Alien Trespass is a throwback to '50s moviemaking. Seriously.

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Although the movie Alien Trespass is a very funny movie, the director and cast insisted that the 1950s throwback to B sci-fi movies be played seriously by the actors.

"I had them immerse themselves in the movies of the '50s and see some really great actors, like Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal in the original Day the Earth Stood Still, play these parts very seriously," said director R.W. Goodwin, who worked on the X-Files TV series.

It's hard to think that Eric McCormack (who earned laughs for eight years on Will & Grace) would play it straight, but he does as the stiff professor whose body gets inhabited by an alien named Urp.

"When the character of the tightwad in a suit gets taken over by an alien, you could easily get real funny if you played it that way, but Bob [Goodwin] fought that, and it was better," McCormack said in an interview with SCI FI Wire.

Goodwin added: "If Eric played that for comedy, it wouldn't be as funny and be a different kind of movie. But this shows he's an accomplished actor, and it was like a razor's edge the way he played it, whether it was going to work on not, and it did."

Robert Patrick, who worked The X-Files as FBI agent John Doggett, said that he has always played comedy in a straight way. In this movie, as a small-town police officer, he's particularly funny.

The movie isn't a parody of the old B movies, but more of a re-creation of the style, Goodwin said. Rather than depend on too many special effects, the crew uses as many real costumes and props as possible, not to mention such old-fashioned filmmaking techniques as rear projection as the actors walk and drive.

"There is one scene where the treadmill stops and carries me another two feet, and the background is moving, and I crack up every time I see it," McCormack said. "It's a little thing that you can hardly notice, and it wasn't that it was done badly on purpose, or that it was done for laughs, but because it was accurate to the era."

Australian actress Jenni Baird, who makes her feature-film debut, said, "It was interesting to note the cadence and rhythm of the actors of that time period. They didn't stutter, they said every line, and they were very precise, so we had to copy that."

Goodwin added, "It may be a good time for this, because even though we filmed in 2007, things have gotten so horrible, and so I want the audience to time-travel back to a different era for two hours to the '50s and laugh a lot and see something with a lot of heart."

Alien Trespass, which also stars Dan Lauria and Jody Thompson, opens on Friday in limited release from Roadside Attractions.