Invasion of the Empire of the Apes (2021)

I have never seen a Polonia Brothers film that recycled this much footage from another of their films.

If you know who they are, then you realize this is no idle claim.  They started out shooting their own homemade DIY Shot on Video films back in the late Eighties and early Nineties, became cult icons with their gross and disgusting Splatter Farm, and had their first Blockbuster Video hit with Feeders (1996).  Since then, they’ve turned out dozens of objectively terrible films which are curiously addictive, thanks to their inventiveness and gung-ho willingness to do whatever it took to put a movie on the screen.

And recycled footage is a favorite, with Feeders 2: Slay Bells the previous record holder, I suspect, as about a third of the film is borrowed straight from the first film (with a second storyline involving an interview with the surviving character, and Mark Polonia’s family Christmas home videos worked in to fill out the very short running time).

But this time around, Mark had not one but two previous Empire of the Apes films to borrow from, and uses most of the second film’s final moments as his first act.

As a result, quite a few of the prominently billed actors from Mark’s stock company are apparently only in those “flashbacks,” including Cassandra Hayes and Steve Diaspara (unless my jocular comments about Revolt of the Empire of the Apes drove him into hiding behind the latex mask of a mutant cultist, or a robot.  Sorry, Steve, I didn’t mean it.  Well, mostly).

And this is one of the best looking films Mark has made, thanks to a lot of CGI used for the spaceships, futuristic cities, and even a highly repetitive alien race.  Now, I hardly need to point out that it isn’t very detailed — and those aliens look just terrible.  It also gives us yet another borrow as one of the ships was used in the last Polonia space epic I saw (Dune World).  It looks about the level of a videogame cut scene of a few years ago, and might actually have been created with a videogame engine.  Although I have to wonder if it was part of someone’s effects reel or film school project, as the scene of the ship lifting off from the city from the beginning gets reused later on for the abandoned planet.  It is clearly the same city, only we see a little more of the shot and learn that part of the city is ruined.


Somehow, this series of films has progressed more or less the same way the original Planet of the Apes movies did in the Seventies, with an increasingly convoluted plot and all the major characters getting killed off movie by movie. The apes colonize Earth, then destroy it.

With a little help from the humans

And, of course, the last two survivors rocket off into the sunset as the planet explodes.

Well that didn’t work.

The last ape, the gentle and philosophical Trask (played by Jeff Kirkendall, or at least his voice), wearing what may be the last surviving ape mask from Empire of the Apes, has lost his female human companion and is now waiting for death on the ruined world he crashed on.

Only he is discovered by a well-meaning planetary explorer played by Ryan Dalton (who seems to be taking over Titus Himmelberger’s role as the stock company’s leading man), and the next thing you know everyone is after him — the planetary company, a weird set of cultists and a vicious but identical and low-res alien race — and it’s threatening to turn into a galactic war.

Once again, however, nearly everyone is hiding behind a mask and I have no idea who most of them are.  I’m pretty sure I recognized Mark Polonia’s voice and James Carolus’, but the voices are all badly distorted, as if he’d recorded the sound while the actors were wearing those masks.  Oh well, it wouldn’t be a Polonia Brothers’ film without a few technical glitches.

And then there is one thoroughly bizarre and unexpected scene featuring one of Mark’s favorite survivor girls, Jamie Morgan.  And bizarre is definitely the word, if not downright kinky.  This is particularly strange because there has been very little nudity in the Brothers’ Oeuvre, with Dweller [Alien Dweller] (2001) about the only exception I can think of (and that was just a video the characters find in a cabin) and perhaps Among Us (2004) as well, in our glimpses of Billy’s past films.  It feels totally out of place.  Is Jamie channeling Pam Grier?  Is this homaging some Seventies Blaxploitation film?  I can’t even guess.

As out of place as that scene is, it really doesn’t hurt the rest of the film. It isn’t quite as much fun as the last film in the series (which, yes, was the best so far), but it offers a pretty decent sort of space epic, as long as you can accept this film for what it is: a goofy, low budget Z-Grade film which probably cost less than your car.  For their fans, all the flashbacks, repeated sequences and bizarre elements are all part of the fun (like making the deadly alien menace a poorly animated cartoonish CGI race which doesn’t move its lips but merely bobs their heads around a bit in time with their words — and who can’t even afford a spaceship set for a background).

After a series of recent films which left me questioning whether the spark had gone out of the Polonia Brothers’ strange and eccentric efforts — movies like Dune World and Jurassic Shark 2: Aquapocalypse — It’s good to see them back on form again, even if it seems unlikely that we’ll ever get another Empire of the Apes sequel.

But, hey, there’s always a prequel, right?

Oh, and, Steve, if you are hiding somewhere under all that latex, please let me know and I’ll gladly give you a shout out…



Check out our new Feature (Updated February 16, 2022):

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!



Which this time focuses on Douglas Trumbull’s Other Career

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.