Camp happens. You can’t create it. What audiences were given in the 1950s, amidst a sea of science fiction classics, were the cheapies. These shoddily tossed together productions promised chills and thrills but never actually delivered. The people behind these films, most infamously Bert I. Gordon and Roger Corman, were more concerned with ticket sales than the actual product
That is the obvious problem with Alien Trespass: the filmmakers do care in re-creating the feel of the cheapies. They have carefully planned each shot, lovingly written a script filled with awful lines, and the actors and actresses ham it up.
It doesn’t work that way. Awful actors recite their lines poorly because they do not know any better. It was the style of the day. When you try and act poorly to mimic someone who was already acting poorly, it fails to deliver the same goofy tone. It is intended instead of unintended, and anyone can see right through it.
First time film director R.W. Goodwin knows his classic sci-fi, but can’t seem to find the right tone. Much of the film plays for laughs, including Vernon (Robert Patrick). He’s the town sheriff irritated by the local teenagers, and doesn’t believe any alien is eliminating the local populace. His antics are ridiculous, failing to represent any of the authority figures in the movies Alien Trespass is paying homage too.
This is hardly a fault of Robert Patrick. He plays the character as written, the over-authoritative town leader. It is a proper cliché, and the film is loaded with them: teens making out on the overpass, small town locale, the town drunk, fears of radiation, bad science, and alien spaceships. They’re all here, but not for the right reasons.
Alien Trespass is also too glossy. The obviously digital effects lack the charm of physical ones, and the obvious green screen is not equal to the rear projection style of old. It looks unnatural, not fake.
A lot of work went into the promotional campaign for Alien Trespass, and it seems like that is where most of the focus went. The idea that this is a “lost film” that was only recently found doesn’t work considering the end product.
Still courtesy of Cinemasquid.com
During one of the faux interviews in the special features, a film historian jokingly points out this can’t be the “actual” lost film because it looks pristine. He actually has a point, but what was done to this movie seems tragic.
The film was shot on 16MM, but you would never know it at first glance. Everything here has been smeared and digitally manipulated to the point where no real detail remains. Faces are bland pits of color, and backgrounds suffer from regular banding. The latter is most noticeable against the night sky in the beginning as the comets begin crashing into the planet.
That said, none of this seems to be the fault of the actual transfer. This looks to be a solid AVC encode as intended, but what is intended is anything but “old school” for lack of a better term. Black levels and contrast are superb, delivering an image loaded with depth. Colors are unnaturally saturated but do look great. Clarity is fine, although sharpness suffers due to the various effects of digital tinkering.
IMDB notes in their trivia section that the look was the result of R.W. Goodwin’s plan to make the film look like the 1953 War of the Worlds. If true, he failed. That looked natural. This does not.
Alien Trespass comes with a DTS-HD mix. The front sound field is used extensively, with various sound effects and positional dialogue. Cars pass from side to side effectively, and random audio cues used to enhance the attempted scares are fun.
The surrounds work nicely when called upon, demonstrated early as the UFO moves into the atmosphere in the front. The camera switches to a character looking at the event, and the UFO sound moves to the rears. Bass is only noted during the opening credits as the alien ship zips through space.
Extras are mostly comprised of the various promotional gimmicks used to hype the movie, including fake news clips and in-character “retro” interviews with the cast. In total, the promo stuff lasts around 20 minutes, with very little carrying any real merit.
Two interview segments finally offer something to discuss. Director R.W. Goodwin discusses shooting the film and his influences, and star Eric McCormack (very) briefly talks about his time on the set. At least these offer something into the thought process and the goals of the production. Some trailers remain.