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.
Sergeant Gregory Dapp, A lone wolf space cop, travels lightyears to Earth, ordered to hunt down and capture one of the universe’s deadliest and sought-to-extinction creatures, simply called a Phobe, before the extraterrestrial being reproduces on a massive, world obliterating scale. This particular species has wiped out all of Drapp’s special Phobe hunt and destroy unit and were thought to have been blotted out off the face of his planet until one lands on Earth. Drapp must team up with Jennifer, a local high school girl caught in the middle, to help capture the Phobe before spreading it’s seed for world domination.
“Phobe: The Xenophobic Experiments” is an extremely ambitious sci-fi action film from Canada. Directed by Niagara, Ontario filmmaker Erica Benedikty, the 1994 film had a ultra-micro-budget of only $250 to cast a two-world, space odyssey complete with light-saber action and a behemoth amount of laser fodder. Being a slave to nearly no financial backing, “Phobe” had to manage without shame and roll with the flawed punches and, somehow, obtained popularity when broadcasted at a television station with which Benedikty was associated even when the film had to be diluted down to PG content. Fast forward 22-years later, Intervision Picture Corp. releases the aspiring director’s DIY fantastical vision in a glorious and plentiful remastered DVD edition.
The Benedikty written and directed alien action feature pulls inspiration from many admired blockbuster sci-fi films including some potent familiarities, such as a revamped form of the alien from “Predator” who stalks with heat vision and blends in with camouflage or the dazzling lightsaber duels from the epic saga that is “Star Wars,” creating an endearing homage from a knowledgeable science fiction enthusiast with a dedicated cast and crew during a year long shoot. The Ontario filmmaker scribes her hero as not necessarily the hunter, but as the hunted because as soon as Dapp lands his ship and saves Jennifer’s life from a Phobe laser (a roman candle blast), Dapp and Jennifer spend the entire night on the run, never challenging the being until forced to do so and the structure harps upon a plot similar to “The Terminator” with a “Battlestar Galatica” villain presence.
Rostered completely with unknown local actors, John Rubick stars as the mullet sporting, Phobe asskicker Sgt. Gregory Dapp who bolts into light speed with a very John Belushi appeal set upon the shoulders of a calm and candid Rubick demeanor throughout the entire Phobe capturing and Phobe egg destroying ordeal. Dapp’s semi quasi love interest Jennifer, Tina Dimoulin, blankly unconditionally follows Dapp into certain utmost danger. The Dapp and Dumoulin combo are Earth’s last hope against the Merv Wrighton’s portrayal of an invading, combat-ready, ultimate killing machine species. Wrighton’s tall and broad shoulder stature ideally constructs an intimidating antagonist being ultimately unraveled by a very inanimate casted mask with no texture or any kind of cosmetic makeup whatsoever and that highly resembles a toothless ivoried skull.
“Phobe” won’t be palatable to every sci-fi devotee’s intergalactic taste. Only a microscopic niche fan base will greatly appreciate the tongue-in-cheek fashioned computerized imagery, the depth scale modeling, and the automaton deadpan acting that establishes “Phobe” as cult material and Severin’s InterVision Picture Corp. label does right by this small time Canadian film by remastering the original video elements and supplementing the DVD with a vast amount of bonus material. The video quality presented in a full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio is as good as it’s going to get with the inconsistencies of magnetic tape from a camcorder as the darker scenes are, at times, hard to visually construct because of the digital noise, but the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio quality is quite balanced and clear. The laundry list of bonus material includes an audio commentary from writer-director Erica Benedikty, the first feature film from Benedikty “Back in Black,” “The Making of Phobe,” Q&A with cast and crew, original FX shots from the 1995 broadcast version of “Phobe,” outtakes, and “Phobe” theme performed by Gribble Hell. Whew, that’s a lot of extras. To sum up the experience, “Phobe” is campy sci-fi schlock with stellar intentions and with tons of heart made of grenade tomatoes (this reference will make sense once you see the film) all while breaking the DIY mold.
