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Two Alien short films channel the spirit of Ripley at WonderCon

By Don Kaye
Alien 40th Anniversary Shorts Ore

A groundbreaking new series of short films set in the Alien universe has launched, and two of them screened Saturday night (Mar. 30) at WonderCon.

The pair of films were made by female directors: the first, Specimen, was directed by Kelsey Taylor, while the second, Ore, was directed by Kailey and Sam Spear.

Both are set around the same era as the very first Alien movie, with Specimen set inside a space greenhouse on planet LV-492 and Ore taking place at a platinum ore mining colony on a lonely planet known as Bowen's Landing.

In the eerie Specimen, a lone botanist named Julie (Jolene Anderson) and her xenomorph-sensitive dog must fight for their lives as an alien organism escapes a broken container and pursues them through the sealed and darkened laboratory eager to find a new host.

Meanwhile, Ore centers on a miner named Lorraine who intends to collect her bonus and get her daughter and grandchildren off the planet and into a better life. But when a fellow miner is killed, Lorraine and her co-workers decide to find what has slaughtered him even if it means disobeying company orders.

Both films' lead characters tap into the Alien tradition of casting formidable, complex female leads that started with Sigourney Weaver in the role of Ripley in the original film (and three of its sequels).

During a Q&A after the screening (moderated by SYFY WIRE's own Tara Bennett), Sam Spear said that making their lead character a mother and grandmother was a way to pay homage to women in the Spears' own life: "We have so many amazing women over 50 in our lives that we wanted to honor some of those women. So we knew we wanted to have an older woman, a grandmother, be our lead."

Both films were created through a joint effort between 20th Century Fox and Tongal, an online platform that matches businesses with writers, filmmakers and other creative personnel, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Ridley Scott's original 1979 film.

A total of six shorts were commissioned from more than 550 submissions, with each given a modest budget. Taylor shot her film in two days, while the Spears took a hefty four.

"Just having been chosen for this was a huge affirmation for the work you're doing," said Taylor when asked toward the panel's conclusion what the project meant to her. Sam Spear added, "Having fans come up and say they like the work we did is huge for us...we really wanted to do the fans proud with this."

The shorts are rolling out on IGN every Friday (the first one has arrived already), and beginning May 3rd, they will be available on the official @AlienAnthology social channels and