A small Australian town experiences a small, yet devastating portion of a world invasion by a hostile alien race during a night of carnival festivities and a rugby football game. A small group of locals band together to form a resistance against the alien occupation that seeks to turn mankind’s world into their own, using captured humans as slave labor for their own agricultural harvesters. After each liberation of prisoners, the resistance fighters train others as rebels to strike back, and strike back hard, against their oppressors while they continuously search for their missing loved ones, but for some, at the cost of their own humanity and compassion when only killing becomes the most instantaneous gratification toward taking back their home planet. A select few of rebels try to find common ground in peace with a homeless alien race that desperately seeks an inhabitable world, but red and green blood must be shed on both sides before amity ever becomes a realistic ideal between two humanoid races.
“Occupation” is the 2018 alien invasion action-thriller and the sophomore feature film from Australian director Luke Sparke. Sparke, who also wrote the script, shares additional dialogue credits with Felix Williamson of “Nekrotronic.” What could be considered as “Red Dawn” meets “Independence Day,” “Occupation” has wealthy production value breadth that kisses the line of being something constructed from the flashy and gleam-laden Michael Bay with grand scale visual effects that blend fairly seamlessly with ground level practical makeup. Explosions, weapons fire, and spray patterns of alien blood put a significant dent into the storyline that follows the nearly-a-year course of the ragtag team of human resistance fighters, firmly solidifying “Occupation’s” action status and large pocket budget on a this foreign science fiction film.
Not one actor headlines “Occupation,” but, rather, follows the subjective motives from each of the motley crew of survivors. If had to choose, the pill addicted and rugged rugby footballer Matt Simmons, played by “Beast No More’s” Dan Ewing, is shown some favoritism as he becomes the naturally unspoken for leader of the resistance team that includes his girlfriend, Amelia, played by Stephany Jacobsen. “The Devil’s Tomb” actress doesn’t quite mesh well with Ewing; her forced performance is uncomfortably ungraceful during action and melodramatic scenes of her perspectives on the alien culture and Matt’s audacious bravery. Temuera Morrison is a familiar face amongst the mix; the “Speed 2” and regular “Star Wars” mythology actor across many platforms is the passionately driven father, Peter, who desperately searches for his son and wife from whom he was separated during the invasion and Morrison does what the accomplished actor has always done best, being the aggressor and the muscle behind his character, especially when Peter mercilessly caves in alien craniums with scrap piping. When Peter is bashing skulls, he’s being an overprotective daughter to Izzy Stevens, a young actress from Sydney, who provides the teenage angst and, in a rather bizarre move, goes down a road of fixation with the local, older looking bum, played by Zac Garred. The chemistry only sparks here and there until their tunnel of love sequence; by then, they’re full throttle, ripping off clothes like cotton is contagious. Rhiannon Fish, Charles Terrier, Felix Williamson, Jacqueline McKenzie (“Deep Blue Sea”), Trystan Go, and Sci-fi genre vet Bruce Spence (“The Road Warrior”) make up the remaining cast.
Much of “Occupation’s” hefty flaws come from simply being forced. From the acting to the storyline, the pace doesn’t convey authenticity and where the characters should be within the stages of a post-invasion Earth. Oppressive occupation desolate inhabitants and landscape, but the majority of the human race remain not weathered by the conflict and Sparke doesn’t necessarily express that well with still very much clean shaven, well-kept, and strength-retaining displaced survivors with fat bellies and no sign of disease or starvation. In 8 months, the resistance is able to completely organize against an advanced alien race despite being taken by complete surprise. Dynamics are a bit off as well as many motivations abruptly change; for example, Amelia’s brother, Marcus, has a crush fixation with Izzy Stevens’ character during invading period, but the interaction between them go un-nurtured and wither to where a sudden connection between her and the bum form at a rapid pace without so much of a flicker of jealousy Marcus, losing any hope for an internal, tangent subplot. Same can be said between Matt and Amelia; they’re hot and cold relationship teeters on psychotic behavior and bi-polar tendencies that result in questioning where exactly their position lies in this conflict that’s nudges them to wedge apart but pulls them together again like nonchalant magnets without really tackling head-on their own issues.