Sushi. A Japanese delicacy which numerous people fear to digest because the fish is raw and cold and that which is raw and cold usually disgusts us. I should know – I was one of those ignorant people. However, being exposed to sushi for four years now, I’m confident in my opinion that sushi is exceptionally tasty and good for you without all the mayo-like sauces that are sometimes put on top of the rolls. But I can not say that I’ve had the pleasure of dining with a sushi spread laid out among the smooth and creamy body of a young naked woman. Though the idea sounds novel and sexually stimulating, the idea that someones dirty body touching my sushi makes me more nauseous than the raw and cold of the sushi itself.
This brings me to Sushi Girl from first time director Kern Saxton and Saxton has become an impressive director just from his work on this revenge crime thriller. Fish has spent six years, five months, and 17 days in prison for diamond heist crime. In all that time, he did not rat out his accomplices and in return, Duke, the ringleader of the heist, holds a special naked girl sushi dinner for Fish and also invites the rest of the gang. After the pleasantries are quickly established, the truth becomes clear among them that bad blood on the botched crime those many years back have spoiled their beliefs in one another and each wants a cut of the diamond profits and they suspect that only Fish knows where the diamonds are since he was the sole bag man.
Sushi Girl doesn’t pull any punches and his with such ferocity you’ll inch to the edge of your seat to figure out how the situation will all turn out. The trust is thin among the group and rightfully so as the characters in this game of chess are personally all different. Six years ago, Fish is a rookie looking to score big, but when he does his stint in prison and is released, all Fish wants to do is go home and wash his hands clean of the everything. The other characters don’t see it that way. Max is the hasty muscle of the group and can barely maintain his psychotic nature, most likely caused by his mountain of daddy abuse issues. Crow is also a psychotic individual, but a different kind of species; Crow’s wit, flamboyant, and sadist qualities make him a sheep and wolves clothing. Francis is like Fish by trying to come clean, but this former coke addict doesn’t have the fortitude to save anybody nor save himself from his addiction. And then there is Duke. Duke is educated, suave, a con man, and a killer. He can control the wound up Max, he can out wit the wolf Crow, and he can get under the skin of recovering druggie Francis. Fish is the only character who can stand up to all three of them, but the scenario is nothing as it seems.
I never thought Mark Hamill could be a character actor. Hamill, to me, will never break away from being Luke Skywalker – I mean he is even rumored to be in J.J. Abrams Episode VII – but Crow could be Hamill’s saving grace. Hamill’s range as an actor has expanded two folds and I have a theory that Robot Chicken and the animated superhero movies have helped Hamills out by utilizing his voice talents. The character has become the most unique character I’ve seen in a year. Good for Hamills as he has earned my respect as an actor. As for the other cast, well they’re a bit overshadowed by Crow, but they’re still worth mentioning. I’ve always had a soft spot for James Duvall ever since I saw him play another drug addict named Jimmy in Cornered! Duvall is like Tracey Walter in the sense that Duvall is a great supporting actor for any film – big or low-budget. Candyman himself Tony Todd, also executive producer, handles the role of Duke with ease. The man is a pro at being heartless, ruthless, calm and collective. His tall stature and baritone voice doesn’t hurt either. Plus, Courtney Palm, the sushi girl, has a drool-over body to die for.
Don’t be fooled by advertising that state this film has the Robert Rodriguez line up of stars like Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, and Danny Trejo in it and though the statement is true, their total screen time is about three minutes at the most..? I did read on IMDB’s trivia page that Biehn waved his acting fee due to a favor for smoking hot actress and Sushi Girl producer Electra Avellan (aka Babysitter Twin in Planet Terror). But these brief scenes of great actors don’t make Sushi Girl the greatest cult crime thriller since The French Connection, no. Saxton creates tension between the main characters, in a small room, with sushi on top of a naked woman and he delivers such a twist at the end, you won’t see it coming. You know there will be one, but what exactly the twist is will be unexpected.
Sushi Girl is brutality at it’s bare-bloody-knuckled best and really does resemble a sort of Reservoir Dogs feel with the trust issues amongst the group and the terrific torture scene goes without saying. Magnet Releasing has yet another winning release. Pick up your copy today!