RIP H R Giger: The Afterlife Just Got A Lot Weirder

There are things that you always remember from childhood, cherished memories, fun times, happy images that always stick with you.

If you think I’m going to talk about one of those, you must be new to the blog.

I wanted to take a moment to note the passing of legendary artist H R Giger. I was deeply saddened when I learned of his passing. He was on my list of people that I would like to sit down to tea with. His artwork never failed to stir something in me. Often his combinations of organic and mechanical images would produce a mixed reactions — equal parts fascination and dread.

Obligatory Spoiler Alert. Stop now if you have not seen
Alien.1

Then there is the Xenomorph.

Arguably, Giger’s most famous image is the titular Alien based upon his Necronom IV. If you love horror and/or science fiction, you are familiar with the Alien franchise. The whole life cycle of the Xenomorph, from Pupal/Egg stage to Facehugger to Chestburster to the final menacing, upright Xenomorph were designed by Giger and created by Giger and special effects master Carlo Rambaldi. The two would go on to win the Academy Award for Visual Effects.

Giger’s artwork is both threatening and sexual. The Alien, for example, mimics the human birth cycle, presenting a horror house reflection of insemination, gestation, and birth. The acts of the Facehugger have been described as “homosexual oral rape”
2 The Chestburster, the tiny first stage of the Xenomorph is a horrible twisting of the birthing procedure. The adult drone’s secondary teeth propel forward on a phallic proboscis and have been likened to vaginal dentation.3

In short, the Xenomorph is a combination of deliberately terrifying, sexual imagery.

As a kid is scared the living crap out of me.
4

Growing up, my best friend lived across the street from me. He was the youngest of the family, and his older brothers had all kinds of cool stuff. One of his brothers had the upstairs bedroom which included access to the attic, which was on the same floor as his room.
5 We were fairly certain that all of the cool stuff6 was hidden there. One day when his brother was out we snuck up there, slipped open the door…

…and came face to face with a life sized standee of the Alien.

First off, you have to understand that this was in the late seventies, before the internet, before the ability to order such things. My friend’s brother had begged, bought, or stolen the Alien from a local movie house.

It scared the living crap out of us.

After learning what a great theft deterrent it was, he later moved the Alien to the top of the stairs in an attempt to keep us from entering his room altogether. He also traced over the intricate lines of the Xenomorph with paint which glowed under black light.

It was the most awesome and yet frightening thing ever.

Obligatory Spoiler Alert Two. Stop Here If You Have Not Seen
Aliens.7

Fast forward to the summer of 1986. Everyone in my house had gone on vacation and left me alone in the house AND with the car. Naturally I called my best friend (a different one than the guy who used to live across the street — a lot changes in a decade) and suggested we go out for the night…

…to see a midnight showing of the sequel to
Alien.8

While not the horror movie in space that
Alien is, Aliens is a wonderfully crafted film with many scary moments. I distinctly remember getting into the car (my mom’s Mustang), starting the engine, looking over at my friend, then both of us opening the doors and peering under the car to make sure it was free of Alien Queens.

I may or may not have decided that I didn’t want to walk past that attic access and chosen to sleep in the living room.

With the lights on.

On the couch with the dog.
9

Giger’s artwork, be it his monochromatic works on canvas, the album covers he designed, his sculptures, or the cinematic creatures inspired by his designs, have wormed their way into my mind. There are times when I am just feeling too sunny and bouncy
10 to write anything really dark. An internet perusal of Giger’s material will always put me in the right mood.

I am saddened by the knowledge that Giger will not produce any new, disturbing imagery. Now I really have to get an excuse to travel to Switzerland so I can visit the Giger bars.

Until then, I’m just going to have to go and visit the crews of the Nostromo and Sulaco.


1 Really? One of the best horror/sci-fi movies ever made? Stop reading this right now and go to Netflix.

2 By Dan O’Bannon, one of the original script writers of
Alien.

3 The full quote from reviewer Ximena Gallardo is so great that I have to include it: "a nightmare vision of sex and death. It subdues and opens the male body to make it pregnant, and then explodes it in birth. In its adult form, the alien strikes its victims with a rigid phallic tongue that breaks through skin and bone. More than a phallus, however, the retractable tongue has its own set of snapping, metallic teeth that connects it to the castrating
vagina dentata.”

4 OK, let’s be honest, the creatures in the first two Alien films still scare the crap out of me.

5 The house I grew up in had a similar set up. There were two bedrooms upstairs, one at the top of the stairs, the other at the end of a hallway. Set in the middle of that hallway was a removable panel which provided access to the storage area which ran the length of the house. The “attic” ran the length of one of my bedroom walls and I had to pass that panel in the pitch dark if I wanted to go downstairs to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I was very aware of the dark, spiderwebbed area so close to my bed and the paltry little thumb latch that secured the divider between that world and mine.

6 At this point we were young enough to define “cool stuff” as comic books and nothing else despite the age difference.

7 Seriously? What is wrong with you? Do you need to borrow mine? I’ve got them on DVD, Blu Ray, and VHS.

8 What? You thought I was going to go clubbing or try to pick up chicks or something? Come on. You know my nerdness.

9 In my defense, I think I was also reading a Stephen King book at the time.

10 Think of the song “Happy.”