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Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 31.58%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 31.58%

3 reviews, 1 rating

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Alien Trespass
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by Jay Seaver

"As good as retro sci-fi gets (still isn't the real thing)."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2009 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: If you go to enough genre-oriented film festivals or keep an eye out for would-be cult films, you will probably feel like you see a new movie like "Alien Trespass" every month or two - a fifties sci-fi pastiche that is described as either homage or parody. Most are awful. "Alien Trespass" is pretty decent, and probably as good as these things get.

After a mildly amusing bit of newsreel footage that tells us how one of the biggest-budget sci-fi films of the 1950s never got released (and was thought destroyed) because of a contract dispute between the studio head and star Merrick McCormack (the fictional actor who is a dead ringer for grandson Erik McCormack), we get to the film proper. An asteroid has crashed out in the desert, observed by astronomer Ted Lewis (McCormack) and his wife Lana (Jody Thompson). A dangerous alien Ghota has escaped, and the ship's pilot Urp takes over Ted's body to pursue it before it eats enough people to divide. He's assisted by local waitress Tammy (Jenni Baird); also in the mix are the three teenagers who saw the crash (Sarah Smyth, Andrew Dunbar, and Sage Brocklebank); the local cops (Dan Lauria, Robert Patrick, and Aaron Brooks), and a couple not-so-bright farmhands (Johnathan Young and Michael Roberds).

What separates Alien Trespass from the vast majority of retro-sci-fi is that it almost never goes for the cheap laugh of "look how bad this is/was!" (which often seems to be all the comedic inspiration these movies have). The alien is not top-of-the-line CGI, but instead looks like something that would have been impressive in 1957. After all, not every old sci-fi movie looks terrible; when people complain about CGi, after all, one of the typical arguments is that the old stuff still has more character. The Ghota visually owes much to the creatures from It Came From Outer Space (as does a good chunk of the plot), and if the filmmakers occasionally err on the side of making it unusually mobile and otherwise modern enough to seem a little threatening, I'm okay with that.

The other area where these movies often point and snicker is in the acting department, and while this movie does make its jabs at the sorts of clichés that inhabited those movies, it does so by letting its cast of solid character actors use their solid comic timing rather than having them pretend to be bad actors. Robert Patrick, in particular, wrings the maximum laughs from just about every line he's given, as does Dan Lauria as his boss. Eric McCormack is pretty funny as well, playing the differences between Ted and Urp much less broadly than many others might.

The film does get a few jabs at fifties pop culture in, but it's actually a lot more general and well-executed than it often is. The gigantic steaks that Ted puts on the grill is a detail other filmmakers might have missed, and the filmmakers actually go for something resembling subtlety when the time comes for the inevitable joke about how married couples arranged their bedrooms in 1950s movies and television. Director R.W. Goodwin and writers James Swift and Steven P. Fisher put a few good jokes in, including one that had the audience groan in a good, "should have seen that coming" way.

For as much as Alien Trespass is as good as this sort of movie gets, that's not the highest bar to set. It's slick, and competently done, but it's much harder to capture the soul than the surface. There are some good bits, sure, but what's between them just the work of a gifted mimic. The monster loose in the movie theater, for instance, just reminds one of other movies where that was a fun gag. There's a lot of filler, where the filmmakers are putting things in because the plot needs them or because the character type is expected, but it's uninspired, even bland at times.

Saying "Alien Trespass" is better than most movies like it isn't damning with faint praise. Its affection for 50s sci-fi seems much more sincere than most parody-homages, and while it could be a little sharper and more clever without losing that good feeling ("OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies" is perhaps the best recent example of that), the feeling is still generally positive.

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originally posted: 02/20/09 03:05:57
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2009 Florida Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Fantasia Festival For more in the 2009 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/10/09 james obrien its o:k 3 stars
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  DVD: 11-Aug-2009


  DVD: 11-Aug-2009

Directed by
  R.W. Goodwin

Written by
  Steven P. Fisher

  Eric McCormack
  Jenni Baird
  Robert Patrick
  Jody Thompson
  Dan Lauria
  Aaron Brooks

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