By simply saying that Brian Lonano‘s Attackazoids! is to Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds as Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks is to Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day — as I’m doing right now — is to deny this short film all of its special charms. However, at the same time, it’s tough to get around that comparison, so I thought I’d lead with it and get it out of the way.
This is essentially a dialogue-less film and the first thing to admire about it is Lonano’s choice for a main protagonist: a nondescript middle-aged woman (Holly Lynn Ellis) whose name we never know. Since the part doesn’t call for the woman to be especially heroic and just has her fleeing in terror from giant metallic monstrosities armed with snapping claws and disintegrator laser cannons, It would have been easy to have filled the role with some scantily-clad bimbo eye candy. But instead we get the pleasant mom-next-door type who is such a caring soul she covers a dude who’s just had his face melted off with her sweater. Lonano gets right to the point: This is a real woman in real danger.
That danger, the actual Attackazoids, are really terrific creations by Jeff Jenkins. Like with Jennifer Clary’s Dirty Girl, any film calling for special effect monsters that goes the low-tech route is going to immediately win me over. Forgoing the CGI route, Jenkins has built models that look as if he rooted around in his garage, pulled out every piece of scrap metal he could find and married them with a child’s Erector set. With a charming stop-motion grace, the Attackazoids stomp hapless victims to death, clip at the air with their bloody claws and zap the populace into oblivion. Also, with some terrifically calm and forceful voice-over work by Jeff Douglas, the Attackazoids sound off inane pleasantries like, “Do not be alarmed. We are here to protect you.” Or, “Please remain calm. Everything will be ok.”
Without much plot to go on, Lonano also imbues his film with a crafty old, political propaganda style to punch up the action, which gives the proceedings a unique spin. While these giant death-dealing machines are allegedly from outer space, their “theme song, which opens the movie, sounds like an old Russian-eque propaganda dirge and when our heroine finds a brief moment of safety in a devastated urban back alley, the walls are littered with pro-Attackazoid posters. Also, sometimes the action breaks into a black-and-red animation that evokes Soviet-era propaganda posters.
It’s a simple film really, but Lonano crams it with enough gross-out gore, comedy, retro special effects and some real heartfelt moments that make it seem that there’s a lot more going on during Attackazoids!‘s seven-and-a-half minutes than there actually is.