Home / News / ‘Alien: Resurrection’ at 25: The Underwater Chase Sequence Remains a Franchise Highlight [Scene Screams]

‘Alien: Resurrection’ at 25: The Underwater Chase Sequence Remains a Franchise Highlight [Scene Screams]

Jul 23, 2023Jul 23, 2023




The deaths of Newt, Corporal Dwayne Hicks, and Ellen Ripley in 1992's Alien 3 created a significant obstacle to the franchise's continuation. Five years later, Alien: Resurrection answered this problem by resurrecting central heroine Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) as a clone, spliced with xenomorph DNA thanks to the alien queen embryo gestating within the actual Ripley before her death. How Resurrection handled this pesky problem, and the return of the xenomorphs proved extremely divisive upon release, with one notable, unifying exception: the mesmerizing underwater chase sequence.

Resurrection takes place two centuries after Alien 3 and follows the mercenary crew of the starship Betty. The mercs deliver their human payload to the USM Auriga, a military ship deep into their extensive scientific study of the xenomorphs. So much so that they’ve cloned Ripley numerous times over and have full-grown xenomorphs in captivity, which happen to break free while the Betty crew are on board, prompting a fight for survival from both the damaged Auriga and the lethal aliens.

With the ship under heavy damage and the high death toll, the remaining members are forced to make their way through the ship's flooded kitchen for an escape route. The protagonists must hold their breath for an extended period, dodging obstacles and debris underwater with two apex predators closely in pursuit. It creates one of the franchise's most intense yet visually thrilling chase sequences.

Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen, The City of the Lost Children) kicked off production with this intricate, elaborate, and dangerous sequence. Filming this intense chase required multiple weeks of training with stunt coordinator Ernie Orsatti and underwater cinematographer Peter Romano, followed by a month of shooting the sequence in an enclosed set completely submerged in over 12 feet of water.

The Alien: Resurrection featurette, "Death from Below," chronicles the challenges involved. Winona Ryder, who plays surprise clone Annalee Call, recounts how a near-drowning experience at a young age instilled severe anxiety when approaching this scene, while Broadway obligations left Weaver unable to attend much of the training to prepare for the scene. Gary Dourdan had to accommodate Dominique Pinon, strapped to his back as paraplegic character Dom. That so many characters were involved meant it was even trickier for stunt and diving coordinators to track them all at once, creating more than a few harrowing brushes with disaster. There was also the matter of the fully submerged kitchen set accumulating debris and bodily fluids over the weeks it took to film the sequence.

Scarce oxygen and limited vision affected none more than special makeup effects legend and creature performer Tom Woodruff Jr., who played the lead xenomorph in this sequence as well as the Alien Queen and Ripley's newborn hybrid. The fiberglass, foam, and latex xenomorph suit meant the creature actor couldn't see or hear and had to put complete trust in the stunt team to help guide him.

The camera tracks eight different characters into and through the watery kitchen, followed by two inhuman creatures. Not all of them make it to the water's surface alive. Jeunet effectively captures how ill-equipped the humans are underwater; their clunky movements, the way the weapons and added weight slows them further, and the desperation to find air before it runs out add to the suspense. It's all contrasted by the sleek way the xenomorphs glide and maneuver through the water, underscoring how well they adapt to any hostile setting. The almost otherworldly underwater sound gives way to a nail-biting score, signaling imminent danger that heightens the tension to a palpable degree.

This stunning sequence took an incredible amount of labor and craftsmanship, and the effort was more than worth it. For one intense, edge-of-your-seat scene, Resurrection slowed down time for a showstopping moment that threw impossible odds at its characters in the most breathtaking (pun intended) way.

Scene Screams is a recurring column that spotlights the scenes in horror that make us scream, whether through fear, laughter, or tears. It examines the most memorable, and often scariest, scenes in horror and what it is about them that makes them get under our skin.

Horror journalist, RT Top Critic, and Critics Choice Association member. Co-Host of the Bloody Disgusting Podcast. Has appeared on PBS series' Monstrum, served on the SXSW Midnighter shorts jury, and moderated horror panels for WonderCon and SeriesFest.

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Happiest of birthdays to Robert Englund, and Happy #RobertEnglundDay!

Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story is now on SCREAMBOX, coinciding with the horror mainstay's 76th birthday. The documentary was shot over the course of two years, highlighting the life and career of the classically trained actor and director.