Lionsgate and Saban Films release “Occupation” on Blu-ray home video. The transfer is in 1080p hi-definition with a 2.39.1 widescreen presentation. Nothing really to note here about the image quality other than the cleanliness of the digital video that sheds many landscape and personal details in the day and the night sequences. The English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track has copious qualities for an explosive-laden borderline A/B movie from Australia. Dialogue is prominent and the LFE is quiet sparse though explosion heavy; ships whizzing through the air maintain on a level playing field audio track shared with human’s scampering frantically for their very lives. Spanish subtitles and English SDH are also available. For a two-hour runtime flick, surprisingly, there are no bonus features with this release. Luke Sparke’s “Occupation” is masterfully formulaic as we’ve all experienced this movie before whether be “Red Dawn” or “Independence Day.” Nothing under the satisfactory visual effects is awesome enough to rattle or challenge the mind with the venture of a militia of Australian resistance fighters pitted against ghastly, rubber looking extraterrestrials and that’s the ultimate and fateful bullet in Sparke’s sci-fi action film.
In the year 2022, Special Forces solider, Captain Robbins, is court martialed for putting a bullet in the head of his commanding officer. After escaping two maximum security prisons and a record of rebellious activity, a corrupt and power hungry warden of the Lactivus prison ships Robbins off to an off shore island called Absolom, where prisoners can roam free with no chance of escape due to 24/7 surveillance by Satellite and rocket launcher armed helicopter gunships surrounding the island perimeter. Island prisoners separate into two factions: the Outsiders and the Insiders. Each with the respective camps, the lawless Outsiders overwhelm the Insider’s numbers by 6 to 1, leaving the small manned community in constant fear of attack and pillage by the Outsider’s merciless leader, Walter Marek. When the insiders learn than Robbins has faced Marek and lived, they take the former solider into their community, but Robbins sole desire is to escape off the condemning rock and with the help of a few good men from the Insiders’ camp, the chances of escape and survival are greater together as long as Marek and his band of starving cutthroats don’t seize the endangered community first.
“Escape from Absolom,” also known as simply “No Escape” in the U.S., is a Martin Campbell directed action film from 1994 that’s futuristic and violent, fun and thrilling, and kitschy without being too cheesy. Campbell, who went on to direct not one, but two, James Bond films, begins a base of epic action that’s toweringly ambitious and pulled off nicely with the stunts and the editing. Based off the Richard Herley novel “The Penal Coloney,” the script is penned by Michael Gaylin who puts pen to paper to scribe a playful, passively aggressive dialogue, but fun and energetic on a the same coy lines of other high visibility action films. Gaylin was able to conform to a story that has no dynamic with the opposite sex in one of the few films that exhibits a rare all male cast.
“Goodfella’s” star Ray Liotta finally got his time to shine as the butch and badass action hero that is Captain Robbins, a highly skilled special forces solider and killing machine whose pragmatic intentions, at first, are hard to read. The cockiness overtop a well-cloaked deadly skill set works to the advantage of the blue-eyed actor for New Jersey. Opposite Liotta is Stuart Wilson (“Hot Fuzz”) as Walter Marek, a 7-year island lifer with dreadlocks and nose bridge piercings to match his psychotic leadership. Wilson does psychotic just fine, but the look resembles John Travolta’s atrocious attire from Battlefield Earth. Lance Henriksen, One of the most recognizable legendary genre actors, has a more serene approach in being a mentor and the leadership figurehead of the Insiders camp when compared to conventionally eccentric, sometimes maniacal performances, but Henriksen has a mellow side to him that conveys are very affectionate kumbaya approach, but any personality compared to Stuart Wilson’s internal rampage would be a stark contrast. “Ghostbusters'” Ernie Hudson has his role as security office in the Insiders camp and the sole black man of the film, for obvious reasons, stands out, but Hudson just adapts to anything you put him in though the Michigan born tended to sway toward the thrilling fantasy/sci-fi genre in the height of his career. Rounding out the cast is Kevin Dillon (“The Blob” remake), Kevin J. O’Conner (“Lord of Illusions”), Don Henderson (“The Ghoul”), Ian McNeice (“Dune”), and Michael Lerner (“Maniac Cop 2”).
