How ‘Aliens’ Started It All In Today’s Sick Day Stash

Prometheus” hits theaters on Friday, and I am beyond excited. Even if it’s not a direct prequel, there is simply no film series I care about more than the “Alien” movies. So ahead of Ridley Scott’s return to that world, today’s Sick Day Stash is going to dive back into the film that changed everything for me… but not quite as far back as you’d think.

I often credit “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” as the movie that changed my life. I saw it in theaters when I was seven — not awesome parenting, Mom and Dad, though I sure think you guys are swell — but not necessarily because of the movie itself. It’s because “T2″ led my way-too-young action-craving spirit on the path of other, earlier James Cameron efforts.

Like “Aliens,” for one.

The first time I saw “Aliens” was during an airing on Fox, not two months after my first “T2″ experience. I joined the party late, tuning in when the Apone-led marines first arrive on LV-426. I had no idea of Ripley’s back story. I had no idea what they were doing on this planet, or what they would encounter — aliens of some kind, obviously. All I knew was that this movie came from the director of “Terminator,” and had some pretty sweet action figures already on shelves. That was enough to grab my attention.

Then all hell broke loose. Marines dropped like flies. My favorite, Drake, made a shocking early exit due to Vasquez’s recklessness. I had to find a new favorite quickly. Hicks rose to the top of that pile easily, and in that moment, I became a lifelong Michael Biehn fan. Fast forward a few hours later and Hudson had stopped being such a chickens— in his final moments of life, Vasquez went out like a champ, and Bishop wasn’t so bad either (for an android). That added Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein and Lance Henriksen to my list of actors to watch and love forever; I was shocked and amazed when I later learned about all three of their connections to past and future Cameron flicks.

And then there’s Ripley. Oh, Ripley. There is no action hero I love more in the world, what with her pulse rifle/flamethrower hybrid, her killer maternal instinct, her take-no-bull attitude. Look back in my past and you will see that I have written all of the Ripley-Hicks ’shipper fan-fiction. She is my favorite. I had to know more about her.

So it was through “Aliens” that I went back in time and discovered Ridley Scott’s “Alien” and fell in love with her and this world all over again. Even though I knew Ripley’s eventual fate as the series lead, I was still stunned to watch her fellow Nostramo passengers picked off in such a chaotically random order. The death of Dallas is still one of the most unexpected moments I’ve ever seen captured on film. The half-headless Ash, with his white juices (ew) spraying everywhere (double ew), haunts me to this day. The awful demise of Parker and, yes, even frickin’ Lambert, tied my stomach in knots. That’s not even touching on Kane’s bad breakfast, easily one of the top five most iconic science fiction deaths of all time.

Where Cameron exhilarated me with the frenetically paced “Aliens,” Scott showed me just how harrowing the concept could really be. Witnessing the ability to do such radically different things within this fantastic sci-fi universe — me at the age of seven, no less — stirred something deep in me: an insatiable desire to discover and devour movies, to learn more about how different they can be. If “Terminator” pushed me onto the path, “Alien” and “Aliens” glued me to it. I’ve been stuck ever since.

Fast forward 20 years and here I am, writing about movies for MTV News. I would not be here without “Aliens” first, “Alien” second. So to say that I really, really care about “Prometheus” is an enormous understatement.

Unlike seemingly all of my colleagues and contemporaries, I haven’t seen it yet. I’m avoiding the reviews. I’ve heard it’s divisive. That both concerns and electrifies me. Having slogged through “Resurrection” and the “AVP” movies, I am in dire need of a triumphant return to the world where Weyland reigns supreme, and I’m desperately hoping that Scott and “Prometheus” can do it for me. I have a lot of faith that they can.

But if they can’t… well, I’ve got “Alien” and “Aliens” on Blu-ray and a weekend coming up. If I can’t recapture that seven-year-old magic when I leave “Prometheus” around 2 a.m. on Friday morning, I know exactly where I can reclaim it.

Call them “cult classics.” “Guilty pleasures.” “Comfort movies.” We all have a mental rolodex of flicks that may not be terribly popular but, for one reason or another, they resonate in a very special way. Maybe you saw it at the right moment. Maybe you just see gold where everyone else sees feces. Whatever the case, these are the special favorites that you keep stashed away for sick days. These are some of ours. Tell us about your Sick Day Stash picks in the comments or on Twitter!