B-Movie Inspiration: Alien Invasion: S.U.M.1
Alien Invasion: S.U.M.1
Alien Invasion: S.U.M.1 is a 2017 science fiction film written and directed by Christian Pasquariello and starring primarily Iwan Rheon, from Game of Thrones fame. He plays Private S.U.M.1 – a soldier living in a post-apocalyptic Earth after a (supposed) invasion by an alien weirdly called the Nonsuch. He like many soldiers before him, is assigned to a one hundred-day mission in an outpost tower. This tower is set along a perimeter of many towers, protecting the Exilium sanctuary – a highly fortified compound housing the last of humanity’s survivors. Not much is shown of the world except in the beginning credits but they did a really good job with those few moments world building with a few familiar tropes but throwing in it’s own unique style.
One interesting esthetic that is sort of implied as you watch the movie is that humanity has lived so long underground, that appear to have some genetic traits of albinism. SUM1 has white hair, pale skin and white-blue eyes and you find out that others do too – but not all. Perhaps only the soldiers or a certain age? Not sure. It was an interesting way to make the tone alien while at the same time familiar. On that note, the overall esthetic of the movie is one of the reasons I was attracted to it – set design, prop design, costume design and CGI were all top notch.
SUM1 is assigned to the outpost Cerberus to monitor and secure the remote bunker which is part of a defense perimeter surrounding the compound. The bulk of the movie emphasizes the isolation and boredom that sets in with the rigorous routine he goes through each day. Subtle strange events occur throughout that give you hints that something happened to the last occupant – VAX7. SUM1 contacts control daily and the continuously tell him to just do his job, there is nothing to worry about. These signs continue to build up the paranoia as SUM1 only has himself and a mouse to work through what it all means.
Every day, he is abruptly woken up by the daily alarm, telling him how many days left of his active service, exercise, showers, daily check-ins, and a single rationed cigarette. There are constant audio messages outside asking surviving humans to go to Exilium for their protection from the aliens. SUM1 occasionally goes outside to check the perimeter and the paranoia increases as he think he sees things in the surrounding woods. Occasionally toxic gas pockets burst out of the ground and he has to find shelter from them. Not sure if that was an alien weapon or some byproduct of the war, but it seemed random. On one of his adventures outside, he discovers he has an implant that causes pain when he tries to go outside his perimeter into another outposts perimeter.
He attempts to investigate more about his predecessor but finds the computer won’t let him access any further than his own logs. Eventually, it appears that even his own logs are not accessible and he reports that to control. They promise to send out a tech to investigate when they can. This tech, showing up late at night in the middle of a massive rain storm, is the only other person he ends up interacting with and you would think he would be thankful for it, but unfortunately, SUM1’s paranoia has gotten the best of him and he injures and locks up the tech below, while he rants about doubting the existence of the aliens and the invasion was all a lie.
This is what drove me to write about this movie because I began to see the central message once his paranoia went down this road. The final act is where this movie sort of loses me. As of late, you can imagine there are a lot of movies being put out in some way or another inspired by things that have come out about the pandemic – some less than favorable about the overall handling of it while others the opposite. This one has that feel to me – the isolation of SUM1 was line the lock down. The ‘Rona was the aliens. The underlying message is that the lock downs gave birth to a lot of paranoid thoughts and beliefs like the ‘rona wasn’t real or the ‘rona was done on purpose. SUM1 deep dive into paranoid insanity was deep seeded in these thoughts and were very similar to a lot of what you heard from some people.
Now, what I was thinking was they were going to throw in something that made you feel like SUM1 was right or on to something and then leave it at that to let you wonder, but no. They didn’t do that at all and this pretty much revealed to me the leanings of those behind this movie, which is why I did not like the third act.
Instead, they just dropped it on you – Yes, the aliens are real and they are a real threat. But they cheesed up the alien and maybe they did that on purpose to leave enough of a question behind. At least, in my mind there is still somewhat of a question but without knowing the details of the invasion (perhaps purposely left vague), there is no way I know for sure. The best picture I could get from the movie of the alien is above. It is sort of a giant spider-looking thing with the mouth of the creature from Stranger Things. It is a giant monster with no tech or anything, so what kind of invasion was it? OR was it a genetically engineered mistake that got out and bread throughout the planet, and the invasion is still a lie. That’s what I am sticking to.
To stat it out as a creature, I would look for a giant spider like thing with a maw that can swallow whole. It has front mandibles that can rip and tear flesh apart. It also has a sonic scream that starts out so high that you can’t hear it but it bursts blood vessels in your ears, causing temporary (or permanent) deafness. It moves fast on any terrain on six legs, I think. That’s all I observed in the movie.
This is a great setting for an RPG and I would explore that question right away. In order to have a large enough party in the game, I would pick up after the characters have spent so many days in the towers and get them to role play various phases of paranoia that has set in. At the same time, while I am not a fan of in your face (woke) messaging, this was done in a subtle enough way that I think it can translate at the table, regardless of what side of the aisle you are on. The messaging is veiled in a good story and pretty good acting, all surrounded by great world building.
This could be a fun one shot regardless of the setting – fantasy or sci-fi. Exilium could be a castle on the edge of The Wilds, and the perimeter could be something like the wall in Game of Thrones. I like the idea of handing the players a character that is already suffering from paranoid delusions and having them play it out. In fact, just hand them the delusions and let them believe it is fact only to find out it is at least partially a delusion. It would make for a great role play.