Attack the Block
Film review by: Witney Seibold
I am here to report that the hype is true, dammit.
I heard a lot of advance word on Brit comedian Joe Cornish‘s “Attack the Block.” I heard that it was a stellar, low-budget genre flick that was being sorely under-hyped by its studio, and that it’s the new object of lust of all aspiring film cultists. As with anything carrying so much enthused notice, I was a little suspicious. While it’s fun to be on the leading edge of a film, and to be one of the early proponents of a film that might go unnoticed, there is a danger of hyping a film for the sake of hipness; so you can claim that you were the first to be in the The Next Big Thing. I no longer look for The Next Big Thing. I only look for great films. Luckily, I can say that “Attack the Block” is just as good as the advance word, and, Big Thing or not, it’s an immensely enjoyable sci-fi film that puts a lot of the bigger Hollywood invasion flicks to shame.
“Attack the Block” bears a similar tone and imprimatur of films like ”Dead Alive” and “Shaun of the Dead.” It’s a genre mash-up that blends its genres seamlessly. It’s wacky fun, hard-edged action, and cool sci-fi all at once. And it never loses sight of its story. In short, it’s a very good movie. If “Attack the Block” isn’t having midnight screenings in a few years’ time, I will be surprised. This is a film that all self-respecting young genre film nuts will display proudly in their collections. It will be quoted and re-watched.
The film is a very simple chase film that takes place over a single night in a South London slum, specifically within an enormous housing project, peopled by the poor and the low-rent criminal. A gang of teenage street toughs, led by the steel-eyed Moses (John Boyega) are in the midst of harmlessly mugging an innocent white woman (Jodie Whitaker) when a meteor destroys a car next to them. They find a creature of some kind in the car, and chase it across a field to kill it. They don’t know much about weird species, so they drag it on a string back to their building to show it to the local drug dealer (Jumayn Hunter). There is talk of selling the corpse on eBay. They know it’s worth a lot of money, but these kids clearly don’t leave the projects a lot. “Attack the Block,” despite is frenetic pacing, and constant presence of unka-chicka music, is still careful to establish these kids as real characters that, while not necessarily good kids, are real and relatable. It never once dips into the realm of obvious archetype.
Soon thereafter, the film’s action proper begins, as hundreds of new creatures begin crashing to Earth. The new creatures are gorilla-sized black furry beasts with no discernible features other than their wicked glow-in-the-dark teeth. For the most part, the creatures were achieved using men in suits, and were only occasionally CGI. This is excellent creature design, as it allows the effects to be done effectively and cheaply, rather than with a bare-faced splashiness that undercuts the creatures’ scariness.
There are some other notable characters in the film, including the lazy-eyed drug dealer played by cult Brit actor Nick Frost, but the film mostly stays with our gang, and how they prove, in a pinch to be resourceful and smart, even if they are mildly criminal bastards.
“Attack the Block” has been released in a very limited fashion in a few theaters in big cities. It may be gone already. It will, luckily, likely enjoy a long life on home video, and may be, despite it all, The Next Big Thing. But don’t see it to be cool. See it because it’s a surprisingly enjoyable, and surprisingly solid, exploitation movie.