Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Roadside's "Alien Trespass" is a miniature "Grindhouse"


A couple years ago, remember, Dimension films gave us a whole 50s style horror evening with the compound-fracture presentation “Grindhouse”. Now, Roadside Attractions releases a 50s Saturday-afternoon-at-the-movies experience with “Alien Trespass” (website). This "new" film has nothing to do with the huge Fox franchise "Alien" (despite the excrescence of the monsters, as below).

The experience starts with the screen cropped to 4:3 even for the Roadside trademark and musical jingle, and then goes on with a 1957 newsreel (at the beginning of the Geophysical Year, as I recall from grade school and “My Weekly Reader”) that mentions the Navy Vanguard satellite, which would blow up, allowing the Soviets to pull ahead then in the space race with Sputnik. That was traumatic for the country then in those Eisenhower days, and would help propel social change recognizing the need for nerds and geeks.

But then the screen opens up for the “feature”, which is the spoofy “Alien Trespass”, as directed by R. W. Goodwin, written by James Swift and Steven P. Fisher. There are plenty of summaries out there, but a spacecraft does crash-land in the Mojave Desert (somewhere near US 395, probably), and there is a giant silver robot that takes over a scientist’s body (“Urp”, played by Eric McCormack), and a slobbering giant single cell blob called a ghota, that eats up anything organic (including all the people it can find) before reproducing asexually (and that’s probably its problem). By the way, I had a friend whose email name was “Ghoti”, and I don’t know if there’s a connection. Along the way, there are all kinds of stock characters, such as the fiancées Dick and Penny (Andrew Dunbar and Sarah Smyth) and the Police Chief Dawson (Dan Lauria). The ghota looks a bit like the blue blob on the cover of the April 2008 “Scientific American”, “The Shocking Colors of Alien Plants”, although the ghota is probably an “animal”. When it "eats up" its human victim, it regurgitates the "water" content, leaving a "puddle" that looks like the vomit from a bad case of norovirus.

Then there is the film within-a-film idea when they all go to the moviehouse to see Paramount’s “The Blob”, and just when people are running from the theater in the original, guess what happens in the theater. You get it. The film also displays the poster of the United Artists classic "The Man from Planet X".

The film was actually shot in interior British Columbia, where it gets very hot, and the end credits broadly boast the film’s Canadian origins.

I still think that one could make a dramatic movie about what would happen if aliens made an unmistakeable appearance, with ambiguous results and without destroying much (maybe a little) and went away. How would CNN handle it? How would the stock market behave? What would happen to religion and world politics? I can certainly take a crack at it. Or we could see somebody make Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End”. And maybe Roadside Attractions would release it. (By the way, I notice on Roadside’s blog that it refers to its “chums” at Lionsgate (a larger indie company originating in Canada). I wonder what the real business relationship is.)

For another B-movie grindhouse experiment, try "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Killers from Space; Attack of the Gay Space Invaders", dir. Doug Miles, from Refried Pictures (2002)as a DVD, a spoof on an original Peter Graves film, and people "get it" in the movie, from the aliens.

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