Film Review: Attack the Block

Directed by Joe Cornish
Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker and John Boyega
Score: 4/5

It’s just another night in South London, when a nurse named Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is mugged by a teen gang, lead by the imposing Moses (John Boyega). As if things weren’t bad enough for Sam already, an alien invasion takes place just moments later, just outside of her apartment. Suddenly, everyone must work together to overcome a vicious attack from creatures whose mission isn’t initially clear.

While fan boys may note that this is from the producer of Shaun of the Dead, it isn’t a comedy. In fact, it’s kind of like An American Werewolf in London, which was also a horror film that just happened to be wildly funny. Writer/director Joe Cornish, who wrote the screenplay to Steven Spielberg’s upcoming The Adventures of Tin Tin, is a talent on the rise; this sleeper mixes genuine scares, pulse pounding excitement, social commentary, laugh out loud moments and really inventive monsters in a way I haven’t seen since Tremors.

This is a great monster movie. It has attitude and energy to spare and just keeps getting better and better. Of the gifted ensemble cast, Whittaker and Boyega are the break out stars but Nick Frost, playing the neighborhood weed dealer, is bang-on funny in a key supporting role.

The subtext is that this story would be interesting without the monsters showing up but the need for this rag tag community to work together, in a way they normally never would, provides insight on how connected and collaborative we all truly are. This scenario is a proven formula, whether it’s with mall zombies in Dawn of the Dead or punk vampires in The Lost Boys. The set-up for this movie will remind many of Skyline but, whereas that stinker did seemingly everything wrong, this one begins in offbeat fashion, picks up momentum and gives audiences a thrilling 90 minutes of jolts and you-won’t-believe-what-you’re-seeing imagery.

Initially, the thick London accents were a concern and I wondered if subtitles would have helped. However, I never missed a single plot point and, if anything, I only missed pieces of dialogue from how loud the audience was laughing.

It appears that movie monsters will never top H.R. Giger’s horrific creations for Alien and the creatures on hand here bear a superficial resemblance to those giant bugs with teeth. However, there is a huge variation on what you’d expect from outer space invaders: I won’t spoil it but, whether you see them clearly or in shadows, the beasts on the prowl here are seriously scary and kind of novel. The effects are so good, I could never tell if I was looking at a CGI effect or someone in a suit. In any case, the big reveal in a night time park is a creeper, and so is the line that accompanies the moment: “those aren’t its eyes!”

The budget looks to have been small but there’s more entertainment value here than most big budget 2011 releases. Like Insidious, this shows how far a small budget, genuine imagination and film craftsmanship can go to shaping a first-rate horror movie. The R-rating is more for the language than violence, though there are some brief but potently gory shocks I didn’t see coming.

This one plays like gangbusters in a crowded movie theater and deserves to be a word of mouth hit. If you like being scared, on the edge of your seat, and laughing the whole time, see this one, bring someone you want to get close with and a bunch of your rowdiest friends.

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