H. R. Giger

By Michael Corvin


      This monster maker may not have been a make-up artist... but he sure
was a crafter of creatures.  Hans Ruedi Giger or better known by his pro-
fessional name H. R. Giger.  With this year being the 40th Anniversary of
the horror sci/fi film Alien, I thought I would cover the man who not only
created the creature that would become known as Xenomorph, but also all
the work that this man has done for not only the horror film world....but for
the art world as well.

      Born in Switzerland on February 5 1940, H. R. Giger at the age of 22, studied architecture and
industrial design, two elements that would later come into play in his striking surreal artwork.  Giger liked to
work with airbrush giving his work a look and feel of utter terror at times.  Later he moved to pastels and
ink to create his unique signature style of combining human and machines, a style he called
biomechanical.

      When the horror/science fiction film Alien was in pre-production, its director Ridley Scott was thinking
of what the films alien creature would look like.  He knew that the success of the movie all depended on the
films title monster and that it had to be something the world had never seen before.  It had to stand out
along all other horror movie monsters and what he got was far more then he could have ever dreamed.  At
the time, Alien's screenwriter Dan O' Bannon, who had worked with Giger on a film adaptation of the novel
Dune, remembered the artist and his odd way of crafting images in his paintings.  The writer loved Giger's
style of mixing human design with works of machine and showed one of Giger's books, The
Necronomicon, to Ridley Scott with all its weird and disturbing nightmarish paintings.  It was one image
that truly stood out in the director’s mind of a creature like image unlike anything he ever saw.  That image
would be the base design for the Alien creature.  Giger was brought on the film team to turn his painting
into the film’s alien monster.

      Giger took the basic design of the image that Scott
liked and reworked it into a creature that we all know and
love.  With Giger's own painting Necronom IV as his base,
he created a monster that was tall, thin with a large folic
head design and body that was never clear if the beast
was male or female, but was just some androgynous
creature.  Although humanoid in appearance, the monster
would have no visible eyes with the intent that lacking them
meant that you never knew where the thing was looking.  
Giger gave his creature not only a scary face and mouth
full of demonic teeth, but a second inner set of teeth set
on its tongue that could be used like a weapon as its shot out at its victims.  The beast chest area
displayed outer ribs bones and a long serpent tail that looked like the skeleton of a dinosaur.  The entire
creature seemed to be a mixture of human, snake and machine, a term Giger would call Biomechanical. In
the end, the film’s director got just what he asked for....a movie monster unlike anything ever seen before.

      Giger was also hired not only to design the alien creature
for the film, but also come up with all the conceptual art designs
as well.  It was Giger who created the Alien Egg, The Face
Hugger and Chest-buster along with the adult Alien creature.  
Giger would also design the look for the alien planet L V-426,
and The Space Jockey seen near the beginning of the film.  
His dark and bizarre designs were just what the movie needed
to make Alien stand out like nothing that came before, and it
was that work that won the artist an Academy Award for best
visual design in special effects.

      H. R. Giger's work on Alien didn't stop there when it came to creating
scary monsters for film.  In 1994, Giger was asked again to design an alien
creature, only this time it would be undoubtedly female.  Named Sil, the alien
monster and star of the movie Species was like the artist’s work on the
Xenomorph, a one of a kind deadly creature like nothing ever seen before.  
She was a combo of deadly/sexy as she turned from a beautiful woman into
a horrifying beast throughout the film and the final creature that graces the
screen is unmistakably all Giger.  Sil was very much in the vein of the artists
Xenomorph for Alien, and yet very much her own design.  She was a sexy
monster and it was this creature design that followed into the three films that
followed.  In Species 2, the new alien creature Eve, like Sil, was of the same
design.  For this movie, a new creature was created as a male counterpart to Eve as his design follows
Giger's for Sil, only for a male body type.

      In 2013, H.R. Giger was admitted into the Science Fiction &
Fantasy Hall of Fame.  In other works, his paintings have been the
subjects of many album covers.  Sadly after the result of a fall in
2014, H. R. Giger past away leaving the art and film world a hole
that will never be filled.  The amount of creations this artist boasts
is nothing less than amazing.  His lasting impression on the film
world can be seen in every Alien film that followed the ‘79 film and
in fact when make-up artist Stan Winston was designing the Alien
Queen for the movie Aliens, although he put his own spin on the
new creature, she was still ever much based on the original design of the first Xenomorph.  One can only
speculate what the creature in Alien would have been had H. R. Giger not worked on that movie......
Whatever it would have been, it would never been so grand.
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