Alien Trespass is a weird thing, all right, neither fish nor fowl: it's a feature-length recreation of a schlocky 1950s "it came from outer space!" horror picture that is far too straight-laced to accurately count as a parody, but at the same time too knowingly bad and winking to feel like an honest-to-God homage. I don't quite know what to do with it.

The plot, an elegant throwback to the many films set in tiny California towns on the edge of the desert, because that is where a budget-minded producer could quickly throw together a whole movie in the span of about one week: local astronomer Dr. Ted Lewis (Eric McCormack) heads out to investigate a strange explosion that occurs during the Pleiades meteor shower, and finds a downed flying saucer. Upon entering the space ship, his body is taken over by the metal-clad alien sheriff Urp, hunting a terrifying, murderous beastie called a Ghota. Urp/Ted's quest to stop the monster ultimately involves seemingly every resident of the sleepy Mojave burg, including Ted's push-up brassiere'd wife Lana (Jody Thompson); diner waitress Tammy (Jenni Baird); a trio of local teens, Cody (Aaron Brooks), Penny (Sarah Smyth) and Dick (Andrew Dunbar); and several members of the local police force, including Chief Dawson (Dan Lauria) and Officer Vernon (Robert Patrick).

Here's what I'm certain about: the film, directed by sometime X-Files producer R.W. Goodwin and written by newbies Steven P. Fisher and James Swift, could not possibly be a more accurate tribute to the B-movies of a certain time. Across the board, Alien Trespass looks and feels almost exactly like any number of by-the-books cheapies produced to give drive-in habituรฉs something to glance at in between make-out sessions. The script is almost too full of teeny weeny details that are exactly right: the first witnesses for the UFO crash are randy teens parked in the local lover's lane, the featured teens are a set of two squares and one greaser that could never outside of some middle-aged executive's attempts to appeal to The Young People, and so on.

Meanwhile, Goodwin and his crew recreate in exacting detail the costumes and sets of a 1950s genre film - which would, by and large, have been whatever was available for free with the minimum necessary "decorating" or "designing". The Ghota, a very rubbery creature with wobbly tentacles and a plasticky red eye is a marvelous homage to the many horrible-looking featured monsters of the day. Goodwin and cinematographer David Moxness even manage to recreate the camera movements and compositions that were typical of the era. In fact, the one and only thing that gives away the game - that this isn't really a lost film from 1957 just returned to the light of day, as implied in the first moments of the film - is the color film stock; only a handful of science-fiction films were shot in color back in the '50s, and most of those were much higher budgets than the films which Alien Trespass models itself upon. (Okay, two things: the very-recognisable McCormack and Patrick in the cast do kind of throw a monkey wrench into the whole "lost in a vault somewhere" mythos).

The cast gets in on the fun, too; especially McCormack, obviously having a blast playing a bad actor (well) who plays a man possessed by an alien (poorly). They obviously did their research, nailing exactly what makes the performances in those old movies tick; the actors playing the kids get the right blend of inexpressible horniness and dipshit anti-authoritarian playfulness, Jenni Baird is quite excellent as the girl who learns to be tough and self-sufficient, but who never actually achieves a damn thing anyway. And so on, and so forth; there's not a single weak link in the cast, probably because the good actors are doing a good job and the bad actors are just naturally falling into what the role asks for, that is, badness.

And here is where I run flat out of nice things to say. Yes, Alien Trespass sure does recreate a 1950s alien invasion movie with alarming precision - but I'm damned if I can name another thing that it does. It's not funny, for a start, which is what you'd probably expect from the concept; whereas something like noted cult object The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra wrings a great deal of humor out of recreating, with exacting precision, the very worst of the worst B-movies, Alien Trespass, weirdly enough, tries its hardest not to be bad at all. And it's not the only other thing I can imagine that would be truly interesting and unique, which is a '50s-style B-movie screenplay produced with all the glitz and high-tech toys available to the modern filmmaker, since besides a few random shots incorporating deliberately bad CGI, there's nothing in the movie that wasn't possible fifty-odd years ago.

This, then, is what Alien Trespass turns out to be: a remarkable honest & accurate remake of a perfectly ordinary and in no way incompetent or bad 1950s sci-fi program filler. And this is what's causing me so much difficulty: if the film succeeds perfectly in its aim, but its aim is to recreate exactly a genre of films noted for how shoddy and boring they were (I suspect there's not a person alive who'd rather watch a decent drive-in B-Movie than a howlingly bad one), is it then fair to complain when the film is itself boring? I mean, isn't that kind of the point? I guess I just wish that Goodwin and company had done something with the film instead of just proving that they were good cultural anthropologists.

The other thing that must be mentioned is the few moments when Alien Trespass turns into something completely else: when it seems like it really is some kind of thematically unresonant satire of '50s pulp. One climactic scene is effectively a remake of the movie theater sequence in The Blob, and the scene from that movie is actually playing as the new scene happens around it. There are also more than a few lines of dialogue which are just a bit too leading, a bit on-the-nose with their "Man, people were sure wearing their blinders during the Eisenhower Age, amiright? Boy, they sure didn't see the '60s coming!" These moments aren't per se bad, but they're quite a different animal from the rest of the film, and if they're meant to make Alien Trespass some kind of social commentary on pop culture of the era, well, they aren't.

Ultimately, the biggest problem is probably this: Alien Trespass is obviously meant to appeal to an audience that has a professed love for the movies that inspired it, and yet that is the exact audience in a perfect position to know that Alien Trespass really doesn't do anything remotely new with the form. I don't know. It was clearly a labor of love, and a successful one, without a doubt. But "successful", we now know, doesn't preclude "pointless".

6/10