When horror and sci-fi fans see cinema from Australia, it often fits into the Ozploitation genre with movies such as The Survivor (1981), but director and writer Luke Sparke (Red Billabong ) presents this independent film Occupation from Saban Films. Sparke takes inspiration from many action, sci-fi movies and television series, such as blending together Independence Day (1996), Signs (2002), Cloverfield (2008) and even part of District 9 (2009). However, it goes further with themes from Red Dawn (1984) with a group of citizens turned soldiers fighting back with makeshift weapons at first, a tad similar to Falling Skies (TV-series). In fact, the film pulls at American patriotic heart-strings, invoking proud speeches and even a famous flag raising.
Strangely enough, the aliens attack this small community gathering for a game and festival, but total death is not the main objective rather humanity forced into slave labor, some of the action sequences used play out very well from car chases to flips and crashes, works to place in the moment of the running away of the danger and filled with panic. Meanwhile the survivors form mighty militias fighting back against them using all sorts of soldier tactics, with a phenomenal cast that includes Matt (Dan Ewing (Blood Punch ), Jackson (Charles Terrier), Peter (Temuera Morrison), Amelia (Stephany Jacobsen) and Isabella (Izzy Stevens). In addition, Jacqueline Mckenzie gives a dedicated performance as colonel, both ambitious and serious about the enemy and her mission fully aware of the odds and limited resources, once more a convincing portrayal. One must not overlook the contributions from both Felix Williamson (Inhuman Resources ) who provided additional dialogue to the screenplay and Bruce Spence (Winchester  and the legendary The Gyro Captain in the original Mad Max films), in fact a supporting cast of over 300 people volunteer as extras in the production. Many indie filmmakers realize the size of that many people when it’s difficult to get 20 for a simple zombie flick. The ragtag group battle on the front lines, against the opposition, for a foothold of their community, and defense of the planet, while hoping to find lost love ones. Of course, a few clichés exist, as the movie plays on this theme of other movies, but the work for most part, avoiding many missteps of becoming too cheesy. It’s easy to rave about the movie in more detail but likely to ruin some key frames, best to refrain allowing you viewers to discover your favorite characters and scenes that reflect back to other films.
It’s always a struggle for a sci-fi movie that doesn’t have the big Hollywood budget focus on an alien invasion however, a thorough care is applied to special effects, production value, and nicely performed cinematography. The aliens themselves look fine and with the standard large eyes often attributed to them, but show as taller, likely to present a fear factor with the angles showing impending doom. A major problem with the film is not the story, or special effects, it’s that a tad too bloated, far too many characters, some, yes they are incredible actors, wonderful in their roles but one needs to trim it somewhere. Speaking of trimming, it’s a lengthy movie, now while horror runs on a steady 90-minutes, this movie is just 1-minute shy of a 2-hour film, therefore some editing, not much to tighten the pacing, a tad too much on repeated gun battles.
This flick keeps the action and fun moving well, and allows for deeper subplots to surface, generating a full storyline. A sequel already announced in May 2018, obvious to all, as the final 20 minutes elude clearly towards it, with so many apocalyptic films pouring out of Hollywood, this one gives a refreshing look, but the entertainment factor likely depends if they covered your favorite movie.
IMDb Rating: 5.8/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.5/10