"It achieves its hokiness by design, which renders it artificial and flat."
Alien Trespass is a feature-length homage to the cheesy invaders-from-space B-movies of the 1950s. In fact, it purports to actually BE one of those movies, shot in 1957 but unreleased until now, in glorious color!
Director R.W. Goodwin, an X-Files veteran, does an admirable job recreating the look and feel of those old sci-fi adventures, with their quaintly low-tech special effects, and first-timer Steven P. Fisher's screenplay walks down the familiar paths: A flying saucer lands in the California desert; local scientist Ted Lewis (Eric McCormack) goes to investigate and becomes possessed by an alien entity; the town is threatened by a deadly extra-terrestrial creature.
The problem is that in 1957 such a film would have been sincere in its cornball approach, and Alien Trespass is not sincere. It achieves its hokiness by design, which renders it artificial and flat. You can care about characters in an old movie, even though the style is so different from modern cinema, because you accept that what seems fake now felt authentic then. But it's hard to feel invested in a story that was contrived that way on purpose. Sincerity is everything.
Alien Trespass begins promisingly, though, with a clever recreation of a newsreel from that era describing the behind-the-scenes problems of a particular Hollywood production. Now, half a century later, that production is finally seeing the light of day. It's unlikely that a cheap-o like Alien Trespass would have been shot in widescreen and in color, but apart from that it's a pretty authentic facsimile of something your dad might have paid a nickel to see on a Saturday afternoon.
Once he's possessed by the alien, Ted Lewis wanders off from his wife, Lana (Jody Thompson), and goes into town, where he must locate the E.T. that escaped from the UFO before it destroys everything. The alien in Ted's body develops a crush on diner waitress Tammy (Jenni Baird), and the two team up. Meanwhile, the cops (Robert Patrick and Dan Lauria) are bumbling and the local teenagers are greasy. As you may have guessed, adding anything genuinely original or inventive would defeat the purpose, which is to emulate the unoriginal and uninventive (but fun) alien flicks from the 1950s.
It's an affectionate tribute, not a parody -- and truth be told, affectionate tributes get old after a while. A parody, at least, would find pleasure in ribbing the goofy old movies. Alien Trespass, on the other hand, never winks at the audience, never succumbs to the temptation to say, "Look how silly this stuff was." It's a handsome exercise, but the fun of watching it wears off long before it's over.
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Eric D. Snider (website) thinks it's nice that Eric McCormack is getting work, though.