The train pulls up to the elevated platform, doors swoosh open, and I step inside. It’s oddly dark, all of the interior surfaces are black. Even half empty, it feels close in here. At the next two stops people fill the car to capacity. As we hurtle forward, the track shifts and we begin a swift dive underground. Bill Paxton’s complaint comes to mind: “Express elevator to Hell, going down!” as the sun disappears and the gooey mouth of an alien leers at me from the wall next to the word “Hide”.
Summer movie season is upon us. Block busters, tent-pole wannabes, remakes, sequels and superheroes. All vying for our attention and dollars – and hardest of all – trying to lure us to the theatre. Movie trailers, posters, billboards and magazine ads are what you expect, but in Chicago, the more “experiential” advertising continues to surprise me. A “wrapped” train car is atmospheric and effective. I’m just glad they haven’t turned trash cans on the platform into eggs that open as you approach.
Of course, the quintessential summer movie experience is the drive-in. Practically non-existent today, there were multiple drive-in options where I grew up, though they were probably fading at the time. The whole family would pile into the convertible, trundle across the gravel lot to find an open spot, and hang the speaker from the half rolled-up driver’s side window. The cement block concession stand was a short walk away, and kept us in popcorn and Coke for a double, or even triple feature. Sometimes my brother and I were already in our pajamas with the assumption that we’d conk out before the evening was over. I have no idea what movies we saw – the novelty of seeing a movie in our car was the entertainment.
I like all kinds of movies, but seem to favor science fiction, action/adventure, and mystery/thrillers. So, it’s no surprise that I liked Alien. The story was so unexpected and the effects so creepy. When the sequel, Aliens, came out, I was a complete fan. It’s one of the movies that I’ll always stop to watch if I happen across it. I’ve followed the series and am looking forward to the newest installment, Alien:Covenant. Fortunately, the settings are different enough from everyday life, that I don’t usually stay afraid.
I look around this very full train car and think none of us could escape if we tried. If the aliens tore through the roof, only a few of us would get out the door, the rest of us resembling a delicious soft candy assortment. I’m pressed between a tall man with a backpack and a woman with a long mane of hair that’s tickling my nose. I just hope when the alien bursts out of her chest, she stays turned the other way.