Brandon Slagle, Michael Mahal, Sonny Mahal
I'm not scared to tell the world that I greatly enjoy two things in life. Campy movies... and aliens. Two guilty pleasures I've had since childhood - what's not to like? Comfort food for the soul, the campier the better - and if you don't feel the same way as I do, "Attack of the Unknown" is probably not going to be your cup of tea.
To sum up the basics, a bad-ass SWAT team is tasked with transporting a criminal baddie for the FBI - as it just so happens, this particular baddie, Miguel, was also their latest arrest. Our leading man Vernon wants nothing more than to be done with this scumbag, he already has his fair share of problems, and it's because of Miguel that his friend was killed. It's at this point that all hell breaks loose - as hostile aliens invade. As the team holds up in a detention center, the aliens completely pummel mankind and eventually, the team has to deal with the threat. Obviously. With no working communications or much of anything else, the inhabitants of the detention center must face down the alien threat - and by the way, we're not even halfway through the film yet.
What follows is an action/adventure that demands you grab a beer, sit back, and relax. It's going to be one hell of a B-Movie ride. With nods to mythology, government conspiracies, and of course, the folks in rubber alien suits - Brandon Slagle's film aims to please a certain type of genre lover. The result is a generally fun film that's perhaps not quite as schlocky as one might hope, but just over the top enough... to still have some fun. As I wrote above, if classic science fiction or campy movies are your thing - this one is for you.
The technical aspects of this production surprised me a little. I was expecting... to be honest, not a hell of a lot. Slagle's film is a low-budget venture after all, and science fiction can be a tasking genre for even those with loads of money to spend. Aliens over the city, aliens in the city, aliens outside the city, blasting aliens, and well... aliens. Some movies relish in B grade extraterrestrial aesthetics - I'm looking at you "Mars Attacks" but there are also those that take their look quite seriously. And that gets expensive. I'm not suggesting that "Attack of the Unknown" looks like a hundred million bucks, or that it doesn't feature a lot of rubber suit aliens, only that this film looked much, much better than I had expected. Aside from a foggy, low contrast look through a lot of the film, it looked and sounded pretty damn good. Just saying.
However, to be blunt, there are a few areas of the film that did stop it from being really, really great - and they all kind of lead back to the same thing interestingly enough. First, the acting. If you've read this far, you know what to expect don't you? Some cheesy dialog and some exaggerated performances, but here's the thing. "Attack of the Unknown" actually has its moments where the acting feels too good from some of its leads and supporting cast. The problem is that it goes from really good, to cliche B movie at the drop of a hat. Not always, but a lot of the time this flip-flop acting comes from the extras with dialog. Those characters that are only seen and heard once or twice in the movie - and remember what I wrote about certain aspects all being connected? Here comes the explanation.
The length of the film and by extension the edit of the movie. "Attack of the Unknown" really was fifteen or twenty minutes longer than it needed to be. Of that there is no question, but here's where it gets interesting. Shaving out certain characters, and perhaps entire segments could have been done without any loss to the story being told. Cutting some scenes so they no longer included many of these one-off characters would have greatly leveled off the acting ups and downs. The perfect example would be a scene involving an FBI agent looking to ride along with the SWAT team - it really wasn't needed and did absolutely nothing for the film. "Attack of the Unknown" is full of scenes and segments like that one, that were not needed and should have been cut. If it doesn't push the story forward, cut it out.
The same can be said for certain conversations in the film. The dialog just felt slow-moving at times. A tighter and more fast-paced edit would have, should have solved that. Now, I have a theory that I can't prove because I can not find any editor credit - but it goes like this. I believe someone very close to the film was the editor. It's very hard to edit a movie you helped create. You want a certain friend in as a cameo, you want a certain expression or line left intact. It's hard to be objective and is the reason external editors are usually hired. I don't know for certain if this is the case here, but it sure feels like it. By no means am I writing that the edit was bad, just that it felt indulgent. A shorter, tighter edit would have made a huge difference here.
At the end of the day? Brandon Slagle and his troupe present a fun ride on the extraterrestrial schlock express. It may be a little long, but not so long that you can't have a good time. As long as you know the type of film you're getting into, I see no reason to skip out on this one. As a matter of fact, I recommend not skipping out at all. "Attack of the Unknown" will probably strike you as better than you thought, but still campy enough to have fun with. Three and a half stars.
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