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‘Alien’: Stanley Kubrick’s Relatable Response to Gruesome Chestburster Scene

‘Alien’: Stanley Kubrick’s Relatable Response to Gruesome Chestburster Scene

The 1979 sci-fi movie Alien is a certified classic, not only of the horror genre but of film overall. Known for its strong atmospheric tension, unreal creature design, and resourceful female protagonist, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Alien remains a celebrated and enduring franchise over four decades later.

And, of course, no conversation about Alien is complete without mentioning its special effects, which continue to shock and awe viewers to this day. One scene was so gruesome, so alarmingly lifelike that even Stanley Kubrick, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, was in disbelief, picking up the phone right away to talk shop with his fellow creative.

“Stanley called me the week Alien opened,” director Ridley Scott recalled in a recent interview with The Times. “He said: ‘It’s Stanley Kubrick.’ I said: ‘F–k off!’ He said: ‘No, it’s Stanley Kubrick.’ He said: ‘I just watched Alien – how did you bring that creature out the guy’s chest?’”

The 2001: A Space Odyssey director is, of course, referring to the most iconic (and most disturbing) moment of Alien: the chestburster scene. It begins when John Hurt’s character, Kane, is attacked by a facehugger. To everyone’s relief, the USCSS Nostromo‘s executive officer appeared to recover – only he didn’t.

The crew gathers for a meal, relieved the worst is behind them. Then suddenly, a baby Xenomorph bursts violently out of Kane’s chest, spraying blood and plunging the characters into chaos. The shock and horror of Alien‘s chestburster scene rapidly made it one of the most memorable moments in horror film history.

How Ridley Scott Created His Iconic Chestburster Scene in ‘Alien’

It’s no surprise, then, that Stanley Kubrick simply had to know how Ridley Scott pulled it off. Those organs looked…so distressingly real, after all. What kind of effects was Scott using to create such a spine-chilling scene?

The director’s secret? The organs were real.

Rather than using CGI, the celebrated Alien director created the chestburster scene purely using practical effects. First, the prop department created the lifelike baby Xenomorph that would soon erupt from Kane’s chest.

Then, to set the stage for the gore to come, crew members installed a fake chest on the table, with holes built in for John Hurt’s head and limbs. To make the chestburster scene as shockingly disgusting as possible, the crew filled the fake chest with real organs from a local butcher. To top it off, they ran hoses beneath the table that would send fake blood rocketing from the brutal wound left by the Xenomorph.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Ridley Scott didn’t rely on the acting prowess of his cast to bring the scene to life. Instead, the script included just one ominous line: “This thing emerges.”

With the cast entirely in the dark as to what was about to happen, the fake chest tore open, sending the baby Xenomorph bursting into the room in a gush of blood. The Alien cast’s shocked reaction to the chestburster scene was 100% genuine, perfectly mirroring that of horrified viewers in theaters across the country.