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.
A small town is under sieged by a callous killer, ripping victims to bloody pieces and shreds without an ounce of mercy. As the town goes into a lockdown curfew, a paraplegic young boy named Marty decides to enact his own version of rebellious fun with a stroll in his gas-engine powered wheelchair for some nighttime fireworks, despite a killer on the loose and lurking in the moonlight. Marty’s fun turns into a terrifying nightmare when the killer stalks the boy and when Marty comes face to face with the killer and lives to tell the tale, he discovers that the town maniac is no ordinary deranged person but, in fact, a nasty, snarling werewolf whose also living in plain sight amongst them in the small town community. The only two to believe Marty’s harrowing tale is his older sister, Jane, and his drunk Uncle Red, whose still on the fence about Marty’s werewolf encounter. When the moon is high and full, the three devise a plan to lure out the monster to definitively put it down with a single shot from their one and only silver bullet.
A true piece of Americana horror, “Silver Bullet” remains a staple werewolf flick for those who grew up watching genre films in the 1980s. Daniel Attias, his first and only ever feature film, had embraced a larger-than-life monster movie from a script written by the legendary macabre novelist Stephen King, based off his novella “Cycle of the Werewolf.” Attias and King were practically novices when in regards to directing and screenplays; yet, “Silver Bullet” offers much in the way of comedy, drama, and the frightening scares with a practical effects wolf and snippets of gruesome, violent death at the hands of the beast. “Silver Bullet” goes beyond just being a thrilling story of good versus evil by also blurring the lines of the conventional establishment that spark up the old idiom, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and dives into a satirical outlook of certain religious faiths and their viewpoints.
What makes “Silver Bullet” as one of the most recognizable and rememberable films, regardless of some microscopic sloppy screenwriting and first time directing woes, is the cast. Before his life altering motorcycle accident, Gary Busey (“Predator 2”) as Uncle Red brings flesh and bone, and booze, to akin King’s Uncle Al character from the novella. Busey fabricates a wonderful, heartwarming performance dynamic with Marty, whose played by the late Corey Haim (“Lost Boys”). Haim is fresh to the scene with his chubby cheeks and doughy soft eyes that would eventually make him a heartthrob idol later into his career and at the young age of thirteen, Haim’s paraplegic performance is respectable and empowering. Uncle Red and Marty are pitted against a sleeper antagonist in Revered Lester Lowe, a role who I could see no one else being in aside from Everett McGill (“People Under the Stairs”). McGill has a face for television, or the big screen in this case, as his chiseled, dark features make him a formidable foe that’s hidden behind a clerical collar. Longtime television and TV movie star Megan Follows plays big sister Jane whom factors in as Marty’s only ally despite their dysfunctional relationship which Follows portrays well with verbal jabs of adolescent wickedness toward her disabled little brother. Rounding out the cast is Terry O’Quinn (“The Stepfather”), Bill Smitrovich (“Manhunter”), and “Reservior Dogs” Lawrence Tierney.
Television cooking show host, Giada De Laurentiis’ grandfather, Dino De Laurentiis, produced the film who was no stranger to the horror genre, such as “Orca” and “Amityville II,” nor to films adapted from Stephen King’s work like the “Dead Zone.” Under Luarentiis’ wing, “Silver Bullet” delivered brutal, traumatizing werewolf kills spun from the werewolf suit creating hands of another Italian, Carlo Rambaldi (“The Hand That Feeds the Dead”), and together, the two Italian filmmakers, along with an apt cast and crew, saw their installment flourish amongst an overcrowded werewolf subgenre in the early 1980’s with competition from films such as John Landis’ “An American Werewolf in London,” “The Howling,” and, yes, even “Teen Wolf.” “Silver Bullet” didn’t just arrive on the scene without some challenges to the storyline. For instance, a killing spree has already established with more than five townsfolk dead and a strict curefew has been set in place, but Marty, ignoring his Uncle Red’s solicited advice about staying near the house to set off fireworks, sneaks out in the middle of the night to shoot off fireworks away from the house. Marty’s fairly bright through the entire story and a nice kid, but the initial encounter between him and the werewolf is by far one of the most unintelligent and dim-witted action any character to make in the history of horror films. What makes the scenario even worse is that Marty is handicapped.
Umbrella Entertainment presents Daniel Attias’ “Silver Bullet” on region B Blu-ray home video in a widescreen 2.35.1 aspect ratio. Image quality of the full high-definition 1080p picture has an agreeable color palette, sharpness, and pinpoint details that especially come to light during the memorable church of wolves scene. A very few scenes have transfer instability where, in a blink of an eye, a revert to a faded frame comes into the fold. The English 2.0 DTE-HD master audio poises and harmonizes the elements and the dialogue into a vat of consistency that isn’t flawed by track damage. Jay Chattaway rallying, chilling score is a candor testament to the quality of the soundtrack that follows suit right behind the beyond par quality of the dialogue and ambient levels. Special features include audio commentary with director Daniel Attias, interviews with special effects artists Michael McCracken, Jr (“Deep Blue Sea”) & Matthew Mingle (“A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”), an interview with actor Everett McGill, an Umbrella exclusive interview with producer Martha De Laurentii’s remembering “Silver Bullet,” isolated score selections and audio interviews with composer James Chattaway, theatrical trailer, TV Spots, radio spot, and still gallery. A complete and definitive set from Umbrella Entertainment! “Silver Bullet” is a howling success story of classic American horror that has timeless practical effects, a riveting narrative, and cast enriched characters that invest into the lycanthropy film paralleling David versus Goliath.
