ALIEN TRESPASS, 2009
Cast: Eric McCormack, Dan Lauria, Jenni Baird, Robert Patrick, Jody Thompson, Aaron Brooks
After crash landing near a desert town, an alien enlists the help of a local waitress to re-capture a monster that escaped from the wreckage of his space ship.
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You know that age old cliché “they don’t make them like they used to”? Well, it doesn’t apply to ‘Alien Trespass’, and rightfully so as the cast and crew do a meticulous job of recreating classic 1950’s science fiction in the 21st century.
Paying homage to several well known (and little known alike) budget films of the 1950’s – in particular ‘It Came From Outer Space’ – the film opens with classic news reel-type footage explaining that this film, ‘Alien Trespass’, would have been one of the greatest science fiction pictures ever made if they didn’t have to destroy it due to legalities. Lead actor, M. Eric McCormack (‘Merrick to his fans’) even explains that it was the greatest performance of his highly respectable career. (For those who are wondering, yes. This is ‘Will and Grace’ star Eric McCormack, though the official website will have you believe it is actually his grandfather starring in the movie.)
McCormack plays a notable astronomer who decides to go inspect a meteor crash near his home close to the desert. Unfortunately, this meteor is nothing of the sort, but rather a crashed flying saucer made seemingly of advanced fine materials such as aluminum foil, cardboard and dim blinking LED lights. Here, his body is taken over by a Klaatu-esque benevolent alien who must recapture an escaped space monster from his ship, known as the Ghota. This Ghota is a freakish slug monster with one giant eye, not unlike the monster from ‘It Came From Outer Space’. And like the monster from that movie, the Ghota looks like it was made by the most talented 5th graders the mid-west has to offer (like it should, mind you).
The cinematography of the movie is the only thing that lets the film down, though only through technicality. Whereas the costume and production design are flawless in recreating 1950’s America down to a tee, the photography is colorful enough to be mistaken for a super high budget musicals of the period shot in glorious Technicolor rather than the gritty, and often black-and-white, film stock usually associated with paranoia laden sci-fi flicks of the mid 20th century. In any other film made in this century, this HD picture is beautiful, but here it is slightly distracting. Though thanks to our blessed modern technology this can easily be remedied by turning down the saturation and sharpness, in which case the movie actually looks magically more classical than the actual classics.
The performances are stellar – given the material – even by the lesser known stars. Australian actress Jenni Baird, who fans of ‘The 4400’ might remember as Meghan Doyle, does a fine job of playing waitress/closet beatnik who is trying to find a higher meaning in life. She finds this in ‘Merrick’, after he is possessed by the alien whereby she takes the role of the tough independent woman who is determined to save the planet with the, unfortunately for her, married astronomer.
The astronomer is played with humor, seriousness and a lot of tongue in cheek by McCormack, who returns to sci-fi spoof-dom for the first time in over a decade after Free Enterprise. Playing a dual role, he does a fine job of portraying a slightly stuck-up conservative astronomer (who can’t breathe without his pipe) as well as the slightly goofy alien who only speaks in third person. The film begins here as Baird and the possessed McCormack go in search of the Ghota, who is now not only consuming the locals like juice-boxes but also multiplying exponentially.
Robert Patrick (of Terminator 2 fame) puts aside his shiny liquid metal to don the outfit of the gruff local sheriff. A constantly under-rated actor, Patrick provides the most realistic performance of the movie whilst being able to also play the role slightly over-the-top, as the script requires. Though written as the character you love to hate, you do slightly start to feel some empathy as the story progresses (though you’ll still most likely hate him). Working against him is the always talented and likeable Dan Lauria who is Patrick’s polar opposite. He plays the reluctant police chief who took the job as a temporary position but ended up with it until now, when the monster attacks. Naturally, two days before his retirement.
No 1950’s homage movie can be complete without rebellious teenagers, and Alien Trespass doesn’t ignore this rule. The two guys and a girl play the cliché roles of the horny guy(s) and nervous but virtuous girl who also happen to encounter the Goata. Naturally, they try to carry out their own investigation, in spite of the sheriff’s protest.
The script is delightfully insane, though ironically on par (if not better) than modern sci-fi blockbusters, not that anyone would admit this. It’s filled with all the clichés that you’d want, complete with goofy dialogues (“Where would a Ghota go…?!”) yet if you’ve seen any retro sci-fi flick, this will only make the movie that much more endearing. It’s not a movie without a niche market and for this it is an overlooked gem which certainly may not resonate well with the masses, thus the sore lack of marketing. In spite of this, it’s filled with funny but solid performances and terribly goofy monsters, thanks to which the movie is safe for the kids and family audiences. No classic movie fan should ignore this modern take on their favorite classics.