Attack the Block

PhotobucketThere’s something altogether original about Attack the Block, the genre mashup between science fiction, horror and comedy. The story seems simple enough. A young woman is mugged by a gang of urban teens. At that same moment, creatures begin raining down on our small group. Only one at first, but others follow. Here’s where the story takes off and it doesn’t let up until the end. It’s difficult to explain just what it is that makes this movie so inventive. After all, alien invasion flicks are a dime a dozen in Hollywood. However the film’s success may lie in its blending of multiple genres and doing each one equally well. This amalgamation combines imaginative science fiction, fast paced action, genuinely humorous bits, and a brilliant character study.

Lets start with the environment. The setting is a council estate in South London, a public housing development designed to supply uncrowded, well constructed homes at reasonable rents to primarily working class people. As with many forms of public housing, they often suffer from urban blight. The block in this case is a large apartment building. The narrative has a distinctly English spirit that infuses every scene with style. But this isn’t the England of tea and crumpets. This is an urban landscape with young British hoods that speak in a slang that permeates the dialogue with a hip flavor. It invigorates the script with originality. I’ll admit I was perplexed on a couple occasions as to what specifically they were saying. However the language is more fun than incomprehensible. Most of it makes sense in context. It certainly never threatened a clear understanding of the simple plot: invaders kill, heroes fight back.

It also stars a talented cast of unknowns that bring a unique persona to their parts. Yes they’re adolescent thugs, but they’re all fully formed individuals with engaging personalities. The fact that Sam, the young woman initially mugged by the hooligans, must now join forces with them against a common enemy is surprisingly believable. It’s doesn’t feel like a screenwriter’s device, but a plot point that is a major strength. These are not stock archetypes you see everyday. There is an unexpected sense of warmth that emanates from the genuine camaraderie amongst these characters. That’s a rarity in horror movies. You LIKE these people and don‘t want to see them die. When was the last time you gave a care for one of the victims in a Saw film?

Also of note is the electronic score.  The soundtrack is composed by Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe of English house music duo Basement Jaxx with additional assistance from composer Steven Price.  The suitably pulsating orchestration underscores the action perfectly.  Dear Academy,  For your consideration, the instrumental song “The Ends” that plays over the closing credits, a “big brooding slice of bagpipe dubstep”.  It’s a winner and the kind of innovative music from a film that should be (but never is) nominated.

In the end, it’s sheer originality that puts this over the top. English comedian, Joe Cornish makes his directorial debut with his self penned script co-produced by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). Despite the production’s indie status, it has an impressive pedigree of people involved. Actor Nick Frost the lone recognizable name in the cast, has a supporting part as a drug dealer. The budget is decidedly small. The creature designs might even be called amateurish. They look like oversized wolves with huge claws and light-emitting teeth. In reality they appear as if they’re played by people in furry costumes with some creative special effects. But it’s precisely that lack of expensive CGI that forces the filmmakers to be ingenious. They are both visually compelling and scary. The plot unfolds intelligently and develops logically. Hollywood take note! It bubbles with a joy of moviemaking that is artistic and energizing. Attack the Block is well wicked innit. So believe, bruv! Oops. Guess listening to all the slang rubbed off on me a little.

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8 Responses to “Attack the Block”

  1. This was awesome. I love that the aliens teeth lit up . This was not just scary, but funny. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

  2. Loved your review! I’ve been hearing nothing but praise for Attack the Block. I had never heard of the movie before I was handed a poster at Comic Con, though, but now I am really excited to watch it; I seriously doubt it’ll open in Mexico. Guess I’ll have to wait for the DVD.

    • Yeah it’s really hard to find in my area. Only playing at 3 theaters within a 20 mile radius. It’s worth it though. I debated about whether to give it 4 or 4 ½ stars because this makes it my top movie of the year (so far), but I really liked the feel of it. It doesn’t feel like the standard hackneyed Hollywood product.

  3. The alien design was truly amazing in my opinion. Utterly black with no visible details other than the mouth. It seems like that shouldn’t work, but it does. amazing.

  4. What I appreciate about this movie is that it is unique and doesn’t follow the traditional science fiction cliches, especially those of an alien invasion flick.

  5. Victor De Leon Says:

    Great review, Mark! This movie was a blast. I need to re-visit it very soon!

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