Sunday, September 11, 2011
Attack The Block
This October, I’m planning to watch 31 horror movies throughout the month for the second year in a row. I did it last year and it was a blast—check out my reports on it at my friend Carsten Knox’s movie blog, The Flaw In The Iris. As I’ve been stockpiling movie ideas for this month-long blowout, I’ve been trying to avoid watching any horror films…which, unfortunately, makes it a bit tough to maintain a blog largely dedicated to horror films. I am, however, always on the lookout for loopholes in the sketchily-defined boundaries of this blog, and since the new UK release Attack The Block contains a lot of elements of other genres—sci-fi, action, and comedy, specifically—I feel justified that, in watching it, I wasn’t draining a movie away from my October stockpile. It does contain enough elements of a horror movie that I think I can get away with writing about it.
Attack The Block comes from across the pond via writer/director Joe Cornish (one of the scribes of the upcoming Tintin feature) and producer Nira Park (pretty much everything Edgar Wright has ever been involved in). It concerns a group of underage South London street toughs—along with the off-duty nurse they rob early on in the film—who do battle with a swarm of toothy, furry monstrosities from space that descend on the city during a meteor shower. There’s not really a whole lot else to the plot other than that; within the ninety-minute running time, the kids and their mugging victim have to join forces against both the beasties and a pissed-off drug dealer, mostly within the confines of an apartment complex called Wyndham Towers (presumably named after British SF giant John Wyndham, author of The Chrysalids and Day Of The Triffids).
The tone of Attack The Block is decidedly in the gosh-wow vein of a 1980s Amblin Entertainment flick, but with a darker edge—most of its protagonists are, after all, teenaged criminals, and some of them meet with bloody demises before the credits roll. Describing the movie as Goonies Vs. Critters wouldn’t be far off. It’s also a bit like the kids from Season Four of The Wire fighting for their lives against toothsome alien yetis, only in South London instead of West Baltimore. The young cast, led by a charismatic and believably tough John Boyega as Moses, is superb. It seems at first that it might be hard to rally behind a group of unrepentant criminals as the film’s heroes, but as the movie progresses, the kids gain more dimension and, with it, more sympathy. The design of the monsters is a refreshing change-of-page from the usual CGI ghoulies; the pitch-black, furry “gorilla wolf motherfuckers” with neon green fangs look to have been achieved through a mix of guys-in-suits and rotoscope animation. It’s a refreshingly low-tech solution that gives the beasts real presence and weight on film. Not everything works—the subplot about the murderous drug dealer Hi-Hatz feels a bit extraneous, born out of some misguided need for a human villain, and an awful lot of the film’s climax hinges on an extremely well-placed nature program playing on TV early on that provides a vital clue about the creatures’ behaviour. There isn’t ever much of an explanation as to why these alien nasties settled on South London for their rampage, but then again, Tremors never bothered to explain why the Graboids decided to suddenly spring up around the town of Perfection either, and it never impeded my enjoyment. Attack The Block races through its running time with loads of style and wit, buoyed by a strong cast and a cool new kind of monster. See it before the inevitable American remake.