A few days ago the film world was shaken by the sad news that H. R. Giger, the creative genius behind the creature designs in Alien, had passed away aged 74 following complications from a fall. The Swiss artist, who won an Oscar for Visual Effects for his work on Ridley Scott's masterpiece, had only recently been conducted in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, an honour that was long overdue.
While Giger's reputation has been largely cemented by Alien, it's worth taking a moment to acknowledge his wider influence on the cinematic landscape. Before working with Scott, he designed many of the components that would have appeared in Alejandro Jodorowsky's version of Dune, widely considered one of the greatest films never made. Some of his designs eventually emerged, albeit in a heavily modified form, in David Lynch's version. Giger was disappointed that he didn't get to work with Lynch directly, being an enormous admirer of Eraserhead.
Other examples of Giger's work can be found in lower-profile films, including the original Species, the often-underrated Poltergeist II: The Other Side, and the bizarre Troma horror-comedy Killer Condom. But his work on Alien remains his crowing achievement, with his designs becoming some of the most iconic and terrifying in sci-fi and horror history. His work is shocking but also deeply symbolic and nightmarishly surreal, giving his work a staying power that filmmakers would kill for.
If you want to pay tribute to Giger, I thoroughly recommend revisiting Alien, with both its original cut and the 2003 director's cut being available on DVD. I'll leave you with two interesting morsels to get you in the mood. One, from Lists of Note, is a detailed list from screenwriter Dan O'Bannon about the various elements needed to realise his artistic vision on set. The other, from the sister site Letters of Note, is an angry letter from Giger himself, responding to his lack of proper credit on Alien Resurrection. RIP.