“Attack the Block proves that the British are the best at Horror”
Aliens invade a South London estate where it is up to a group of young rude boys to save the day, is the high-concept selling point of Joe Cornish’s’ Attack the Block. The pre release excitement that has built up over the series of months around it; coupled with its debut at SXSW, has shown that Attack the Block is more of a jump on the bandwagon-universally-acclaimed-spectacle than Richard Ayoade’s Submarine. Attack the Block has generated more buzz than a bee keepers hive, but let us clarify that this is thoroughly justified.
Co-written by Edgar Wright, starring Nick Frost, and produced by Nira Park’s Big Talk Productions, you would be forgiven for thinking that the film would embrace the style of other such projects associated with these collaborators (e.g. Spaced, Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz.) However Attack the Block embraces an entirely different approach. It avoids the post-modern fan boy homage of cult films and cuts down on the light hearted humour. It is a much darker film with more serious themes. The use of old fashioned special effects and focus on character development combine to drive the plot along within the tight economy of the film’s primary setting. In this respect, first time writer-director Joe Cornish (of Adam and Joe fame) deters from mimicking his contemporaries, delivering a fresh an original piece of work.
The film follows the traditional mechanisms of your classic horror movie, picking off its victims one at a time and dispensing of all that torture porn nonsense that has slowed the genre’s dynamic. It has the claustrophobia of Ridley Scott’s Alien and the dark humour and jump out your seat suspense of Tremors, and Gremlins. The aliens intent on terrorizing the estate are a great example of good old fashioned monsterdom, (that’s right it is a word I made up!) which are aesthetically gruesome enough for the protagonists to discover it’s Achilles heel in order to save the day.
The deliberate constraints of time (events evolve over one bonfire night) moves the movie along at a fast pace, keeping the plot and the action extremely tight. The constraints of space (the events occur within an estate) enable Cornish to focus his attention on his rag bag assortment of characters. These guys are not your conventional heroes but a mixture of thieves, thugs and drug dealers. They embody the fears of what the establishment regards as youth crime and “Broken Britain” in our modern society. Think of the children in Steven Speilberg’s E.T.: the extra terrestrial banding together to rescue the cute alien from the clutches of the government; now imagine the opposite of those kids when watching Attack The Block; another picture is painted entirely. In one scene (a direct homage to Spielberg’s film), the kids cautiously approach a shed to discover what fell from the sky but their interaction with the terrestrial does not follow laying down skittles to entice and keep creature as a pet.
This aside Cornish does not let us forget that they are kids, regardless of our fears or moral prejudices. They operate by their own laws and language whilst their problems are greater than the suburban adolescents from E.T. This is Cornish’s greatest achievement in managing to find the right balance between social realism and science fiction/horror.
The cast and characters are exceptional especially when you consider that for many this was their first outing on the big screen. John Boyega is brilliant as Moses the chief anti hero of the film; he is a leader whose strong, silent and calm presence is much needed amidst the chaos. Alex Esmail provides a humorous account as Pest, the clinically cheeky motor mouth whose sardonic observations and wit lights up much of the situations. Finally Luke Treadway gives a fresh performance as a middleclass stoner “trying to be down” while his chronically stoned status gives him an indifference to what is going on around him.
This is a great film which has invigorated the horror genre whilst combining plenty of laughs and pathos for its characters. Put simply Joe Cornish’s debut is an assured piece of storytelling with great monsters and good performances, so get your arse down to the cinema when it opens on May the 11th.
If You Liked These Films You Will Like Attack The Block
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial