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.
There’s almost too much of a good thing in R.W. Goodwin’s Alien Trespass, a florid, square-jawed homage to the UFO-paranoia B-pics of the 1950s. So precisely does Goodwin and his cast capture the static direction, no-budget effects and stock-theatre dramatics of drive-in theatre classics such as Invaders from Mars (1953) and Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956), one is left pondering – this is a joke, right...?
The set-up is conveniently simple – a cross-section of small-town clichés witness what appears to be a meteor strike high in the hills of the Mojave Desert but what is, in fact, a downed extra-terrestrial prisoner-transfer craft. Prospecting drunk (Tom McBeath) is the first to visit the crash site with his dog; in a scene that directly references War of the Worlds (1953), they are met by a tall, faceless silver-clad alien (a’la Klaatu in The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1951) and flee. Next on the scene is Professor Ted Lewis (Eric McCormack), an astronomer who witnessed the crash while barbequing for his wife, Lana (Jody Thompson). His curiosity is his downfall when his body becomes possessed by the alien law-enforcer Urp, who inhabits the Professor’s form in order to recapture a hideous one-eyed monster intent on destroying all mankind.
Genre fans will have a ball with the non-stop B- to Z-movie references, as well as the cast of instantly recognisable sci-fi regulars – Robert Patrick (Terminator 2, The X-Files) as the disbelieving deputy sheriff, Australia’s own Jenni Baird (The 4400) as Tammy, the diner-waitress-turned-heroine and Thompson, fresh from roles in The 4400, Flash Gordon, Stargate, Smallville and Supernatural; Goodwin himself was executive producer on over 100 episodes of The X-Files.
Played with an impenetrable veneer of straight-facedness, Alien Trespass is a rarity amongst films that pay homage to long-extinct movie trends. It is utterly irony-free, avoiding the 'wink-wink’ smart-alecky approach of post-modern reimaginings such as Joe Dante’s Matinee (1993) or the seriousness of the straight-out remake, such as Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds (2005). The last film to try the same tell-it-like-it-was approach as Goodwin’s film, Larry Blamire’s The Lost Skeleton of Cadavera (2001), developed an instant cult following but never outgrew the midnight-screening crowd.
Goodwin is on record as being an avid fan of that great period of American sci-fi cinema and it is evident in every frame of his directorial debut. Unfortunately, that is also the film’s main hurdle – who will get the constant nods to largely-forgotten films and appreciate the perfect recreation of the period other than fellow nerds (like me)? Alien Trespass is an oddity from another time and place, and well worth a look because of it.