Written and directed by Brandon Slagle, story by Michael Mahal and Sonny Mahal, a SWAT team transporting a vicious crime syndicate boss must fight their way out of a county detention centre during a catastrophic alien invasion. Starring: Richard Grieco, Jolene Andersen, Douglas Tait, Robert LaSardo, Tara Reid, Paul Gunn, Gerardo de Pablos, Clay Trimble, Robert Donavan, Johnny Huang and King Jeff.
While the synopsis doesn’t sound overly complicated, logically a SWAT team would be a great choice to go up against an alien invasion but it becomes clear fairly quickly that the filmmakers are trying to tell more than one story and it can’t pull it off. The opening focuses on the capture of its crime boss Hades (LaSardo) and it represents an issue that the film has throughout, its an action sequence with guns and fighting but it has no adrenaline or energy. The choice to include a sex scene was a damaging one, it’s shot in a very clumsy way and has nothing to add other than to take away from building any tension or action. Granted, it’s one of many films that knows its target audience will appreciate the female nudity but it isn’t worth it in the long run, it kicks things off on the wrong foot.
The atmosphere that the film sets up is one of comedy but given that it’s trying to pull off a sci-fi, action, horror combination, it’s fighting against itself to tell this story. The real objective of this film should be providing a fun time for its audience but it hinders that possibility by trying to introduce elements of drama, family and emotions that it simply doesn’t have the sincerity to pull off. The build up to the alien invasion is mistimed, there’s no opportunity to actually establish an end of the world, apocalypse style feel to it and so the threat feels empty. It does attempt to fill in a backstory for the appearance of these violent extra-terrestrials but it feels unnecessary, you don’t really need to know where they came from or what they want, it should be about the survival of its characters. It’s yet another example of how the story becomes too convoluted and scattered, it’s unclear what it’s trying to achieve and perhaps whatever that may be, needed to be split into a mini-series or sequel to give it time to naturally develop each element. As it stands, you don’t get given the opportunity to really invest in these characters before the carnage begins, so you have no significant reason to root for them, which is a key element in a story such as this.
One of the other aspects that takes away from a more adrenaline or action-packed atmosphere is the sound work, the bullet effects are too quiet, it takes away from the danger and threat, they needed to be kicked up a few notches. The alien effects are about what you’d expect but they spend too much time directly on screen, part of the fear comes from not really knowing what you’re fighting against, by only showing glimpses but here they’re straight to camera repeatedly and it dulls their impact. The filmmakers were aiming a little too high when it comes to the visual, they needed to rein it in to really focus and create a close, tense atmosphere that would feed into the characters’ fight for survival. The direction at times feels claustrophobic and it needed to rework how to use tight spaces to make the best use of its angles, which can feel awkward.
The performances are pretty much what you’d expect but again it’s a question of giving the actors too much, trying to push a sentimentality and emotional nature to roles which should be much simpler. While Reid is one of the most recognisable names, she only appears in the film very briefly. It would have been great to see more from Paul Gunn who quite possibly brings the strongest personality to the film whereas Andersen’s character who’s featured heavily works more successfully not being weighed down by emotional issues but needed a stronger personality.
Attack of the Unknown tries to do far too much and ends up feeling muddled. The film is sadly lacking in an action or adrenaline fuelled atmosphere, it attempts to build an apocalyptic setting but can’t pull it off. It struggles to give you something to invest in and feels as though it got too distracted from the goal of making a fun adventure for its audience.