Director – R.W. Goodwin, Screenplay – Steven Fisher, Story – Steven Fisher & James Swift, Producers – R.W. Goodwin & James Swift, Photography – David Moxness, Music – Louis Febre, Visual Effects Supervisor – Eric Chauvin, Visual Effects – Blackpool Studios, Special Effects Supervisor – Tony Lazarowich, Creature Effects – SFX Studio Inc. (Designer – Joel Eschallier), Production Design – Ian Thomas. Production Company – Rangeland Productions
Eric McCormack (Dr Ted Lewis/M. Eric ‘Merrick’ McCormack), Jenni Baird (Tammy), Dan Lauria (Chief Dawson), Robert Patrick (Officer Vern Watson), Jody Thompson (Lana Lewis), Aaron Brooks (Cody O’Hara), Sarah Smyth (Penny), Andrew Dunbar (Dick Perkins), Sage Brocklebank (Officer Stu Barnes), Jerry Wasserman (Sam), Jonathan Young (Lloyd Olsen), Michael Roberds (Bubba), Tom McBeath (Old Man Wilson), Vincent Gale (Officer Stiles), Laura Konechny (Laura McBride), Darren Rizzolo (Tommy Miller)
During the demolition of a building at Goldstone Studios in the present day, a print of ‘Alien Trespass’, a lost science-fiction film that was made in 1957 but destroyed over a contract dispute with its leading actor, is found. In the film, astronomer Ted Lewis sees a meteorite come down in the desert near his home. He arrives at the site to discover that the meteorite is actually a flying saucer. When Ted returns home, his wife Lana finds him acting strangely. Ted’s body has been taken over by an alien marshal named Urp. The crash of the saucer has also set loose a dangerous monster known as The Ghota, which resembles a giant ambulatory eye. Urp urges that The Ghota be stopped before it divides and replicates. It is seen by several teenagers but their reports are dismissed by the authorities. Soon The Ghota starts moving through the town, devouring people and reducing them to puddles. It is up to Urp with the help of the waitress Tammy to stop the alien menace.
The parody of 1950s science-fiction films, especially bad ones, is something that has become a cliche if not a genre unto itself. This began with Beware! The Blob/Son of Blob (1872) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and has continued through the likes of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978), Big Meat Eater (1983), Revenge of the Teenage Vixens from Outer Space (1986), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987), Invasion Earth: The Aliens Are Here (1988), Earth Girls Are Easy (1989), Lobster Man from Mars (1989), Mars Attacks! (1996), Attack of the Bat Monsters (1999), Top of the Food Chain/Invasion! (1999), The Monster of Phantom Lake (2006) and Trail of the Screaming Forehead (2007). Dozens of films made throughout the 1980s and 90s – particularly those from directors like Joe Dante and Fred Olen Ray – come littered with references to, characters named after and guest appearances from actors who were in the original 1950s SF films.
Alien Trespass has clearly been constructed as a homage to It Came from Outer Space (1953). There is the astronomer who sees a meteorite come down in the vicinity of his desert hometown, the alien shaped like a giant eyeball, the aliens who take over human bodies but eventually prove to only be doing so in order to repair their spaceship and go home again. Indeed, Alien Trespass quotes whole scenes of It Came from Outer Space – the meteor’s wobbly trail down through the sky, the two old timers encountering the alien out on the desert highways, even the town diner as gathering locus for the locals to express opinions and fears about what is happening. Alien Trespass‘s other major source of homage is The Blob (1958). A poster for the original appears on the wall and the teenagers go to a screening at one point (although the film historian in one kept nitpicking about people going to see The Blob, which was not released until 1958, when the film has a stated setting of 1957). The scenes with the old timer (Tom McBeath) clearly evoke Olin Howlin in The Blob, as do the kids earnestly trying to get the authorities to take what they saw seriously, a regular theme of 1950s science-fiction in efforts like The Blob and Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957). The movie theatre scene does lead to an ingeniously clever piece of intertextural playfulness not unakin to the opening moments of Scream 2 (1997) that replicates the scene from The Blob where the alien monster invades a movie theatre, which takes place in a theatre that is actually screening The Blob with everything naturally being played out against the same scene up on the screen.
Alien Trespass is clearly a film that has been put together by people with an intimate knowledge of and love for 1950s science-fiction films. The script feels as though it has distilled a bunch of elements instantly familiar to almost any 1950s SF film – the pipe-smoking scientist in horn rim glasses and tweed sports jacket with a wife who dutifully toils over the kitchen stove; the cheesy tentacled rubber monster; the flying saucer and its inhabitant who is outfitted in a shiny spandex suit a la Michael Rennie in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951); the recurring 50s theme of the kids who ‘see something’ but whose reports are dismissed by the authorities who only regard them as troublemakers and pranksters; people being taken over by alien body snatchers who are then tempted by ordinary human life, especially the notion of love, which is alien to them; the eerily trilling theremin score and so on.
One sits down to watch Alien Trespass suspecting more of the same parody of 1950s science-fiction movies as with any of the abovementioned modern titles. However, you soon find that what you are watching is quite different to any of these. The film recreates the 50s period, the corny UFOs and monsters, the clothing, characters and so on in exacting detail. And it sources a great many movies of the era. Oddly, the one thing we don’t get is a film that is poking fun at and parodying these films. All the actors involved seem to be taking their performances seriously, as opposed to playing comic caricatures in a send-up. The intended result is more one of homage with at most tongue very mildly planted in cheek. The feel is more one of recreating a lost period of filmmaking than it is ever about spoofing its technical shortcomings, cheesiness or cliches. One has become so used to the parody of the 1950s science-fiction genre that it takes some time into the film to get over one’s puzzlement at the failure of any gags to appear.
It is a loving homage that has been conducted. An enormous degree of care has been placed into replicating the clothes, props, vehicles, sets and colloquialisms – even the colour processing of the film. The posters were all designed in the guise of lobby stills from the era, while the dvd comes accompanied by a series of mock featurettes, which pretend to be modern news clips about the unearthing of the print of the film, as well as faked old newsreel footage interviewing the stars and their modern descendents (with the film’s actors playing both parts). The end result is surprisingly appealing – not a parody or a spoof film but an entire film made in the style of a bygone era that gently immerses us in the experience of watching a film the way it must have been back in the day.