The Swiss surrealist painter, Hans Rudolf "Ruedi" Giger (pronounced as if rhyming his last name with the word “eager”), and his array of stunning artwork easily finds a home in Fanbase Press’ annual article series which highlights the “scariest” video games, films, TV shows, comic books, novels, tabletop RPGs, and more. While every entry in the series, in this year and previous years, focuses on various media that will chill your blood, the works of H.R. Giger stand alone in their ability to touch something innate and intense in almost everyone who crosses their path, while still portraying an undeniable and unsettling elegance, beauty, and grace that seems to come from somewhere far beyond our own human world. As famed sci-fi and genre actor Lance Henriksen (Aliens, The Terminator, Pumpkinhead) once knowingly stated, “…a little bit of Giger will transform you inside.”
Father of the Alien
Giger is most known for breathing life into the iconic and terrifying extraterrestrial creature who stalked and slaughtered the crew of the commercial spacecraft Nostromo in director Ridley Scott’s 1979 cinematic masterpiece, Alien. While only involved in the most minor ways when it comes to the rest of the enduring franchise, Scott was wise enough to bring Giger in as part of the special effects team on the film, allowing him to design and create the xenomorph, the facehugger, the corpse of the mysterious space jockey that the human crew encounters inside the derelict craft on the alien planet of LV-426, and a number of other elements in the film that, ultimately, contributed greatly to its artistic and critical success. While Scott and Giger’s relationship (and the artist's relationship with the rigors of a professional film schedule) was strained and turbulent as times, the final result was a creature with an undeniably other-worldly presence that fascinates and horrifies audiences to this very day. As the actor behind the doomed Nostromo Captain, Tom Skerritt, put it, “…you began to see another world… Another… A nightmare. A living nightmare in front of you.”
Giger’s work on the film earned him an Academy Award and propelled the artist to a new level of global fame. To this day, it can easily be argued that the world has yet to see another artist deliver a more visceral and frightening fictional creature in the science fiction genre or beyond. While Giger’s xenomorph continues to menace fans in films, video games, comic books, and more, the true essence of the creature’s horrific beauty is mostly relegated to that first, original film of which he was most involved. Those seeking an unfiltered gaze into Giger’s artistic vision for the film need look no further than his beautiful and unnerving concept art for the film (available at the following link, or, for a more detailed and thorough recollection, pick up a copy of the captivating art book known as Giger’s Alien).
Master of Nightmares
While Alien may be what Giger was known best for, the inspiration for the creature in Ridley Scott’s film came directly from one of his brilliant paintings (Necronom IV) and his art books, such as Necronomicon and Necronomicon II, offering a much more complete example of Giger’s unique style and artistic vision, as well as his obsession and mastery of the biomechanical, terrifying, and, many times, erotic. While few of his projects ever attained the world-wide reach of Alien, Giger became globally known for his artwork and one-of-kind visuals, and, along with his success as a visual artist, his talent has touched various other films (Species, Future-Kill, and more), graced the cover of several music albums (including Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery, and Deborah Harry’s KooKoo, among others), and seeped its way into a number of other stand-out projects, with everything from tattoos, to two Swiss bars celebrating his work, to a commissioned design of a microphone stand for Jonathan Davis, the lead singer of the American nu metal band, Korn.
For further examples of Giger’s enduring artwork, be sure to check out this link to io9.com’s list of Giger’s most unforgettable creations.
The Man Behind the Monsters
“There is hope and a kind of beauty in there somewhere, if you look for it.” - H.R. Giger
Like most true art, Giger’s work is far beyond just the base, singular label of “scary” and transcends to a place of complexity and depth that speaks to the most primal and important human themes and emotions present in our lives. While a feeling of foreboding terror is a common reaction to Giger’s work, there is so much more to his art and the man behind it. While Giger died in May of 2014, those curious about the man behind the monsters can find their most enlightening peek into his private life in the 2014 Swiss documentary directed by Belinda Sallin titled Dark Star: H. R. Giger's World. Sallin’s documentary reveals the artist’s life at home, his personal interactions with friends and family, and his surprisingly friendly and polite demeanor. While Giger clearly had a deep connection to the internal darkness that all humanity shares, perhaps his unexpected relatability in the documentary speaks to why his artwork is so impactful and powerful for the rest of us. Perhaps we each have a bit of Giger inside of us, and that truth is both absolutely frightening and unarguably reassuring when it comes to what it communicates about the human soul and our own pull towards the dark abyss within.
While Dark Star: H. R. Giger's World is currently available on Netflix, and I’d definitely encourage readers to view it for themselves, I also recommend that you check out the links below to my (formerly) advanced review of the documentary and my interview with director Belinda Sallin regarding her experiences filming with H.R. Giger:
‘Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World’ - Advance Documentary Review
Fanbase Press Discusses the Man Behind the Monster with Director Belinda Sallin (‘Dark Star: H.R.Giger’s World’)
Happy Halloween, comic book sniffers!