Alien Resurrection - Rated - SIMMERING

Let's face it: no sequel in this series could top the first one for creepiness. The Alien in Alien was creepy because it was unknown. It was introduced to us gradually, and we never really got a good look a the whole thing in one shot. It was just this horribly slimy reptilian creature with two sets of teeth, and acid for blood. And it could move really fast. The production design was brilliant and the spaceship - the Nostromo - was suitably dank and full of nooks and crannies.

Now, in the 4th in the series, we have the brilliant French writer - director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (who, with his usual partner Marc Caro, has only done 2 feature films that I'm aware of before this - Delicatessen and City of Lost Children). Jeunet is directing without Caro this time (although Caro is credited as a "Creative Consultant"). The film has many of Jeunet's trademarks:

· superb and detailed art direction with a retro feel - the old fashioned lab coats and head-gear make the scientists look like dentists from the 1930s

· distrust of science and authority

· horrific human experiments featured in specimen jars

· emphasis on the purity of the young, the small and the handicapped

· doubling, twinning, cloning, mirror-images

· man combined with machine

· favourite actors: Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon

· favourite cinematographer Darius Khondji (who makes things suitably gloomy, moody and clammy).

However, the team seems to have been reined-in, to a degree. In Alien Resurrection there's nowhere near the staggering originality and technical virtuosity of The City of Lost Children, even though the special effects are still very good. They're just more predictable in the American film than they were in the French one. The difference may be that The City of Lost Children was a Jeunet-Caro project from the very beginning.

Sigourney Weaver has also obviously had a lot of input to the film. She executive-produced, and she must have had some input to the dialogue too: this Ripley is stronger, smarter and funnier than before. The character of Ripley - while it was fabulous in the first Alien - just gets better and better.

But there's a bit too much Alien in this film for my liking. I'm more scared when I don't know what's around the corner. There are some good shocks nevertheless, and lots of slime and blood and gore. There's a trick with a knife which is particularly impressive. I don't agree with what they do to the Alien in the end - I think it is scarier in its original form - but they had to do something to top the previous films.

The Alien scenario is just such a terrific scenario (don't forget that the haunted house is one of the oldest scary-movie ideas) that it seems it can be endlessly fascinating. Especially when you bring in inventive and stylish minds like those of Jeunet & Caro.

So how to follow this one? Baz Luhrmann's Alien Fiesta? Whatever...I'll be first in line.