Taglines: They! Have! Arrived!
Set in 1957, “Alien Trespass” chronicles a fiery object from space that crashes into a mountaintop in the California desert, bringing the threat of disaster to Earth. Out of the flying saucer escapes a murderous creature – the Ghota, which is bent on destroying all life forms on the planet. A benevolent alien from the spaceship, Urp, inhabits the body of Ted Lewis – a local astronomer – and with the help of Tammy, a waitress from the local diner, sets out to save mankind.
It was a summer night in 1957 in the quiet California desert town of Mojave. Local astronomer Ted Lewis (Eric McCormack) is making a special anniversary dinner for his wife Lana (Jody Thompson). A local diner waitress, Tammy (Jenni Baird) is in her trailer painting a horse scene while Dick (Andrew Dunbar) and Penny (Sarah Smyth) are necking at lovers lane.
All are watching the light show from the annual August Perseid meteor showers when suddenly there is a blinding light and crash into the butte just outside of town. Ted attempts to investigate but Lana prevails in keeping him home at least until she falls asleep and he can sneak out to the crash site. In the meantime we see a gruesome alien creature (The Ghota) leaving the spaceship to slip away into the night.
Alien Trespass is a 2009 science-fiction comedy film based on 1950s sci-fi B movies, directed by R.W. Goodwin. It stars Eric McCormack, Jenni Baird, Dan Lauria, Robert Patrick, Jody Thompson, Aaron Brooks, Sarah Smyth, Andrew Dunbar, Sage Brocklebank, Tom McBeath, Laura Carswell and Tom McBeath. The film was shot in Ashcroft, B.C.
About the Film
Despite the fact that we live in an era when technology has made even the most fantastical film special effects possible, sci-fi enthusiasts in particular, and film lovers in general, are still drawn to the wonderfully imaginative and original low-budget science fiction movies Hollywood produced in the 1950s – from “It Came from Outer Space” to “The Thing” to the vivid color sci-fi films such as “War of the Worlds,” “Invaders from Mars” and “The Blob.” Tapping into the collective anxiety of the nuclear arms race and the dawn of space exploration, these films were frightening in a primal way – like living nightmares – and didn’t rely on sophisticated effects to create drama and tension and fear.
Half a century later, despite great technological leaps in motion picture special effects, these films still maintain their ability to entertain and terrify us, precisely because their scares can’t be easily dismissed as merely cinematic trickery. With ALIEN TRESPASS, director/producer R.W. Goodwin (of “The X-Files” fame) pays homage to the films of that era, recreating the genuine scares, the sometimes unintentional humor and the disarming innocence that have made these films such compelling and timeless entertainments.
The original idea for ALIEN TRESPASS was born in the head of James Swift, the film’s co-story writer and producer, more than 20 years ago. His love for `50s sci-fi films resulted in a film treatment called “Invasion of the Spaceman.” Later, when he moved to Seattle, Washington, he hooked up with a friend, artist Steven Fisher, who helped flesh out the story and penned a first draft of the screenplay. “Steve and I did some brainstorming,” recalls Swift. “Then he started writing and I would edit, and that’s how the screenplay came to be written.”
During the process, both he and Fisher subsisted on a steady diet of `50s sci-fi movies to extract the essence of their characters and the plots. “Because there were so many terrific story possibilities, our biggest challenge was to keep the story simple and maintain the style and spirit of the movies to which we were paying homage,” according to Swift.
When he moved to Bellingham, Washington, Swift befriended Goodwin, who was quite taken with his sci-fi movie concept and even more enthused when he read the story outline. “Bob became infected by the idea and away we went,” laughs Swift. “I just loved the story,” recalls Goodwin. “It seemed like Jim and Steven had taken three of the classics of the genre, `War of the Worlds,’ `It Came from Outer Space’ and `The Day the Earth Stood Still’ and smushed them all together.”
Swift was committed to making ALIEN TRESPASS as a genuine tribute to the `50s matinee movies he Goodwin and Fisher had thrived on in their youth, incorporating some characteristic plot elements but with a fresh, unique, stand-alone story. “I loved the sci-fi and monster movies from that period,” says Swift. “It was my Saturday afternoon escape from my parents and family and boring `50s reality into the scary, fantastic world of imagination and possibility. Those movies were addictive for me and I loved taking a bus all over L.A. or riding my bike to see the latest fright-boiler double feature wherever it might be playing.”
