Under the Radar: Alien Trespass (2009)

When you’re an alien on a mission, you can’t go wrong with a plucky waitress at your side. Alien Trespass (2009), another genre movie you may have missed, fits the bill when you want something silly, zany, and outright goofy. Right from the introduction, which frames the ensuing picture as a “lost” sci-fi classic recently rediscovered after sixty years, you know you’re in territory Ed Wood would’ve been comfortable in.

(I will say that Trespass is several calibers above Wood’s films in terms of production values, acting, and writing. Then again, there are laundry commercials that are better made than Wood’s infamous Plan 9 From Outer Space—but I digress.)

The shtick—that this was originally made in the 1950s, the heyday of flying saucer/alien robot stories—serves this film well. It’s supposed to be over-the-top, very “golly gee willikers!” and bright with Technicolor.

An alien named Urp crash lands on earth, inadvertently freeing a dangerous monster he was transporting in his ship. In order to recapture the hungry Ghota before it can eat the humans of the nearby town, Urp possesses the mild-mannered astronomer Dr. Ted Lewis (Eric McCormack) and enlists the aid of spunky waitress Tammy (Jenni Baird).

Alien Trespass (2009): Astronomer Dr. Ted Lewis / Alien Urp (Eric McCormack) and spunky waitress Tammy (Jenni Baird).

When the local police, Officers Vern (Robert Patrick) and Stu (Sage Brocklebank), start investigating the sudden disappearances of the Ghota’s victims and the wild reports of monster sightings, Urp finds himself struggling to achieve his mission, keep his host body and newfound human friend safe, and prevent the authorities from discovering the fact that he’s an alien.

The supporting cast is filled in with the typical greasers, teenagers necking in classic cars, redneck yokels, and Suzie Q Homemakers you’d expect to find in a 50’s-set monster flick. The costuming, hair styles, and lingo are all period appropriate, too. If the picture wasn’t quite so sharp and bright, and if there weren’t a few familiar faces in the cast, you could almost believe it was really a product of the time.

Alien Trespass (2009): Chief Dawson (Dan Lauria) and Officers Vern (Robert Patrick) and Stu (Sage Brocklebank).

Of course, the first witnesses—teenagers and your standard issue Crazy Drunk—are immediately discredited by the skeptical police. Police Chief Dawson (Dan Lauria) has only “two days left on the job” when all the craziness starts going down. The Ghota is a giant rubber suit with tentacles and a single eye, capable of turning itself invisible and killing people by reducing them to puddles of goo. And, as always seems to be the case, the creature has a single weakness which just happens to be in plentiful supply on Earth: salt. 

Alien Trespass knows exactly what it is and playfully sends up the films it pays homage to. There’s even a sequence where the teenagers sit in a crowded theatre watching The Blob and, during the sequence where those characters are being harassed in a theatre by the hungry ooze, our young heroes face off against the Ghota. It’s a movie within a movie within a movie! Talk about meta.

Eric McCormack is best known for Will & Grace, where he was often the comedic “straight man” amidst the ridiculousness of the other characters. Here, his Ted/Urp is deadpan for an entirely different reason, as he plays the fish-out-of-water trope to the hilt. Urp is confused by humanity and how his new host body has “polarity” with Ted’s wife, Lana, and our heroine, Tammy. He speaks robotically and barely reacts to anything, and he does it quite convincingly.

Jenni Baird’s Tammy is a wide-eyed dreamer trapped in a small town but yearning for more. She’s carried a torch for Ted for quite some time and dreams of opening an art studio. And while she, at first, is doubtful of Urp’s story, she ends up his most ardent defender. And she’s not slow with the salt shakers when people are in danger, either.

Then there’s Robert Patrick as the slightly sleazy Officer Vern; having such a recognizable sci-fi legend in the background definitely lends a certain respectability to the proceedings. Who better suited for a story rife with aliens and UFOs and robots than Agent Doggett/the T-1000? And fans of the show Sanctuary will also recognize redneck Lloyd (Jonathon Young) as none other than Nikola Tesla, the electric vampire, with a new haircut and a bit of a twang (I, personally, was delighted).

Alien Trespass is silly, yes—that’s what it means to be, and it succeeds. In much the way Galaxy Quest pays homage to Star Trek, Alien Trespass tips its hat to the creature features and alien flicks of the 1950s like The Blob and The Day the Earth Stood Still. It’s the perfect film for a popcorn night with friends who can appreciate Ed Wood and Mystery Science Theater 3000, since it doesn’t require too much attention to detail and lends itself nicely to good-natured riffing. It’s a light, well-made, colorful movie for a lazy evening—and sometimes that’s exactly what the doctor ordered.

Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. You can find her at Livejournal.com under the handle “zombres.”

Read all posts by Angie Barry at Criminal Element.