“My mantra has always been to scare the living s— out of you.” Those were Ridley Scott’s final words before he unleashed three scenes from Alien: Covenant to a packed theater at SXSW last night. Scott was joined by stars Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender and Danny McBride at a special screening of his original Alien, preceded by a sneak peek at footage from Covenant. You’re warned of potential spoilers from here on out, but it’s doubtful that Scott, who seems very confident about his “quite clever” prequel, would allow us to see footage that gave away too much.

Meet the Crew

The first scene, set to that iconic Alien score, begins as the colony ship heads down to Paradise, the seemingly uncharted planet where the crew — piloted by McBride, Amy Seimetz and Billy Crudup — intends on starting a new life. We’re treated to a small preview of their dynamic and gorgeous shots of the atmosphere above the planet, which is not as desolate as they were led to believe. As they descend, the crew notes some odd interference…

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

All Hell Breaks Loose…And Then Some

The next scene appears to show the moments when the s— really hits the fan — and I mean really. Two crew members have been infected by the alien spores. One is rushed onto the ship by Seimetz and Callie Hernandez, where he’s taken into a med bay. When his shirt is stripped off, blood sprays out of his back as if spores are being released through his skin. Xenomorphs aren’t just bursting out of chests anymore. As Seimetz locks the two crew members in the med bay and radios for help, his condition worsens and a small, white Xenomorph explodes from his back, attacking Hernandez until Seimetz returns. The smaller alien is fast and feral, but no less clever than its bigger kin. Her attempts to blast it are futile, and in her desperation to shoot the creature, she hits some tanks and causes the ship to explode…

Just as this happens, Crudup and the rest of the gang are returning with another infected crew member. This time, the Xenomorph bursts from his mouth, emerging from its gnarly ectopic sac (this description seems mild) and running off into the field nearby as Walter (the new synthetic played by Fassbender) looks on with a humorous lack of alarm. The reactions to these scenes inside the theater were radically visceral — screams, gasps, and lots of nervous laughter.

There have been concerns about the amount of CGI in Covenant, and although the little white Xenomorph toddlers are entirely animated, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which they could be entirely practical. Given the speed and action required of them, practical effects might have been counterintuitive.

It’s also worth noting that the cinematography is, as we’ve come to expect from Scott, completely stunning. Paradise is gorgeously shot, even amid the total, bloody chaos.

20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox

David’s World

So, what’s David been up to since Prometheus? He clearly made it to his intended destination with Dr. Elizabeth Shaw — but she clearly didn’t last very long. In the third scene, David shows Crudup’s character around the “lab” where he’s been conducting genetic experiments with the alien spores. His shelves are lined with giant glass vials, and there’s a table filled with failed experiments and curiosities, Xenomorphs in various stages of evolution. Was Shaw the first host? Probably. David (whose hair is now brown and whose manner is slightly more insidious) takes the precariously curious Crudup into a cave for one last show-and-tell.

Inside, there are a few Xenomorph eggs waiting for something…But what? With a devilish grin, David says they’re waiting “for mother.” He urges Crudup to take a closer look. Anticipating the inevitable, a few members of the audience begin to laugh. One egg opens, and David assures Crudup that it’s completely safe. The entire audience is charged with anxious energy and laughing now, and as Crudup leans in for a closer look, a face-hugger leaps out and does what a face-hugger is wont to do, strangling its victim to death. And then the scene cuts to black.

Listen, if you weren’t a big fan of Prometheus, Alien: Covenant might not be your cup of tea. But it certainly looks more propulsive (and repulsive), and from what little we were shown, it seems to be a true marriage between Scott’s first and most recent films in the franchise — blending the modern with the vintage (though it’s more of the former than the latter, of course). And he was right: He did scare the s— out of us last night.

Alien: Covenant hits theaters on May 19.

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