Friday, August 21, 2020


Drew Bolduc

An alien race now occupies and controls the Earth. It operates through human bureaucracy. Four kids are selected to be part of space mission/PR move on behalf of the President of Earth. A botched assassination attempt forces everyone to evacuate the President’s space station and the four kids end up stranded in a forest on an alien world. They discover that the President has crashed on this world too and start hiking in hopes of rescuing her. Before long, they stumble across a transportation officer who doesn’t seem to like kids very much. He likes them even less when an alien parasite takes over his nervous system and forces him to start hunting down and killing the young astronauts.

Assassinaut is a lot of things, a wilderness adventure, a political thriller, a character study, and a gorefest. Problem's rise because none of these aspects gel. The strongest of these elements is the classic wilderness survival story of a group of kids learning to survive on their own. Thankfully, this makes up the bulk of the story as we watch these four would-be astronauts form bonds and do their best to survive on an alien world. Throw in a morally grey adult who initially helps them but later becomes a threat and you have a solid yet unassuming SF adventure story. 

The political thriller side, which opens the film and later comes around during the third act, feels undercooked as several key details are passed off quickly through exposition. It does lay the groundwork for larger worldbuilding, but we don’t get it until the end when it feels the least useful. The world of Assassinaut is built on the smiling face of totalitarianism but that’s largely dropped for the adventure. 

The gore also falls into this category, I can see it being used to emphasize the serious and lethal nature of the environment but the violence is so over the top in places it loses that threat and almost veers into splatter-comedy. Thankfully, the gore is great. There are numerous goopy practical effects and some truly painful-looking wounds, but it feels watching the Goonies (1985) where suddenly Chunk gets a broken leg and the camera lingers on the compound fracture for a few seconds.

Visually Assassinaut is a low-budget treat, filled with sumptuous, wooded locations and convincingly sterile and cramped spaceships. The editing is tight and manages to hold the story’s wild tangents together well enough to keep things exciting. The film evokes a similar working-class in space aesthetic to Alien (1979) without mimicking the look of that story.

Assassinaut is a mess but it is a compelling mess that does so much right that it makes the sloppy storytelling even more glaring. Somewhere in all these threads is a brutal tale of kids surviving against a planet and their own authority figures. Still, I wholeheartedly recommend passionate messes that take chances and Assassinaut is a great example.

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