Invasion is a 2005 found-footage film directed by Albert Pyun, that is perhaps more properly described as “found surveillance,” about a police inspector (Scott Paulin) who investigates a meteor that lands one night in the woods.
The police inspector, Lando, drives into the park to investigate and is attacked by the farmer who initially called it in, having apparently been infected with a contagion that’s passed through a parasite that crawled into his ear.
Now infected himself, Lando drives off and happens upon a young couple situated in the park. He attacks and infects the young man. The girl he’s with, Cheryl (Virginia Dare, and also known as Jenny Dare Paulin) is the real life daughter of actor Scott Paulin.
Cheryl, who is still in her prom dress, steals the police car and navigates down the dark empty roads, finding it increasingly difficult to leave the park and remain safe. As the film progresses, the officer talking to Cheryl on the police radio tells her that the “invasion” has reached the town. Will the local townsfolk find a way to contain this imminent threat to humanity?
Reason for Filming
Besides several short news segments at the beginning and end of Invasion, the film is told almost entirely from the POV of a dashboard-mounted video camera in the police car. As such, the video camera perspective is exclusively of the road and the forest at night, and the voice of the driver speaking in the police car. The video effectively captures whomever (and whatever) passes in front of the police car. The various drivers throughout the film also have screen-time when they exit the car and walk within the video camera field of view. Pyun stays true to this approach for the entire film.
An on-screen message displayed at the beginning of the film explains that the police car dash-mounted cameras have been in use by police for a while, making the dashboard camera an accepted norm for this film.
To its credit, Invasion is a tour-de-force, shot almost entirely from the perspective of the police mounted dash video camera. The vast majority of the plot is revealed by voices talking over the police radio. An unseen officer on the other end of the radio speaks with Cheryl and reports developments in town that ultimately exposes something much larger at work in their community.. Eventually, we learn the military has been called in.
Unfortunately, as Cheryl drives one way, she encounters a roadblock and her infected boyfriend, upon turning around and driving the opposite direction, she encounters an infected farmer blocking her path. This film contains a good deal of back-and-forth driving through the park.
There are many long stretches of driving showing nothing but the road lit by headlights, with the driver’s voice heard speaking off-screen. This cinematic approach is entirely believable and immersive, but can be a test for viewer patience. The limitations of this unique approach quickly become painfully obvious, but somehow it works.
The film accomplishes a great deal on very limited resources. There are no set pieces to speak of – only people in front of the police car shambling forward on occasion. One two occasions Cheryl leaves the car, where she can be seen speaking on a walkie-talkie, offering some visual variety. The effects used to create lights flashing in the sky and glowing or melting faces comes across as dated, almost as if these elements were added as an afterthought to the film.
There are many long stretches of driving showing nothing but the road lit by headlights, with the driver’s voice heard speaking off-screen.
Somehow, this potentially mind-numbing monotony seems to work for most of the running time. The film itself is only 65 minutes of the 81 minute run time, a plus since it starts to wear out its welcome by then. The remaining 16 minutes is taken up by very slow and monotonous ending credits, in which the same 4 or 5 names appear over and over in different production capacities.
Found Footage Purity
The concept of a single camera angle is played with stubborn authenticity right to the end. There are instances of “creepy” incidental music which make the driving scenes more ominous but undermine the found footage purity.
Late in the film Cheryl seems to be seeing ghosts that aren’t there – perhaps indications of her impending doom (and she says so out loud). The dash mounted video camera would not be able to capture such visions. Additionally, there is an apparent nuclear or otherwise significant military action suggested upon the park at the end, which raises the question as to how the footage survived – to be fair, Cloverfield also ends with a nuclear blast and that footage survived.
The acting is acceptable for what’s asked of the cast. Most of the actors have very little screen time, as more often than not, the main cast is behind the wheel and off-screen for most of the film. Scott Paulin as Inspector Lando at the beginning of Invasion is the only well-known actor and Virginia (Jenny Paulin) Dare as Cheryl is fine. The others basically appear only sporadically, as shambling zombies coming towards the car.
The story is nothing that hasn’t already played out before, but the audacity of the found footage single-camera, six years after The Blair Witch Project (1999) but before the technique really took off with [Rec] (2007) and Cloverfield (2008) illustrating how well it could be done, is admirable.
Albert Pyun is known for low-budget (and generally bad) action films from the 1980s and 1990s, his most known films include 1989’s Cyborg with Jean-Claude Van Damme and 1991’s Dollman with Tim Thomerson. Also known as Infection and several other alternate titles, this film does not appear on Pyun’s Wiki page.