Grieving parents, Jessie and Mark, aim to heal the deep wounds of the tragic and accidental death of their young son by fostering an orphan boy named Cody. After the mysterious death of Cody’s mother and having been through two concerning foster parents prior to Jessie and Mark, Cody strives to be the most sweet and loving child to his new and pleasant foster parents, but Cody has a dark secret that keeps him up at night. When Cody falls into a dream state, his subconscious imagination manifests his awe-inspiring dreams and even his worst nightmares that become deadly with the presence of the malicious Cranker Man, a dream shadow who can pluck anyone into disappearance that happens to be near the slumbering boy.
“Before I Wake” director Mike Flanagan labors over all that is supernatural, churning out more than his fair share of specter-centered storied films including “Absentia,” “Occulus,” and the more favorable sequel to “Ouija,” entitled simply enough “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” that was produced alongside “Before I Wake” in 2016. Flanagan’s knack for suspenseful tall-tale horror doesn’t pigeonhole the Salem, Massachusetts born director into producing the same terrorizing story over-and-over and while “Before I Wake” has undoubtedly a few heart-pounding horror elements, fantasy more than so strong arms the genre into a branding submission. If I may be so bold by comparing “Before I Wake” to Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan Labyrinth” might be committing, perhaps, blogger career suicide, but the draw to resemblances can’t go ignored with what “Before I Wake’s” Cody creates from his overly stimulated dreams is much more familiar to what “Pan Labyrinth’s” Olivia character imagines when she escapes the horrors of a war bred sadistic maniac, if even only in a diluted version of events.
“Superman Returns” actress Kate Bosworth headlines with co-star Thomas Jane (“The Mist,” “Deep Blue Sea”) as the unwitting foster parents who are forcing themselves back into the parenting game. I specifically was not coming to terms with Bosworth’s performance as Jessie; her facial expressions and body language, along with her tone and line deliveries, were too lifeless with rigidity and repetitiveness. So much so that I compared Bosworth to Suzanne Cryer’s impassive Laurie Beam character from HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” Unless the inexplicable amount of grieving has voided her of all emotion, like the Borg drone from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” the role of Jessie is written with a variety of mood driven circumstances that start with her insomnia, to her willingness to not leave their home, to being carelessly exploitive with Cody. Being a fan of Thomas Jane since 2004’s “The Punisher,” I might be a bit biased, but Jane had more range with the ability to switch back-and-forth between mixed attitudes and sentiments, making the dynamic between Jane and Bosworth clunky and awkward. To round off the trio of main actors, you might recognize the pint sized actor playing Cody as Jacob Tremblay from the 2015 Oscar Winning Brie Larson film “Room” portraying an innocently pitiful dreamer with an unquenchable thirst to be loved.
The Flanagan and Jeff Howard co-authored storybook script, intentionally or not, borrows heavily from psychoanalyst Sigmund Frued’s dream interpretation theory that wishful fulfillments are more common in children. Previous day activity, or day residue, has influential properties on a child’s dream, much like with Cody in this story, and Cody’s dreams are written to be an exaggerated fruition, fulfilling his desires and illuminating his emotions to the brightest or the darkest extent. Like many other films that involve the misunderstanding of children, adults Jessie and Mark blindly understand all the possibilities of Cody’s uncontrollable gift, exploiting Cody’s powers for their own greed. I did find that I love Jane’s Mark character as he tries to show Jessie the errors of her reasoning as he’s a bit of a kid himself, living vicariously through Cody with the video games and with the pizzas as if husbands, or men in general, are actually children at heart. Cody’s gift becomes a power struggle with Mark caught in the middle and the consequences of this struggle result in being the catalyst to unify Jessie and Cody as a strong bond between Mother and Son. Men totally receive the shaft in this picture where both dominant adult male figures are reduced to a forgotten or humbling state, left behind because mother knows best when it was really mother who dismantles the situation.
“Before I Wake” is a boogeyman fable of sleepless nights that independent Canadian distributor Mongrel Media presents on Blu-ray for the first time anywhere in North America on a home entertainment platform come January 10th. The film has been in a distribution limbo since U.S. theatrical distributor Relatively Media filed for bankruptcy, but, luckily for fans of the supernatural genre, Mongrel Media obtained home video rights. I was provided an online screener link, forcing my hand to not comment on the specs of the Blu-ray audio or image quality nor touch upon the bonus material, but what I can state is that the spin on the dream killer won’t stop here with “Before I wake.” Dreams, like conceptions of outer space, are vast with unlimited, unconstrained content that surrealist director Mike Flanagan has only partially tapped into by exploring the dangerously innocent perceptions fabricated from a child’s abstract mind.