All things considered, “Escape from Absolom” is a torrent men-in-prison extravaganza that’s one part Sylvester Stallone “Judge Dredd,” one part Chuck Norris “Missing in Action,” and, as a whole, an endangered brand of droll entertainment. Speaking of Stallone, Ray Liotta did it first as a character who is an expert at escaping the inescapable maximum security penitentiaries and instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dave Bautista as contentious, yet supportive allies, the friendly, yet solidly statured Ernie Hudson and Lance Henriksen share Liotta’s Captain Robbin’s unquenchable lust for freedom, even if it to provide unsheathe exposition of the unethical corporate penal system practices. Far from being a perfect film and extremely blantant on a no underlying message, Martin Campbell undoubtedly has a fine tuned niche of capturing the casual eye with large scale action sequences and an affable character allure.
Umbrella Entertainment releases “Escape from Absolom” on a region-all Blu-ray, presented in 1080p, widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio. The coloring is phenomenally remastered and stable compared to previous transfers. There are times when depth becomes two-dimensional or flat, skewing the picture noticeably, but the overall picture quality is spectacular in the vast amount of Australian landscapes and even in the night scenes that show hardly any enhancing, such as sharpening or contrast. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is laid out nicely with audible poise and precision balance. Dialogue is prominent while explosions have just the right amount of oomph under an exact LFE recipe. The release sports other language Dolby Digital audio tracks such as a German 2.0, Spanish 2.0, Italian 2.0, and a French 2.0. Optional English SDH subtitles are available. Bonus material includes a two part making of featurette from around the production of the film with interviews with cast and crew, four TV spots, trailer, and a reversible cover. Runtime is 118 minutes. Martin Campbell’s “Escape from Absolom” is dystopian dynamite, explosive and aggressive with a flare for enjoyable banter amongst defined and diversified characters inhabiting an utopian island of mostly societal scum.
In the year 2024, the world’s superpowers are on the edge of nuclear warfare as Earth’s resources are dwindling at a rapid pace. A halt in knife edge conflict and the construction of temporary peace, known as the RAND Treaty, allowed nations to build underground, sustainable bunkers for a restarter population. Plethura 04, one of these bunkers, is being monitored, maintained, and prepped by Roy, an labeled “undertaker” scientist, whose setting the stage for a group of survivors known as Priority One, but when the sudden fallout alarm blares, Plethura is locked down early, trapping Roy alone in a cavernous and cold bunker alone with the exception of an A.I. program that Roy named Arthur. As time passes, Roy sanity comes into question; so much so, that Roy believes that Plethura might just be a drill simulation. Also, is there really something in the bunker with him? Is Arthur trying to confuse him? Questions, isolation, and terror seep into Roy’s mind, perhaps, or perhaps not, manifesting a lurking presence.
“Its Alive,” also known as “Twenty Twenty-Four” is the intense psychological thriller from the United Kingdom. Written and directed by first timer Richard Mundy, “It Lives” is helmed in the same vein as “Buried” with a solo performer in an isolation crisis. Produced by Ripsaw Pictures and Entity Film Company, the feature has some production power behind it that makes the indie film seem to have a fluffier value than its actual worth and garnishes a cherished and chilling atmospheric cinematography by Nick Barker. A real sense of a cold cleanroom can be just as frightening as a filthy slaughterhouse and the Mundy-Barker team hone in on that very concept, performing a bariatric surgery on the heaviness and the plentiful of the up top, outside world and reducing it to a few corridors, a couple of living chambers, and beast-like belly of a generator room. The filmmakers fabricate isolation and the perception of isolation well with a tremendous set up of the scenario: the preparation and the sudden, unexpected calamity of a nuclear fallout.
