Director/Screenplay – Christian Pasquariello, Producers – Christian Alvart, Siegfried Kamml & Tim Oberwelland, Photography – Hagen Bogdanski, Music – Christoph Schauer, Visual Effects – White Rabbit, Special Effects – BFFX Spezialeffekte und Pyrotechnik (Supervisor – Bjorn Friese), Production Design – Thomas Stammer. Production Company – Syrreal Entertainment/White Rabbit/Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg/Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung/Deutscher Filmförderfonds.
Iwan Rheon (S.U.M.1), Andre M. Hennicke (Mac)
Tim Williams (Base), Norman Reedus (K.E.R.4)
It is 57 years after Earth has been invaded by aliens. Humanity has retreated underground. The soldier S.U.M.1 is despatched to man Outpost Cerberus on a 100 day mission. There S.U.M.1 faces boredom alongside a series of mysterious breakdowns. He sees shadows of things but his superiors insist he must be imagining them. As his lone vigil continues, S.U.M.1 begins to think the aliens might not exist.
Alien Invasion: S.U.M.1, or just S.U.M.1 on some prints, was a directorial debut for German director Christian Pasquariello. Prior to this, Pasquariello had made a variety of short films and he subsequently went on to make the Comfort Zone episode of the Covid lockdown horror anthology Isolation (2021). The film comes produced by an assortment of German studios and is executive produced by Christian Alvart, director of high-profile films such as Antibodies (2005), Pandorum (2009) and Case 39 (2009).
The alien invasion film has been with us since the 1950s and there have been many excellent and varied works in the genre from full-blown effects spectacular to more insidious and paranoid works of infiltration from within to more recently indie survival dramas and Found Footage works. (For a more detailed overview see Alien Invasion Films). One of the less explored variants is that of Earth in the aftermath of an alien invasion where humanity has been subjugated or driven into hiding. One of the finest works on the topic was the tv series The Tripods (1984-6), while more recently we had the excellent A Quiet Place (2018). At the opposite end of the spectrum there is Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 (2000) without much in between.
Alien Invasion: S.U.M.1 sets up an interesting scenario – it is Earth 57 years after an invasion where humanity has been forced to relocate underground. In the midst of this, one soldier is posted to a remote outpost on an almost entirely deserted surface. The film makes much of his isolation in the tower surrounded by forest and assorted wildlife – only for him to start thinking he sees things in the woods and shadows on the background of his monitor – all amid mysterious technical faults and power cuts. At this point, we have not had any opportunity to see any of the aliens that are supposed to have invaded.
The main problem with the film is that it takes place with only one person – Welsh actor Iwan Rheon, better known as Ramsay Bolton in tv’s Game of Thrones (2011-9), who is on screen in every scene. He is joined by one other person, a repair technician (Andre M. Hennicke), towards the end of the film, while there are one or two others flitting around on the periphery of the film but none he gets into conversation with. And there a couple of others he talks to via monitor and radio, while he also adopts a pet mouse.
We never see any aliens until right at the end, merely Iwan imagining he is seeing them. In other words, it is a film of inaction where the premise is set up and then nothing at all happens. Iwan even begins to think that maybe the aliens don’t exist or have given up and gone home. All of a sudden to confound expectations some alien monsters invade the outpost in the last few minutes of the film. The end. The result is a scratch of the head that leaves you wondering what purpose the film had – least of all one that calls itself Alien Invasion and then never provides any aliens for the bulk of its show.