Shark tracker Chase Hunter has been employed by his estranged brother-by-adoption Jake to hunt down a black-finned great white shark off the shores of South Africa. Jake, the head of a South African crime ring, has interest in the shark due to the very large and rather valuable diamond the shark swallowed after a botched meeting between rival gangs. Jake lends his brother his beautiful lawyer Jasmine as a guide who is familiar with the South African waters and has diving experience with sharks. Things become even more convoluted when Chase becomes involved with the ever dangerous and hard to kill Nix, a competing crime lord with a severe diamond obsession, and Nix uses every means of persuasion to motivate Chase in finding this priceless, shark-ingested diamond even if the persuasion is to kidnap Jasmine. Chase and Jake must put their differences aside and use their respectful talents to save Jasmine from a deranged killer that doesn’t lurk under the glassy South African waters.
Sheldon Wilson was once a director I tried to keep my all seeing eye on over a decade ago after the release of one of his earlier films, a ghost film entitled “Shallow Ground,” which I reviewed (not for Its Bloggin’ Evil) very positively with haunting attributes and a hint of foreshadowing of horror integrity from an upcoming director. Eleven years later and after viewing his latest release “Shark Killer” which he co-wrote with “Prom Night IV” penner Richard Beattie, I’ve come to the conclusion that the foreshadowing I thought I saw within “Shallow Ground” and within a promising young director didn’t quite take and didn’t live up to the expectations of continuing a film legacy or even a cult following. “Shark Killer,” like most films involving the underwater apex predators, doesn’t make the cut of being a cinematic masterpiece, but turns out to be similar to other certain frenzy-feasting films, such as “Sharknado,” “Deep Blue Sea,” and “Shark Night,” and all of which contain charming entertainment qualities in their own right from whether being absolute ridiculous where sharks fly through the air and attack their prey, or where sharks viciously rip apart and devour famous celebrities, or where sharks swim and stalk in unsuspecting places like at an isolated lake resort.
Here’s what little I liked about “Shark Killer:” I liked the film’s budget which allowed for some decent shark special effects which in any other Syfy channel case would be unbearable. The effects are great, but not great white great and are just barely digestible with a slightly bad after taste. Another positive aspect of “Shark Killer” is the scripted dialogue. A witty dynamic between estranged brothers Chase (Derek Theler) and Jake (Paul du Toit) made for some quaint comedic relief in the second and third acts where the two had to work their way through an army of henchmen to rescue Jasmine (Erica Cerra). Derek Theler has potential to be the next Chris Pratt with a dimwitted charm, a handsome face, and a tall and bulky build. Theler’s acting also flows finely and is well-timed, but he does need to expand his range as his character Chase becomes tiresome and predictable, especially for a character torn between a dwindling family relationship with his brother Jake and a new love interest in Jasmine.
In hindsight, “Shark Killer” should have never been titled “Shark Killer.” Much of the film rarely involves Black Fin, the diamond eating great white shark, and, instead, “Shark Killer” comes off as more of an action thriller between shark hunter Chase and a criminal warlord over a diamond with such importance that is never actually explained from either of the battling criminals Jake and Nix with the exception that it’s a priceless gem. What’s also not explained is Jake and Chase’s past as we’re given only minute information such as their not actually brothers by blood, but for some reason Chase owes Jake for saving his life from presumably a instance with shark. Again, an important explanation should be provided to give us more reason to believe the Chase needs to do Jake this dangerous and pointless venture. Great white Black Fin swims silently in the background caught in the middle of this diamond war. What’s more interesting are some of Black Finn’s murderous scenes where Chase explains that the giant shark follows them to the harbor and leaves the hunters fatal calling cards; regardless of how mysterious this shark becomes from these scenes, they all become pointless when compared to the foreground story.
Also, I was expecting a bloody good show from director Sheldon Wilson and a film called “Shark Killer.” What I witness was a tame and timid PG-13 action thriller with witty banter which makes “Jaws: The Revenge” look like a hardcore bloody snuff movie. All the shark kills are off screen and implied leaving everything to imagination, but where is the visual visceral nature of being an apex predator? There should be flesh shredding, vein puncturing, and blood squirting violence whenever sharks are supposedly the main focus. South African native and the film’s most recognizable actor, “Darkman” portrayer Arnold Vosloo had the most violent scene where he executes one of his bumbling henchmen with a bullet to the head. Chase Walker mainly just beats people up, Jake shoots a couple of guys, and a shark becomes stab multiple times, but you don’t really see that part and, instead, just get a a couple of close up scenes of a determined eye of the shark being stabbed to death.
Overall, “Shark Killer” has classic PG-13 entertainment value, but doesn’t bring any new material to the deep trenches of a vast cinematic ocean. A disappointing creature-feature and action-adventure thriller entry from director/writer Sheldon Wilson who has taken a step in the wrong direction, away from the intense and jarring “Shallow Ground” that gave me hope for new blood in the water. “Shark Killer” incorporates too many variables and just chums the water with useless scenes where only a little simplicity and focus to a film could have been more beneficial for the Blue Ice Pictures production, who gave us “Fido” and “Alien Outpost,” and the RLJ Entertainment home entertainment release.