Horror Movie Review: Attack of the Unknown (2020)

Directed by Brandon Slagle with a story by Michael Mahal, Attack of the Unknown is an alien sci-fi movie with some horror elements. Although you wouldn’t think that until at least halfway through the movie.

Starring Richard Grieco, Robert LaSardo and Tara Reid, the story surrounds a SWAT team who are tasked with transporting a crime boss across the city of LA to a detention centre. Unfortunately for them, this trip coincides with an alien invasion. Trapped inside the centre with hardened criminals, the two sides will have to work together to survive the alien force.

 

There seems to be two sides forming when it comes to talking about Attack of the Unknown. One side hating it and calling it the worst thing they’ve ever seen while the other heralds it as a masterpiece.

In my opinion, both sides are wrong. Attack of the Unknown does a lot wrong but also does a lot right. It simply sits in the middle and would probably be more enjoyable if it wasn’t over 100 minutes long.

Far too much is dragged out. From the lengthy opening with the SWAT team assaulting the crime boss’ compound to the dialogue heavy portions in the centre. A bit of snipping here and there, turning it into a neat 80 minutes would have served it so much better.

It’s not like that time is used to really develop the characters either as most of the SWAT team are faceless victims for the alien creatures. It’s only really Grieco’s Vernon who gets to do a bit more throughout.

He is the star with the most screen time and the eventual way to defeat the alien menace and he does ok. Likeable enough and with a story that ties things up in a neat little bow. Elsewhere, there’s not much to get excited about with even LaSardo playing a role he could do in his sleep (still as awesome as always though).

The story also isn’t the most exciting, giving off Independence Day vibes at first, albeit with far less money behind it. However, when it turns into a more localised war, it vastly improves, and the backstory of the aliens is welcome. Rather than just having an alien invasion, we get a reason for their arrival and it’s not ‘world domination’!

Once in the centre, things ramp up (eventually) and this is where Attack of the Unknown starts to introduce horror elements. The aliens are pretty indestructible and can shoot tentacles out of their limbs to impale. Sure, the effects aren’t great but with quick cuts and an energetic (not quite frantic, happily) camera style, the roughness is hidden pretty well.

The actual design of the aliens are pretty well done though as practical effects are used over digital. The battle in the centre, in darkness, really heightens the tension and creates something more horror like. Needed, as up to that point it was starting to seem like a sci-fi action movie only.

As already stated, Attack of the Unknown isn’t a great movie but it’s not a terrible movie either. It’s not going to live long in the memory but it will entertain provided you lower your expectations.

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Attack of the Unknown
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