Like Swift, Goodwin was not interested in making a spoof. Though, upon revisiting these films as an adult, he discovered that they remained scary, he realized that many were also inadvertently funny. “I mean, in `Invaders from Mars’ you can actually see the zippers on the monster costumes,” he laughs.
“Still, the one thing Jim and I agreed on is that we didn’t want to make a spoof or a parody or a cheap imitation because I knew that if we stayed true to the time and the period, it would naturally be funny. One reason is because the style of acting was so different from today. The actors played these roles from the heart. They were good actors, but this was a time before the influence of Brando became widespread and acting turned naturalistic. I knew if we worked hard and stuck to our guns it would be funny and fun.”
Though they did not meet until much later in life, Swift and Goodwin grew up near one another, attended the same school and were likely sitting an aisle or two away from each other watching these movies in the same movie house in the Inglewood section of Los Angeles. “Jim was probably in the audience watching those movies at the same time, only I didn’t know it,” says Goodwin. The twist that distinguishes ALIEN TRESPASS from other 1950s sci-fi films is the nature of the film’s hero. “We wanted our hero to be a woman, which was something that was definitely not done back then,” explains Fisher.
Goodwin worked with Swift and Fisher at streamlining the story and sharpening its focus. “Bob and I had mammoth fun dreaming up all the aliens and monsters that would inhabit the movie,” Fisher recalls. “This was my first experience in the movie business. I’d never even considered screenwriting until Jim offered me an opportunity to script a short film for him. I knew nothing about it, so I read several books on the subject and just plunged in. Unexpectedly, I discovered I was having tons more fun writing a script than I ever did painting on a canvas.”
A great time was had by all in devising the monster, the Ghota, which Goodwin describes as “a one-eyed slimy looking thing with tentacles. It looks like a 7-foot tall male organ with an eye in the middle. Again, it was accurate to the real movies from the period. It was real rubber, not CGI.”
Swift, however, was not happy with the residue that the monster left behind after he sucked the life out of his victims. “Originally, it was going to be a smoking pile of bones, which I found unsatisfying,” he recalls. “Then, at the last minute, we came up with the idea of mud puddles. What could be more accurate and yet original, or more fun to step in?”
Of all the characters he created, the Ghota was the one that most resonated with Fisher. “I thought about its anatomy, its behavior and abilities, its intelligence and history, even its hopes and dreams,” Fisher recalls. “I became so involved in the Ghota’s back story that it showed up in one of my nightmares and I actually woke up screaming. It was important to me that the Ghota make it through the movie alive, which very few `50s monsters ever do. I also wanted the mystery of its origins and its relationship to Urp to remain intact at the end of the film.”
Throughout, Fisher admits that the biggest temptation he had to avoid was commenting on the movies he loved and “being sucked into writing satire and comedy,” he laughs. “I wanted the characters to be real. They didn’t have to be too deep but they couldn’t be too goofy either or it would betray the genre. In the end, I have to give Bob and the cast the real credit for maintaining that delicate balance.”
“We wanted to make it real and yet subtly funny, and do both without anybody noticing,” he continues. “The humor had to arise easily and naturally so that it didn’t appear like we were pushing to create a retro sci-fi film. It needed to be energetic and somewhat scary, but it also needed to appeal to an audience that was born 30 years after these events are supposed to take place.”
Each of the film’s characters was chosen and filled out to represent a certain `50s archetype, Fisher notes, but he also wanted them to be “believably inhabited. So Jim and I came up with back stories for all of them. As I wrote the script, the characters began to take on their own lives and became just as committed to their reality and their peril as we are to ours.”
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Alien Trespass (2009)
Directed by: R.W. Goodwin
Starring: Eric McCormack, Jenni Baird, Dan Lauria, Robert Patrick, Jody Thompson, Aaron Brooks, Sarah Smyth, Andrew Dunbar, Sage Brocklebank, Tom McBeath, Laura Carswell, Tom McBeath
Screenplay by: James Swift
Production Design by: Ian D. Thomas
Cinematography by: David Moxness
Film Editing by; Vaune Kirby Frechette, Michael Jablow
Costume Design by: Jenni Gullett
Set Decoration by: Louise Roper
Art Direction by: Douglasann Menchions
Music by: Louis Febre
MPAA Rating: PG for sci-fi action and brief historical smoking.
Distributed by: Roadside Attractions
Release Date: April 3, 2009