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Indie Film Review: 'Attack of the Unknown'

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Score: 5 of 5

Attack of the Unknown is an action sc-ifi film that feels like a cross between Independence Day and Assault in Precinct 13. Written and directed by Brandon Slagle (Crossbreed), produced by the Mahal Brothers (Michael Mahal and Sonny Mahal) and starring Richard Grieco (TV’s 21 Jump Street, If Looks Could Kill), Robert Lasardo (The Mule, Waterworld, Drop Zone), Douglas Tait (2019's Hellboy, Annabelle Comes Home, Zathura: A Space Adventure), Jolene Andersen (TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Resident Evil: Damnation) with special appearance by Tara Reid (American Pie, Urban Legend).

Writer/Director, Brandon Slagle is no stranger when it comes to helming an alien invasion film. His previous directing credits include Crossbreed, an alien action sci-fi film starring Vivica A. Fox and Daniel Baldwin. The film opens with a bust from a SWAT team led by Vernon (Richard Grieco) to bring down the drug lord known as Hades (Robert Lasardo). After the capture of Hades, Vernon and his team are ordered to transport Hades as the aliens attack them and crash their SWAT carrier at the precinct. Now, they have to fight their way out as aliens invade the precinct.

Slagle’s writing is very simple, yet effective and well-executed. His direction gives a great story that can play with one's emotions. Slagle is also able to capture the action and thriller angles, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats. His direction of the actors keeps the story intact with great chemistry and character development. The tension he built from the first attack at Chatsworth to the attack on the precinct is astonishing. We see little by little how the invasion starts happening, the crowds from different locations slowly starting to notice something in the sky. Gradually, the attack begins. We finally see the glimpse of the spaceship then the story returns to the SWAT team, leaving viewers potentially wanting to see more of the invasion and the reveal of the spaceship. Slagle was able to capture and build this moment, teasing viewers at the same time. It is not until act three that audiences get the full appearance of the aliens. In the meantime, we get sucked into the story with the character conflicts and forget about the aliens for a moment, then Slagle takes us right back to the invasion, giving us the satisfying moment. And if you think it is over, he takes us to a different direction that has a "wow" factor.

The performances from the actors are superb. Richard Grieco’s performance carries the movie perfectly. One can feel the pity watching him. His chemistry with Maddox (Douglas Tait) is amazing. At one point, when the rumble happens, one can still feel their pain. Douglas Tait is also a talented actor, considering this is one of his actual performances without being in rubber suits or stunt. He brings the character to the next level. We do not need the background of the character, but he is able to build his relationship with Vernon, and they feel like they have been through years of adventures together. The tension between Vernon and Hades is also there, and one can feel the hatred from Vernon. Robert Lasardo killed it with his performance as Hades. He knows something about this alien invasion, but he is able to hide it. We see that throughout the film.

Another great performance from Paul Gunn, who played Kai, member of the SWAT team. The way he carries the character from the beginning, we know that he is tough, and yet very calm. And of course, Jolene Andersen, who played Hannah from the SWAT team, truly kicks butt as a tough female lead in this film. The great thing about her is that she feels like she is just a supporting character, and yet Andersen is able to develop her character and step it up to become a leader. One more actor that I have to give a shout-out to is Johnny Huang, who played Dallas Zhang, a civilian who gets stuck in the precinct with the SWAT team. Oh boy, what a genius. This guy is hilarious. I cannot stop laughing. If you feel the tension in the room, this guy is able to make you forget about the tension. Wait until you see Dallas and Kai interact, something you do not want to miss.

The score of this film is outstanding. Composer Scott Glasgow, whose credits include Hatchet III, Robotech: Love Live Alive, and additional music for Captain America: Civil War, was able to carry the emotion of each character. The score brings up and builds the suspense. Not too many composers are able to make us feel what the character is going through. Michael Su, the director of photography, has done such indie films as Automation and Art of the Dead, to name a couple. Su is no stranger to the Mahal Brothers, this being his third collaboration with them. He was able to capture the beautiful angles and cinematography, giving a lot more effective storytelling and feeling for the characters without having them in front of the camera. It gives us the eeriness and suspense. His camera movements are very subtle and able to capture the suspense built into the action. The lighting he chose provides eeriness and characteristics of its own, especially when the alien shows up. He made sure each shot in this film has its own character.

The special make-up effects of this film are astonishing. No doubt, this is top-notch SFX. The alien was designed and created by one of Hollywood biggest SFX artists Vincent J. Guastini and his team. His credits include I, Frankenstein, World War Z, Letters From Iwo Jima, Scary Movie 4, Requiem for A Dream, The Last of the Mohicans, Dogma, and lot more. His alien SFX are out of this world. The alien looks very vicious and nasty. The design works well, capturing the nasty attitude that they have toward us humans.

The Mahal Brothers have once again succeeded in bringing an enjoyable and entertaining indie film for us, especially in 2020 with this pandemic. This is the film that you need to see in 2020. If you like action sci-fi alien invasion films with '80s and '90s vibes, this is it. Look no further. You will not be disappointed. Catch it on VOD Friday, August 28, and on DVD/Bluray on October 27.

Written By Pat Kusnadi

Syndicated from Culture Slate

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