The X-Files helped revolutionize science fiction back in the 1990s. Now X-Files producer R.W. Goodwin is going back to the original source material - 1950s flying-saucer flicks - for his new movie Alien Trespass.
We got to see a preview screening of Trespass a few days ago, and it was pretty fun, although possibly trying too hard to emulate a real 1950s movie.
During the Q&A after Thursday night's screening, and the movie's panel at Wondercon, director Goodwin insisted there was no irony in his 1950s pastiche. Or rather, that any irony would come from us viewing the film, not from the film itself. Movies from the 1950s are unintentionally funny when we watch them now, so Goodwin and collaborator James Swift decided that if they made a 1950s-style SF film now, and played it absolutely straight, it would be unintentionally funny as well.
So you have the cheap rubber-suit monster, the slightly wobbly flying saucer (but done via CG), the theremin, and the painfully earnest acting and dialogue. There's even a thing where someone walks alongside a moving car and the background scrolls behind the person and the car, but when the car stops the background is out of sync.
The rubber monster, the Gota, looks like a "seven-foot-tall penis, with eye in the middle," Goodwin said in the Q&A after the screening. "We put those little fringey things over its eye to try and take that off it." He said he made everybody watch tons of old 1950s movies, to try and keep this one as true to their spirit as possible, and every prop or piece of decoration is as authentic as possible.
What saves Alien Trespass from being just a pure campfest is the quality of the performances. Goodwin managed to score a surprisingly great cast, including Eric McCormack (Will And Grace, Free Enterprise), Jenni Baird (The 4400), Robert Patrick (Terminator 2) and Dan Lauria. They bring absolute conviction to their performances and never wink at the audience or start playing it for laughs.
"When you look at the original movies, [like] It Came From Outer Space, the actors were good and everything, but when you look like it now, it's really funny," said Goodwin. "We had to act like we were living in the 50s, and try really hard." In some ways, with all the world's troubles today, it was nice to go back to a time when "life was simpler, gentler and nicer," with "nothing to worry about except instant nuclear holocaust."
The movie's plot is pretty formulaic and never quite rises above the level of slavishly imitating 1950s storylines. A UFO which crashes near a small town, and two occupants lurch out: the Gota, a one-eyed monster that kills humans, leaving only puddles of water behind, and the spaceman who was keeping it prisoner. The spaceman, Urp, takes over the body of a local astronomer, Ted Lewis (McCormack) and tries to hunt down the Gota before it reproduces and overruns the world. But the town's residents think Lewis has gone crazy, and blame him for the rash of disappearances in town. Meanwhile, a group of joy-riding teens are the only ones who've seen the monster, but nobody will believe them.
The movie starts with a fake 1957 newsreel explaining how all copies of the film Alien Trespass were destroyed after a dispute between the studio and the movie's star. So we're meant to be seeing a lost classic here, that's been miraculously dug out of a basement.
Just to make it absolutely clear this is a 1950s homage, there's a scene where the kids go to a theater to watch The Blob. And we see a clip of the scene where the kids are in the movie theater, and the Blob oozes in and attacks them. And while the Trespass kids are watching this scene - you guessed it - the Gota comes into the movie theater and chases everybody out. It's totally meta.
If you've seen every single 1950s classic several times, and you wish there was one more film along the lines of It Came From Outer Space or The Blob for you to watch, Alien Trespass is literally made for you. I like those 1950s movies, but they're not my favorites, and I don't really enjoy this kind of nostalgia fest. So Alien Trespass wasn't really my cup of tea, but you might find its poker-faced retro-camp totally awesome and fun.
The movie opens April 3 in select markets, and then goes a bit wider the following week. Goodwin and Swift are depending on word of mouth to make this film succeed, so if it sounds cool to you, definitely tell your friends.