Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block continues to build in popularity and expand in theaters.
Beginning the hype, our own David Harley caught the film at this past March’s SXSW Film Festival and raved about it. Since then, the online community has embraced the sci-fi horror about a gang of South London teenagers defending their housing project home against an alien attack.
New Bloody contributor Scott Shoyer also shares his thoughts beyond the break. Don’t forget to write your own reviews to tell all of BD what YOu thought.
Homer Simpson is a simple guy. In the episode that guest starred John Waters, Homer was offended that Waters’ character was gay. In response to finding out he tells Marge, “You know I like my beer cold, my TV loud, and my homosexuals flaming.” Yup; Homer’s a simple guy. In some respects I’m a simple guy too. I like to have my horror movies fast-paced (generally speaking), gory, and if there’s comedy in it I want the comedic and horror elements kept separate. Simple right? Well then why the hell do so many filmmakers fuck it up? Why is it so hard to make successful horror-comedy hybrids that work both as comedy and as horror? I’m not gonna go into past film’s failures in this respect, but I will tell you that if you’re looking for a kick ass flick that blends comedy with horror/scifi elements, then look no further than ATTACK THE BLOCK. This UK film, written and directed by Joe Cornish, is having a small theatrical release here in the US and I’m lucky enough to live in Austin, TX where it’s playing. Cornish has further proven that the Brits know how to make a successful horror-comedy hybrid where the elements are kept separate, yet work together (not unlike 2004’s SHAWN OF THE DEAD).
The story begins with Sam (Jodie Whittaker, UK’s answer to Sandra Bullock … but cuter), walking home late one night after her shift at the hospital. Just when she’s about home she is cornered and mugged at knife-point by five young thugs, led by Moses (John Boyega). Sam is saved by something falling outta the sky and slamming into a parked car nearby. She runs away while the gang investigates and subsequently gets attacked by some “dog-wolf-monkey” creature. They proceed to beat the shit out of the creature, but later, as they’re celebrating their victory, more “pods” start falling out of the sky all over their “block.” Being young, headstrong, and territorial they all grab some household weapons (baseball bat, fireworks, etc..) and plan on going out to kick some more ET ass. The only problem is that the new creatures (and there’s a lot of them) are big. No, no; I mean B I G!! The rest of the film follows around our group of plucky thugs as they realize (in the words of Tallahassee from ZOMBIELAND) that it’s time to “nut up or shut up.”
I first heard about ATTACK THE BLOCK late last year and heard how mind-blowingly amazing it is. And to a point I agree. This is a really well made film with great acting from a young cast, has a fast pace, great tension and suspense, and it’s just a whole lotta fun. Is it a genre-defining film that breaks the mold and paves new territory? No, and I don’t think this is what Cornish set out to do. Hype can be a double-edged sword, people!! This is a really fun flick that rivals SHAWN OF THE DEAD, but just don’t expect it to be 100% original.
The cast, I can’t stress enough, did a fantastic job. It’s so nice to see younger actors who aren’t being coached in the “Spielberg School of Child Acting.” The kids here are edgy without being precocious and also exhibit an innocence and vulnerability while at the same time being pretty bas ass. Boyega (Moses) did an especially stand up job and carried the film confidently as the main character. The film can actually be seen as a “coming of age” story from Boyega’s point of view … with violent aliens, of course. Cornish did a really nice job with Moses’ story arc. Seriously; it was so nice nice o see a film with young actors in it who don’t act and behave like they’re 30 years old (yeah SUPER 8; I’m looking at you).
Cornish also needs to be commended for pulling off a great comedy-horror/scifi (definitely more scifi than horror) blend. I’ve seen some really shitty horror-comedies lately (THE DEAD AND THE DAMNED, for one), and ATTACK THE BLOCK avoids all the pitfalls. There are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments and then there’s some truly scary and suspenseful moments, and Cornish knows better than to mix the two together. He utilizes the comedy the way it should be utilized – as comic relief to break up some of the more tense scenes. Genre-fav Nick Frost (“Ed” in SHAWN OF THE DEAD) is primarily here for the comedic relief. So if there’s any up-and-coming filmmakers reading this out there who’re thinking about making a horror-comedy, please do us all a favor and watch ATTACK THE BLOCK to get some tips on how to do it right!!
And now the aspect you’re all curious about: The aliens. Cornish blows his wad early and shows us the alien about 7-10 minutes in. The first alien is pretty cool looking, but the next wave that lands do indeed look like monkey-wolf creatures pumped up on strong steroids. Don’t get me wrong, they work in the film, but they won’t be getting any special award or recognition for their design. Considering this film’s estimated budget is