Actor Andrew Kinsler has the toughest job in the world, acting without feeding off the energy and the lines of other fellow actors. Kinsler goes at the role alone as Roy, a scientist prepping Plethura 04 for the arrival of Priority One survivors and knowing that he will die when he trades spaces with the group as he has to go topside. That’s notion, of having to sacrifice yourself for strangers, is a deep concept. Its easier to sacrifice oneself for the sake of those you love and care for, but complete strangers is pure mental mayhem, especially when all the work of getting the bunker ready was done by Roy. Kinsler keeps up the part of coping with his mortality, accepting it, and then being crushed by it when the world ends at the blink of an eye. Questioning everything as he immerses deeper into isolation, Kinsler relies more on the artificial intelligence to be a companion, despite seemingly being annoyed by the very lack its thirst for human complexities.
Many popcorn viewers don’t care for an open book ending films where the personal interpretation opens up a vast range of theories. “It Lives” is one of those films. Most certainly a disturbing psychological thriller, the story perpetually has Roy second guessing every anomaly that spooks him, even to the extend of thinking a computer program has infiltrated his subconscious with trickery and confusion tactics. Then, the ending smacks you right in the face and then smacks you again with a three finale questions: Was it a dream? Was it madness? Or was it all real? Christopher Nolan similarly put the fate of “Inception’s” Cobb into the hands of audiences when he spins a toy top to see if he was still in inception or if he was in reality. If continuously in motion, that would signify Cobb’s in a fantasy world, but Cobb’s spin is cut short with a cut to black, begging the answer of whether his happy ending was true or a inceptive pipe dream. Roy’s scenario is a lot darker and, if not, deeper that’s challenged by an internal struggle of self-preservation. Has Roy become a fixture of the cleanroom aspect? Has he become a cold figment of accepting his fate and has suppressed his emotion about it to the boiling point that his subconscious is fighting for his own survival? “It Lives” is an exceptionally juicy psychological film worth exploring.
Second Sight presents “It Lives” onto DVD home video this July 30th! Since the screener was a DVD-R, a full assessment of the audio and video aspects will not be covered. There were also no bonus material on the disc. What I can say is that Harry Kirby’s score is the utmost jarring; reminds me of Mark Korven’s unsettling and unique unmelodious score in “The Witch.” As part sci-fi and part horror, the surface level narrative is sheer terror and fear. Below surface, the wicked and frightful stir an embattling vortex of arguments in the grossest of grotesque forms, aka a complete mind destabilization. “It Lives” has indie roots that spread wide and fierce, shredding through temporal lobes like soft butter and delivering one hell of a terrifying psychological horror.
Brothers Justin and Aaron struggle to maintain a normal and fruitful life outside Camp Arcadia, the UFO death cult camp they fled as young men. When Aaron feels empty, poor, and hungry as a cleaning serviceman on the brink of poverty and social misfortune, he convinces his older brother to take him back to the camp for one day. Once they’ve arrived, the two felt as if nothing has changed, even the cultists haven’t aged in the decade they were gone. Aaron seeks to reintegrate during his time at the camp while Justin is eager to vacate the premises pronto, but an otherworldly phenomenon promises answers to Justin and Aaron’s perceptions of their former cult and leaves questions to the unexplainable events that surround the camp site. The brothers must solve the mystery before being ensnared by the phenomena that lurks all around them with an ever present eye.
“The Endless” is the 2017 science fiction horror film from a pair of directors, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, who helmed a segment in the anthology, “V/H/S Viral.” The duo also star as the leads in the film as Justin and Aaron. Benson penned the film’ script that has grand originality and fosters an underlying Lovecraftian concept and despite the limited budget, “The Endless” has favorable special effects of mind-boggling proportions incorporated with a splash of mildly dark humor in this blithe fantasy horror. Reminiscent of such other off-the-wall commingling genre films such as Don Coscarelli’s “John Dies at the End” or Madellaine Paxson’s “Blood Punch,” where the supernatural and bizarre collide and the characters are equally demented for a pinch of extra pizazz.
