With Alien Covenant out in cinemas I look back at HR Giger’s greatest creation and analyses exactly what it is that gives it its ferocious and lasting power.

There’s no doubt that Ridley Scott’s 2012 Prometheus was a disappointment for fans hoping for a return to form for the Alien series. But for all its faults, Prometheus did one thing right in understanding that the power of the alien lies not in its animal hostility, but as a conduit for existential terror – something that even James Cameron’s superlative Aliens never really got to grips with. The psychosexual qualities of HR Giger’s iconic design are well documented: the alien’s phallic head; Kane’s symbolic rape; its mouth that resembles the vagina dentata. The creature’s ability to adapt, resembling both its hosts and its mechanical environment, are also fundamental to the horror of the creature, far more than its ferocity as a killing machine.

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