I’d pretty much given up on large-scale alien invasion films after the fiasco that was INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE, and I know I wasn’t the only one. Between that and the undeserved box office failure of BATTLESHIP, the genre was poison. Sure we got the occasional low budget gem like BEYOND SKYLINE but nothing that could be called epic. Well, that’s changed.
OCCUPATION is the new film by Luke Sparke who gave us the above-average creature film RED BILLABONG. It manages to be quite epic without apparently having an epic 200,000,000 dollar budget. It opens with an attack on a small town during an Australian Rules Football match Right from the start Sparke shows he means business. The power goes out, strange noises and lights are seen in the distance and then the aliens arrive with flying craft and armoured storm troopers, lots of them.
Several of the survivors band together and begin to fight back before eventually hooking up with the remains of a military unit. But nobody is safe yet and it all leads up to a desperate final battle for survival.
Not exactly a revolutionary plot, at times it greatly resembles RED DAWN with aliens instead of Russians. But it’s carried off with enough flair and firepower that the familiarity doesn’t matter. There’s near-constant action through most of OCCUPATION as humans and aliens battle. The film does drag a bit in the middle when everyone is busy squabbling with each other. With a running time of just under two hours, some of this could have been trimmed.
The downfall of so many of these films, the other recent Aussie invasion film BATTALION, for example, is, of course, the effects. Here that’s not the case. Almost all of the CGI is on point. There’s a couple of scenes that are almost entirely animated that do have issues, but that’s it. The aliens themselves, once we see them out of their armor, are done with practical effects as they should be. The appearance is a nice twist on a classic design.
The cast does a good job even if the script isn’t overly challenging for them. Temuera Morrison (AQUAMAN, HARD TARGET 2) is excellent as Peter, just out of jail and trying to reunite with his family when the aliens arrive. Dan Ewing (POWER RANGERS: R.P.M., RED BILLABONG) as Matt, the group’s leader, and Rhiannon Fish (THE 100) also stand out. And we have to mention the Gyro Captain himself Bruce Spence (THE ROAD WARRIOR, WINCHESTER) as the alien’s leader.
A fun film with plenty of action OCCUPATION is the kind of summer film we don’t see enough of these days. It’s not a megabudget sequel or reboot. It is a large-scale dose of action that deserves to be seen on a big screen if possible.
Saban Films will release OCCUPATION in theaters and on VOD and Digital HD on July 20, 2018.