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December 21, 2013

Alien Trespass

by Franz Patrick


Alien Trespass (2009)
★ / ★★★★

A spaceship crashes in the mountainous desert next to a small town where most of the residents have mistaken it for a meteor shower. But Dr. Ted Lewis (Eric McCormack), an astronomer, knows better. Out in the middle of the night to investigate, something in the ship takes over his body. The alien is called Urp, a sort-of federal marshall in the universe, and it is his mission to hunt Ghotas, unicellular organisms capable of thinking and dividing in an extremely rapid rate while consuming vast amounts of resources. When humans make physical contact with the extraterrestrials, the former are reduced to colorless goop.

“Alien Trespass,” written by Steven P. Fisher and James Swift, commences with a contagious joviality from its black and white fake news reels to deliberately bad special effects. I get it: it wants to duplicate the gut reaction we experience when we sit down and watch science fiction B-movies that dominated the ‘50s. However, as the film goes on, I began to wonder if it had anything else to offer.

The cutesy bad acting from the supporting players eventually begin to get under my skin because the joke is milked for all its worth. It does not help that the characters consistently make very bad decisions like in most slasher movies where teenagers end up dead. For example, when Penny (Sarah Smyth) and her boyfriend (Andrew Dunbar) are in a car and see a one-eyed pillar of a monster that can turn invisible at will, they simply squirm and squeal in their seats. A normal person might consider driving away or, if he or she is less smart, escaping on foot. Remaining in the same spot and asking, “What is it?” in different forms does not help anybody. Instead, it challenges us to endure the stupidity.

I did not care about the bad special and visual effects. There are scenes where it is so obvious that the actors are in front of a green screen. I chuckled once or twice because it is confident enough to stand by its limitations, purposefully done or otherwise. What I cared most about, however, is the execution of its story. I wondered why the writers did not give their project more ambition. The monster is relatively slow-moving. Urp knows that the creature wants to be around a lot of people so it can simply grab, eat, and multiply. So why does it have to take so much time for Urp to realize that he needs to find the closest town? The character’s lack of common sense—unbelievable because the possessor is supposed to be an authority in the cosmos—is used as an excuse to drag out a problem that should have been solved in twenty minutes—at most.

Lastly, perhaps after the Ghota has been captured, there is a surprise about its relatively unknown biology that challenges the characters even further. Why not force the characters to be smart and readily able to think outside the box? That way, we end up rooting for instead of yelling at them for doing something idiotic in every other scene. Capturing a pod with tentacles could and should have been more fun, like the brilliant sequence in the movie theater which just so happens to show “The Blob,” but the picture loses its creativity only fifteen minutes in.

I expected more from R.W. Goodwin, who directed some of the most ambitious episodes of “The X-Files.” It has some good jokes but the characters need to be a lot sharper and the story needs more urgency so we do not end up just wishing for it all to end.

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