War of the Worlds The Attack Poster

War of the Worlds: The Attack (2023) Review

Opening with a quote from H.G. Wells’ novel, War of the Worlds: The Attack is the latest in a seemingly endless stream of film, television shows, rock operas, and most infamously, a radio play by Orson Wells based on the classic tale of the original “Red Menace”.

Three friends Herbert (Sam Gittins, The Last Heist, Wolves of War), Hannah (Lara Lemon, As a Prelude to Fear, Angry Nazi Zombies) and Ogilvy (Alhaji Fofana, Slaughterhouse Rulez, Rosaline) are bicycling through the woods looking for a meteorite Hannah is sure landed nearby. They don’t find it, although Herbert thinks he saw something hiding in the trees. He also has a theory that it’s not merely a meteorite.

The next morning they see what landed, something huge and already cordoned off by the police. As they sneak past for a closer look, it opens, revealing an octopus-like occupant. But that’s nothing compared to what is about to emerge from it, unfortunately for all concerned, Herbert was right after all.

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This is the first feature film for director Junaid Syed, but he has an extensive list of credits as an SFX tech on films like Dredd, Doctor Strange and Are We Dead Yet, so he was at least working in familiar territory. He also co-wrote the script with Tom Jolliffe (Mega Lightning, Jurassic Island) who certainly knows the ins and outs of low-budget filmmaking and could help keep the script’s ambitions in line with its budget.

Like most adaptations, War of the Worlds: The Attack has been updated to the present, which certainly helped keep the budget down, although I can see Steve Lawson (The Fourth Musketeer, Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing) doing a version set in 1894 and composed entirely of interiors. This film however is just the opposite, with much of it taking place outdoors as the three friends, at one point joined by Ben (Leo Staar, Summer of Rockets, The 355) a soldier who survived one of the first battles with the Martians, try to make their way to safety.

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And while the Martians are quite naturally the main threat to our leads, an encounter with a deranged clergyman (Vincent Regan, 300, Dark Encounter) adds a threat more akin to something from a slasher film to the proceedings. Not that that’s the only horror adjacent element to the film, the opening scenes in the woods feel more like a creature feature than a sci-fi film, and a revelation about what the Martians need humans for is distinctly horrific.

For a lower-budget film, War of the Worlds: The Attack gives us quite a few scenes of the Martians in action. Granted, in the early part of the film it’s often at a distance or in a field with just a few humans and a handful of tanks, etc. It’s not until everyone reaches London in the last act that we get any scenes of major destruction.

The effects are quite good for the most part, the Martian crafts look convincing striding across the English countryside or through the ruins of its capital. Their heat ray creates convincing enough explosions when striking tanks and planes, when they hit people it looks more like paper turning to ash. It’s nicely done and avoids the usually unconvincing combination of CGI fire and an actor.


On the downside, like most adaptations of the book, the ending of War of the Worlds: The Attack feels abrupt and poorly integrated into the story as a whole. Even Spielberg’s mega-budget version couldn’t find a solution to that problem. There’s also a scene of a Martian Tripod being taken down that, while nicely done, feels much too easy considering these things are able to lay waste to the British Army.

Apart from those complaints, War of the Worlds: The Attack is an excellent example of sci-fi done on a tight budget. As long as you’re not expecting Tom Cruise and Spielberg-level effects you should enjoy it.

Vertical Entertainment has released War of the Worlds: The Attack to VOD and Digital Platforms. And if you’re looking for more alien action, FilmTagger can suggest a few titles.

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