The Austin Chronicle

Alien Trespass

Rated PG, 90 min. Directed by R.W. Goodwin. Starring Eric McCormack, Jenni Baird, Robert Patrick, Dan Lauria, Jody Thompson, Aaron Brooks, Sarah Smyth, Andrew Dunbar.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 3, 2009

Taking its cues from several classic 1950s sci-fi films – the superlative, eerie It Came From Outer Space chief among them – Alien Trespass is a deeply affectionate homage to the halcyon Red Scare era, when every kid on the block knew what "Klaatu borada nikto" meant and Saturday afternoons were made for flying-saucer matinees and Ray Bradbury's red planet, Mars. Thematically similar to 2002's The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (but minus that film's obvious tongue-in-cheek and intentionally cheap-looking style), Alien Trespass nicely conjures a near-perfect re-creation of Fifties sci-filmmaking tropes, from its Bronson Canyon locations to the crisp cinematography (in color, it should be noted) of David Moxness, who visually replicates the style of longtime genre cameraman Clifford Stine (The Incredible Shrinking Man, This Island Earth). Director Goodwin executive-produced several seasons of The X-Files and clearly knows his xenomorphs from his BEMs (that would be bug-eyed monsters for you nongenrephiles), and the film's period accuracy and fun retro tropes are winningly handled by a terrific cast that plays the whole thing as straight and true as Jack Arnold (Tarantula, Creature From the Black Lagoon) would have. Set on the outskirts of – where else? – California's Mojave Desert (where all the aliens not affiliated with Ray Harryhausen seemed to crash-land back in the day), Trespass finds starry-eyed astronomer and budding SETI fan Ted Lewis (McCormack) possessed by an alien intelligence and hunting down an escaped Ghota: a tentacular, cyclopean fiend that bears a striking (and intentional) resemblance to the titular creeper of It Came From Outer Space. Ted's buxom, Good Housekeeping-approved wife, Lana (Thompson), can't seem to figure out what's up with her beloved egghead, but a pair of teenagers (Dunbar and Smyth) who witnessed the alien craft's crash and savvy local waitress Tammy (Baird) quickly suss out the universal situation unfolding in their midst. Omnipresent character actor Lauria (The Wonder Years) and former T-1000 Patrick play a pair of imagination-bereft lawmen who initially (and traditionally) blame the steady stream of monster sightings on mass hysteria (what, no swamp gas?), but still, they can't account for all the puddles of former human beings oozing around town. This is a genre-specifc film if ever there were one, so nonfans of Fifties alien melodramas likely won't find it all that impressive. But for those who still recall The Thing From Another World's prescient admonition to "keep watching the skies!" or Kevin McCarthy's paranoid chant, "They're already here!" from that other Red Menace cautionary tale, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, this is an impressively realized (and, yes, occasionally, unavoidably humorous) valentine to Hollywood's sci-fi glory days – all heart, no snark, and one big eye.

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