Featuring interviews with Robert Englund and his wife Nancy, as well as fellow genre icons Lin Shaye, Eli Roth, Kane Hodder, Tony Todd, Adam Green, Bill Moseley, Heather Langenkamp & more, the documentary follows Englund's career from his early days in Buster and Billie and Stay Hungry (starring with Arnold Schwarzenegger) to his big break in the 1980s as Freddy Krueger to his directorial debut with the 1988 horror film 976-EVIL to his iconic acting status in current roles such as Netflix's hit series "Stranger Things."

To celebrate, here are eight of the prolific actor's best roles in the genre… beyond Elm Street and Freddy Krueger.

V – Willie

The 1984 miniseries "V" introduced a reptilian alien race masquerading as humans that use a request for aid to invade Earth. The miniseries, followed by a TV series and a prequel miniseries, saw a faction of humans create the Resistance to expose the Visitors and reclaim the planet. Robert Englund's breakthrough role as Willie, a Visitor, deflects to join the humans in their battle. Englund's Willie is an empathetic Visitor with a solid moral compass that leaves him caught between two worlds, and it marks the actor's first breakthrough role ahead of his more iconic turn as Freddy Krueger.

Nightmare Café – Blackie

This short-lived anthology series created by Wes Craven centers around a mysterious café that grants second chances after death. The magical café and its employees help avenge wrongs or offer redemption. Robert Englund starred as the Nightmare Café's enigmatic proprietor, who also narrated the series. Though there are mischievous aspects to both Blackie and Freddy Krueger, "Nightmare Café" gave Englund a chance to play the antithesis of his most iconic role, but the series was unfortunately cut far too short.

The Phantom of the Opera – Erik Destler

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers director Dwight H. Little aimed for a more horror-centric adaptation of Gaston Leroux's classic novel. That included enlisting Englund, no stranger to playing haunting characters, as the eponymous character. This character iteration isn't nearly as romantic; he's far more maniacal and deranged. Despite a disfigured appearance similar to Freddy Krueger, they’re worlds apart. Englund shows range by introducing another horror villain with a distinctly different persona.

Strangeland – Jackson Roth

Dee Snider's 1998 horror movie about an online predator who mutilates his victims sees Englund play Jackson Roth, a community activist who takes matters into his own hands when the killer, Carlton Hendricks (Snider), escapes conviction for his crimes. Roth leads the charge in vigilante justice, only to spiral dangerously out of control. Englund's role harkens back to the concerned parents in A Nightmare on Elm Street and the vengeance they unleashed in murdering Freddy Krueger.

The Mangler – Bill Gartley

Tobe Hooper's adaptation of Stephen King's short story takes on a haunted laundry press. Or rather, a possessed piece of heavy machinery develops a taste for human blood. Robert Englund always gives good villain, and his scene-chewing turn as the greedy laundry press owner opposite Ted Levin's Officer John Hunton makes for a fun time.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon – Doc Halloran

Behind the Mask is a hysterical deconstruction of the slasher formula set around an aspiring slasher icon, Leslie Vernon. Leslie gives a documentary crew exclusive and intimate access to his life, walking them through his training and detailed plans to slay a group of teens and enter the slasher pantheon. Enter Englund's Doc Hallorann, the take-charge psychiatrist determined to thwart Vernon. Englund channels Donald Pleasence's Dr. Loomis as he refreshingly plays against type here.

Masters of Horror: "Dance of the Dead" – The MC

Robert Englund reteams with Tobe Hooper in this season one episode of "Masters of Horror." The actor plays the boisterous, commanding MC of the Doom Room, a seedy bar that draws crowds over its zombie dance performances. The MC is a savvy, ruthless businessman above all else, and Englund steals every scene.

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer – Professor Crowley

Professor Crowley (Robert Englund) enlists plumber Jack Brooks (Trevor Matthews) to help unclog a pipe. Instead, it unearths a malevolent presence, which winds up possessing Crowley and transforms him into a monster. The irreverent, infectiously amusing creature feature lets Englund run wild as a stuffy professor turned insatiable creature, giving fans a new monster to love.

Alien: Resurrection Sigourney Weaver Jean-Pierre Jeunet Ernie Orsatti Peter Romano Winona Ryder Gary Dourdan Dominique Pinon Tom Woodruff Jr. Scene Screams #RobertEnglundDay Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story SCREAMBOX Lin Shaye, Eli Roth, Kane Hodder, Tony Todd, Adam Green, Bill Moseley, Heather Langenkamp V – Willie Nightmare Café – Blackie The Phantom of the Opera – Erik Destler Strangeland – Jackson Roth The Mangler – Bill Gartley Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon – Doc Halloran Masters of Horror: "Dance of the Dead" – The MC Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer – Professor Crowley