Empty Balcony: Alien Uprising, aka U.F.O.

One of the worst things that a filmmaker can do is fill their movie with vapid people. If there is any moment after these characters are introduced that requires audience empathy, the filmmaker might find that they have, instead, exhausted the patience of viewers. Such is the case with Alien Uprising, a film that showed a lot of promise, but ended up being just out of reach of its writer/director, Dominic Burns.

From 2012, and originally released under the title U.F.O., Alien Uprising follows a group of early 30-somethings in England immediately before and after a massive alien invasion. They are Michael (Sean Brosnan), a lieutenant on leave from the British SAS; couple Robin and Dana (Simon Phillips and Maya Grant); Vincent (Jazz Lintott); and American tourist Carrie (Bianca Brigitte VanDamme). Bianca’s old man, Jean-Claude Van Damme (why his last name has a space and hers doesn’t, I don’t know), has a supporting role in the film, as a retired black ops soldier living on a farm nearby.

The film starts roughly for the viewer. Burns scattered little flash-forward snippets in his film, seemingly at random, and that’s how the film begins. These sequences make no sense, because Burns didn’t have the narrative skill to weave them together in a satisfying way. The flash-forwards merely act like a preview to stuff we see later in the film, without building any sort of context or establishing a mystery worth revealing.

Right after the first flash-forward, we meet the film’s characters in a more conventional fashion — in a night club. For many, many minutes, showcasing Burns’ grasp of runtime padding, we see and hear the main cast as they break loose on the dance floor. The longer this scene went on, the more I grew to hate the characters. Most viewers will struggle to find a character they like. By the end of the first act, I was so disinterested in the fates of these characters that I almost stopped watching. Burns was not completely bereft of character development skills, however, and by the middle of the film, I was feeling better about these people.

However, the mood of the film turns very dark about halfway through — a shift too removed from the tone of the first act — and what little sympathy I could muster for these characters was gone.

As for the plot, and there is one, it goes like this: An alien armada has descended on the earth. They appeared in the sky V and Independence Day-style. Power is down and so are radios and phones. Earth forces mount a full-scale battle to repel the alien invaders. Meanwhile, the main action of the film follows our intrepid group as they try and survive both the invasion, and the collapse of society. That sounds pretty grand, but there wasn’t much of a budget for this flick, meaning Burns wasn’t able to do such grandiosity justice. Most of the film is a one-location affair, with the alien stuff happening on the periphery. There is an attempt at psychological horror, but it was only in passing.

By the time the aliens get any substantial screen time, in the form of subpar CGI, it felt like I was watching one of SyFy’s higher-quality cheapies. Alien Uprising was decent enough to watch the whole way through, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t mind having that time back.