Alien: Covenant is chock-full of dazzling special effects, a few plot twists and turns, and, of course gore, but there isn’t a scene that tops the ultimate moment in the franchise’s history: The “chestburster” from the 1979 original.
Now, this isn’t really a fair comparison; that horrifying instant in Ridley Scott’s Alien being one of the most iconic in cinema history. But still, it is worth bringing up since all the Alien films that followed clearly attempted to have similar shocking moments.
So why did the first chestburster scene work so well? First and foremost, nothing like it had ever been seen before. The carnage of an alien ripping its way out of a human being was unimaginable for most viewers.
Next, the effect was practical. This is so important because it looked real. John Hurt, who played Kane, wasn’t laying in front of a greenscreen with a fabric-wrapped poll protruding from his stomach awaiting CGI rendering. The scene played out on set.
For more from Alien: Covenant, take a look at why the Xenomorph remains horrifying to audiences decades later, this handy primer for what you actually need to know before seeing the latest sequel/prequel and our interview with star Billy Crudup.