At first glance, a viewer might be hard-pressed to find anything worthwhile about Attack of the Unknown, the 2020 alien invasion flick from writer/director Brandon Slagle. It really is bottom of the barrel filmmaking. Everything about this film screams cheapness, while Slagle’s direction showed a somnambulistic lack of urgency in every scene. It’s like the entire film was on valium. But, one must consider the star, Richard Grieco, as SWAT team member Vernon.
It’s been a long time since Grieco was out-heartthrobbed by Johnny Depp in 21 Jump Street. In the interim, Grieco seems to have gone to the Mickey Rourke school of acting, wherein one’s Hollywood dive bar lifestyle of cigarettes, booze, and lack of sun translates on-screen to bloodshot eyes, sagging face, and a world-weary delivery that I can’t describe as ‘gravelly.’ Rather, it’s more like, after decades of scouring his esophagus with liquor, Grieco can almost affect a tough guy voice, but one has to listen closely to catch what he says, because anything louder than a whisper breaks the spell. It’s a bravura performance of shit, and is the only thing to recommend about this low-down dirty dog.
Vernon and his fellow SWAT members have been tasked with transporting drug lord Hades (Robert LaSardo) to county lockup. As luck would have it, aliens choose that moment to stage an Independence Day-type invasion of the Earth, with big, sky-blocking spaceship to boot. This is no expansive narrative like Independence Day, however. Sure, this flick has a cast list to rival Hollywood’s grandest epics, but all those random cast members that appear for a scene, never to be seen again, are also listed as executive or associate producers, pulling back the veil somewhat on how a shitty movie finds financing in the 21st century.
Anyway, there’s no rousing speech from the president, no climactic CGI battle over the desert, and none of that pesky plot and character development. Once the SWAT team arrives at the cheap jail set, the bulk of the movie takes place in poorly-lit, drab hallways and rooms, just like countless other bad sci-fi flicks. Vernon and company battle alien invaders, but they do it within the confines of a limited budget.
The aliens are almost worth the price of admission on their own, now that I consider it. Slagle and company could have chosen to use CGI for the aliens. They used it for everything else, including all muzzle flashes, bullet impacts, and gore, but for full frontal shots of the aliens, they put people in rubber suits. It’s a welcome throwback to b-movies of the past. Sure, it looks stupid, but we shitty movie fans should applaud the effort. Care and time went into those costumes.
Other than Grieco and the aliens, this is a very difficult shitty movie to enjoy. The pace is just murderous to one’s attention span. At some point viewers expect main characters to emote in a film, yet it just never happens. At one point, Vernon learns he has cancer, and Grieco’s reaction reminded me of when my daytime regulars when I was a bartender would point at an empty shot glass for a refill — dead and glassy-eyed. For Grieco’s sake, I hope he was acting.
Attack of the Unknown falls down amongst the unwatchables, displacing Project Moonbase at #341 in the Shitty Movie Sundays Watchability Index. Stay away.