Benson and Moorhead may be the stars of “The Endless” and essentially are the epicenter of the entire premise, but their characters wouldn’t be aptly as important if it wasn’t for the cast that supported them. One of the actors is Tate Ellington (“Sinister 2”) as the unofficial camp leader Hal with the gift of gab and just as mysterious as the camp itself. Ellington’s one of many of the camp so called UFO Death Cult characters that make the story really stick out as odd as there’s Lew Temple (“The Walking Dead”) too. A very unshaven and unkempt Temple weighs the look of an Civil War soldier in Tim and Tim’s distant expressionless is very much Temple’s bread and butter. Rivaling the unnerving silence of Lew Temple is “Alien: Covenant’s” Callie Hernandez. As Anna, Hernandez plays the girl next door, flirting with Aaron with trivial matter that toys Aaron’s inherent innocence. The rest of the cast includes Emily Montague (“Fright Night” remake), James Jordan, Kira Powell, Peter Ciella, and David Lawson Jr. as Smiling Dave.
“The Endless” could be said to have a slew of metaphors and symbolism, even the older brother Justin frustratingly points out how camp leader Hal always speaks in metaphors. So, what is causing all the weird and terrifying atmospherics at Camp Arcadia? Arcadia ends up being an oxymoron as the camp is not harmonious or a utopia as believed, but rather a coiled purgatory with an ominous presence thats ever present. Don’t know what’s watching, where it came from, or what it wants, but it’s driven fear of the unknown as noted during the title card epilogue of a quote. What we do know is this presence, this thing, is massive, looming over the hills and in the depths of a nearby lake; the thing is very Lovecraftian in proportion to what that means. Hell, even the quote I mentioned earlier about fear of the unknown is pulled from H.P. Lovecraft himself – “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” The brother symbolism fear for they have fear of the outside world and fear of their unforeseen and possibly poverish future, but once Justin and Aaron come to terms with ending being at odds with each other, the brothers know they can conquer whatever comes at them together.
Well Go USA Entertainment presents Snowfort, Love & Death, and Pffaf & Pfaff productions’ “The Endless” onto Blu-ray home video. The single disc BD-50 has a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio. Image presentation has fair natural tones with a set of a rather light yellowish tint during desert sequences. Color palette is enriched especially when the inexplicable does come ahead; moments of heavy tinting, such as a heavy red flare, inexplicably stand out. Blotching, DNR, or banding are an issue here, leaving the details considerably intact in a plenty of the duration. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound has not gaffs about it. The plentiful dialogue is clearly present to get the full story told, ambient and phenomena effects proportionally ranged and appropriate, and the soundtrack supports to dialogue and story with the amount of depth. Overall, the tracks are consistent throughout. Bonus features include an audio commentary with directors and producers, a 30+ minute make of segment, a behind the scenes featurette, deleted scenes, Visual effects breakdown, a “Ridiculous Extras” featurette that includes casting, and trailers. Don’t let the peppered black comedy in “The Endless” fool you; Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have constructed an original sci-fi horror that shells out an unsettling ambiguity of a modern and universal fear too invasive to try and stop the perpetual replaying of attempting to know the unknown.
A father mysteriously goes missing when visiting aliens violently abduct him from his serene cottage home. Thought to be a deadbeat husband and father for abandoning his family, the man returns three years later at the doorstep of his wife’s London flat. A bewildered and conflicted wife struggles with his return while the live-in boyfriend makes it clear that he wants the man out, shelling out a vicious cold shoulder whenever in the same room, but the returned father seeks to resume his patriarchal position amongst his family; however, he’s not exactly the same person he used to be as he garnishes an exterior shell of a human and the interior of a hostile extraterrestrial with ulterior motives. His return has nightmarish affects on his traumatized son whose becoming a device of deviancy at the hand of his father’s otherworldly influence, issuing carnivelesque ill will toward other flat tenants. By the time the boyfriend suspects something, the not-so-friendly alien might have already established the intended invasion into a family so eager and willing to accept their sorely absent loved one.
