 people went through the doors of the Glasgow exhibit alone before it toured to Aberdeen and Bournemouth, finally finding a more permanent home in London. Gilles and Gorman managed to secure Sigourney Weaver herself for the official London launch and even she was scared: ‘Although I have been through the movies, I was screaming as much as everyone else.’
Tony Blair was a fan and was even caught with an Alien War mug on the front of The Times, while Michael Jackson and Sylvester Stallone chickened out before it even started.
‘The greatest compliment was Disney coming over to see it in London, as word had got back to them,’ says Gilles. ‘We beefed up the show . . but they were so terrified they asked to be let out half way round.
‘Strangely enough Disney opened up a ride called Alien Encounter about a year later, but they’d toned it down and it just didn’t work.’
So just how scary is it? ‘We’ve had all sorts happen. People shit themselves, piss themselves, puke, faint, run out before it’s even started just because of the atmosphere you’ve created,’ explains veritable man mountain Captain Brigman (aka actor Keith Gainham). It’s a role that requires complete commitment to keep in character when all those around you are losing their heads. ‘My job is running round like a maniac, remembering my lines, remembering cues and shepherding people around; sometimes you find you’re missing people and you’ll find them cowering in a corner smelling of their own shite,’ he laughs.
Coming full circle, they are now back to infest the Arches once again with a completely new show. This is a new chapter, and no longer being in cahoots with 20th Century Fox meant they could finally let their imagination run riot. ‘We believe the franchise has been killed by the Alien vs Predator films,’ states Gorman.
‘Having a contract with Fox we always felt like we were in handcuffs,’ according to Gilles. ‘They were so strict, because of copyright, and they were also always terrified of people having a heart attack and them getting sued, so we had to calm everything down. So we thought “Lets do it ourselves and not get Fox involved,” so now we can really go to town in the way we always wanted it to.’
‘It’s a whole new breed of alien,’ adds Gorman with sinister glee.
So what’s the premise this time around? ‘The Arches received funding for renovations and while they were renovating the sub-basement they found a craft of alien origin and for the last couple of years it’s been under military rule. Now the area is completely secured and we’re taking members of the general public on a tour to see this unique discovery in the basement, this unique alien craft. Rumours that live aliens are being kept down there are totally false.’
Sounds totally safe to us. What could possibly go wrong . . ?
Alien Wars opens at the Arches, Glasgow, 6 Dec.