Almost ten years ago (May 11, 2011 to be exact) British Sci Fi Comedy Horror Attack the Block was released. And while the critics loved it, the film underperformed at the box office. And it’s sad more people didn’t see it because it is fantastic and a personal favourite.
Now I have been revisiting Sci Fi films from 20 years ago and further back (my Body Snatchers list was for the original film’s 65th anniversary), but I just couldn’t wait to gush over this hidden gem and cult classic. So with a mild spoiler alert here’s my review of Attack the Block in three slices:
Slice 1 Boys on the Block
The film is about a teenage street gang in England whose South London council estate (public housing and the titular “block”) is attacked by predatory aliens. Now a group of foul-mouthed juvenile delinquents are not your typical genre heroes. But these youths feel so authentic and are so witty that you just enjoy listening to their rapid-fire banter and colourful colloquialisms even before aliens start dropping from the sky. My favourites of the crew are master of gab Pest (Alex Esmail), as he had me in stitches, and stoic and fearless leader Moses played by a pre-Star Wars John Boyega. Moses makes for quite an engaging anti-hero and Boyega delivers a surprising level of depth and gravitas in his debut role. Honourable mention also goes to aspiring juvenile delinquents Mayhem (Michael Ajao) and Probs (Sammy Williams).
The film also features a pre-Doctor Who Jodie Whittaker as Sam, a nurse who lives in the same building and who the boys mug early in the film. Whittaker does good work as a woman completely out of her element but with an inner strength that shines through. Her relationship with the gang, especially Moses, forms the emotional core of the movie and it is very well done. Also look out for Nick Frost (aka one half of the Cornetto Trilogy duo) as a laid-back and continually stoned weed dealer.
Slice 2 They came from outer space!
Now there are a few films in the Sci Fi Horror sub-genre, and we have also had entries in both the Sci Fi-comedy and horror-comedy sub-genres. It is a rare film, however, that attempts to mesh science fiction, horror and comedy. But Attack the Block pulls this off deftly, jumping from tone to tone without missing a beat or even combining the various tones into one scene. You may find yourself screaming at one moment and screaming with laughter the next. And the key to Attack the Block’s genre-blending success is its simplicity.
The main characters are grounded and relatable, and the alien stuff is kept simple, both in terms of origin and design. And I adore this design. The quadrupedal creatures are so dark they seem to absorb the light around them, and the only colour you see are their creepy glowing teeth. These things are horrifying and definitely deliver in the scares department. Their bone-chilling screeches are just the final additive to this big tub of nightmare fuel. I would not want to see any of these “gorilla-wolf motherf—ers” (as Pest describes them) down a dark alley. Or a well-lit alley for that matter. Aside from some jump scares and nail-biting, tension-filled moments, Attack the Block also earns its horror cred by some scenes of blood and gore. Yeah, when you see teenagers getting mauled and savaged by these beasts you realise no one is safe here. I believe 2020 Netflix film Vampires vs. the Bronx sought to emulate the same urban youths-versus-otherworldly creatures horror comedy vibe as this film, but that one missed the mark.
Slice 3 You’re never going to believe this bruv…
The film was the debut of writer/director Joe Cornish and it would be remiss of me not to throw some kudos his way. As a writer he keeps the plot tight, straightforward and believable. If a group of vicious aliens attacked a teenage street gang in real life this is how I imagine it would be. He also takes time to give each character some fleshing out so they never feel like caricatures. And as a director he achieves some admirable performances from his predominantly young cast. He also keeps the pace brisk and thrilling, pairing scenes with some banging hip hop beats. And you know alien films where someone is skeptical about the existence of the extraterrestrials and it takes some time for everyone to be on the same page? Well these youths figure out immediately these creatures are from outer space, and any other doubtful characters quickly have those doubts erased when they are staring down those glow-in-the-dark chompers.
I rewatched this film last night for this review (don’t tell my wife; I’m supposed to be getting more sleep these days) and I think I enjoyed it even more than previously. It is just so wild and fun and funny. Enough talk. If you haven’t seen it go and watch it now. And if you’ve seen it before then go back and watch it again. Because this film is wicked bruv. Believe! BLOCK BLOCK BLOCK BLOCK BLOCK BLOCK BLOCK BLOCK!
Editor Jules’s Score: 9 out of 10
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. I can also be found posting about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville. And to stay on top of all Redmangoreviews articles you can like and follow us on Facebook here.