Perhaps one of the most out of this world science fiction horror films ever made that’s set on Earth, “Xtro” is the Don Coscarelli-like bizarre horror film from British filmmaker Harry Bromley Davenport. Co-written the story with Michael Parry (“The Uncanny”), Davenport’s blended American and British financed 1982 unsettling venture was penned by Iain Cassie (assistant director on “Schizo”) and Robert Smith. Honestly, no other film comes within a comparison zone of “Xtro’s” sheer creativity that doesn’t just redesign the genre or it’s tropes, but, rather, embraces a new kind of fragmented oddity by telling an uncomfortable story consisting with the graphic birth of a full grown adult, the flesh crawling sensation of an adult man bending down to child level to drink from the bare skin of a child’s shoulder, and the exhibition of the dark pageantry of humor underlined death. Over an umbrella of horror shades metaphorically a fairly common family crisis baseline premise of an inattentive father’s return home to try to reinstate himself with conflicted wife and eager son only to, once again and concretely, destroy them internally.
Philip Sayer sets foot into the duplicitous titular space invader. The trained veteran actor had experience from the stage that translated to what could be considered performance art in “Xtro” to embodied a creature on the inside to his humanity on the out. Sayer costars alongside an unseasoned child actor, Simon Nash, as the young Tony and the pair make a inharmonious father and son with cankerous performances by Nash who doesn’t exactly fit, when considering accent and even appearances, his portrayed parents. Bernice Stegers is the other half of Tony’s folks and the “Macabre” star does a phenomenal job as the stiffly conflicted mother and wife Rachel Phillips, straining toward more what’s best for her love life rather than to the care of her son. The live-in boyfriend Joe, portrayed by Danny Brainin, limps by as a fairly useless character who doesn’t contribute either way to a conclusion. Other than providing a minor tether to Rachel Phillips life to normalcy, Joe can’t swallow his emotions and the best the character can offer is to abandoned his girl and son, another frail male in their life. Brainin’s performance is good for the character’s weak minded attitude. The cast rounds out with Maryam d’Abo (who goes onto to be a bond girl in “The Living Daylights”), Peter Mandell, and Anna Wing.
Though thought provoking and wildly entertaining through soul rattling imagery, “Xtro” is by far from a perfect film. Sure, the Tom Harris special effects pull at innard chords you may never knew you garnished and certain scenes would be the subject of mysterious gif images in the dark corners the internet that proclaimed creatures do live unknown amongst us, but the British science fiction horror film, a video nasty of the time, just might have been too absurd in the nonconformist form that struck unpopular opinions with audiences and critics because the villain wasn’t necessarily tangible and wielded a blood stained machete and more so involved obscure telepathic references that were non-explicit. There’s literally no connective tissue which makes this film so beyond the mind’s grasp. “Xtro’s” niche saw non-homaging aspects, but had familiar flavors such as a bit of Peter Jackson humor, a dry slapstick that’s hard to enjoy, but fascinating to take in at the same time. That’s the whole idea behind “Xtro” was to create an off-structured horror film that pushed the limits while not just replicating other great horror movies.
New Line Cinema’s “Xtro” is coming to a limited edition Blu-ray set from UK distributor Second Sight. The newly restored extended presentation of the transfer will also have option alternate ending plus will also be accompanied with the original video version. Unfortunately, a screener disc was provided for this particular review and comments about the image and audio presentations will not be commented on. The disc did include extras such as a brand spanking new 57-minute documentary that included new interviews with Harry Bromley-Davenport, Mark Forstater (producer), Bernice Stegers, Susie Silvey, Tim Dry (Tik), Sean Crawford (Tok), Robert Pereno, Alan Jones and Craig Lapper. Also included is a new featurette with Dennis Atherton, Harry Bromley-Davenport and Mark Forstater, ‘Beyond Xtro’ – a new featurette with Harry Bromley-Davenport and Mark Forstater looking ahead to new reboot, ‘Xtro – The Big One’, including exclusive test footage, ‘Loving The Alien: A Tribute to Philip Sayer’ featuring exclusive Brian May music tribute, and ‘Xtro Xposed’ archive interview with Harry Bromley-Davenport. A venturous Robert Shaye at New Line Cinema wanted to match wits with his own one-two punch version of a video nasty. The result was an out of body experience alien feature with unapologetic tastes and unafraid wills to push the shock market limits. “Xtro” might be one of the billions of stars in the film archive, but at least it’s one of a kind.