War of the Worlds (2005)
By: Michael Helms on July 1, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
The Asylum (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. 93 minutes
The Movie
Director:David Michael Latt
Starring: Thomas Howell, Andy Lauer, Rhett Giles, Tinarie Van Wyk-Loots, Peter Greene, William Busey
Screenplay: David Michael Latt and Carlos De Los Rios
Country: USA
No, not the latest Spielberg snotbuster nor a re-release of the classic 1953 original but a new indie version designed in true exploitation fashion to cash-in on the notoriety now being garnered from the full-colour (and hard to read) ad campaign for the Tom Cruise-starrer currently appearing in every edition of every newspaper across the planet. Filmed under the title "Invasion" according to the slate boards of the outtakes in the extras section, this War of the Worlds naturally possesses less fire and star power and causes less destruction than either of its feature length namesakes, but that doesn't mean it can't generate any excitement.

Beginning with some nudity from Tinarie Van Wyk-Loots as she and her husband George the astronomer (C.Thomas Howell from The Hitcher, who looks like he's been on the run from Rutger Hauer all this time) prepare for an interstate trip. George is called back to work at the last minute. After his son spies a comet while looking through a telescope and leaves with Mom, George has his own close encounter as something falls from the sky in front of him. Upon closer inspection George realises a man is trapped at the bottom of the newly formed crater. As the man attempts to escape, a large insect-like arm grabs him and the gathering crowd runs off. A giant spider-like creature crawls out of the hole and begins zapping all stragglers. The creature also uses large pincers to remove humans from its path which miraculously doesn't include George. Stuck at a traffic jam next to a bridge controlled by soldiers George learns that all the major American cities have been attacked and the government has declared martial law. Another creature turns up and shoots George's buddy who George promptly trips over, giving the opportunity to display a nice chest melt make-up. George soon comes across a soldier to team up with but they instead come across maniacal career soldier Jake Busey (who's listed as William Busey in the end credits) who attempts to recruit George who's now determined to walk to Washington D.C to find his family.

General destruction is ramped up at this stage with a smaller version of the giant bio-mechanical spiders appearing to launch toxic white liquid that can melt faces and other body parts at anything that moves. George discovers his brother under a pile of debris only to find that half his body has been crushed and/or melted. Whatever, he soon dies and George gets away on a small boat. George then hooks up with an Australian Pastor who is headed for a refuge in the Blue Ridge Mountains. One of the creatures stands over them as they dither. A green light emitting bomb goes off as George and the Pastor race over the near skeletal remains of a small town. All the while the sound of destruction punctuates their conversations until they find themselves holed up in a veterinarian's office and the building collapses on them. While the Pastor has a crisis of faith George begins to hallucinate and finds his wife under a piece of cardboard. The Pastor hits the bottle as an alien tentacle invades what's left of the office and in a last ditch move of defence George stabs the creature with a hypodermic needle filled with rabies. The creature goes berserk and spews white goo onto the Pastor's face which caves in. The place is then completely razed to the ground but George, now apparently driven completely mad, emerges to be rescued by a soldier. George punches him but is again saved, this time by Jake Busey. George brains Jake with a rock and once again sets off for DC.

As he limps away he spots the creature that last attacked him and it's dead. Could George's mad rabies defence idea have really worked? Has George saved humanity? As the sounds of destruction fade survivors emerge from the rubble including his wife and son.
Mainly shot in heavily wooded areas this War of the Worlds only presents the spectacle of mass urban destruction in small computer generated doses which of course saves it from constant detailed scrutiny. What you do see though is visually arresting being the result of an intelligent marriage of CG and physical production design. The bio-mechanoid invaders are impressive and although never appearing in the numbers that the giant bugs of Starship Troopers do, remain highly effective throughout.
The crushing, pounding and stomping sounds of destruction constantly on display here will give any surround system a thorough work-out.
Extra Features
Two sets of commentary tracks from both the actors and the filmmakers. A 4 minute Visual Effects documentary entitled, "How Did They Do That" barely gets to namecheck most of the participants but does offer some insight into how this film was physically put together. Also includes several minutes of deleted scenes, 5 minutes of outtakes, and several trailers for more Asylum product.
The Verdict
t might dawdle in the forest a bit too long but this War of the Worlds is such a triumph for a relatively low budget production that you have to cut it some slack. Recommended if just for proving that large scale mayhem can now be effectively created on a small scale.
Movie Score
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