Attack the Block is a throwback to the efficient thrills of early John Carpenter, and the comedic creature-features Critters and Gremlins, with a bit of The Warriors thrown in for good measure. If any of that sounds like fun to you, then you’ll want to seek out this clever gem.
The film begins with a mugging interrupted by something smashing into a nearby car. The object turns out to be the first of many invaders from space. This creature picked the wrong side of the tracks to land in and is swiftly met with much worse than a punch to the face and a Will Smith greeting. It’s safe to say these kids ain’t afraid of no aliens. Meaner and deadlier creatures fall from the sky, and it’s up to the gang, led by Moses (the strong silent type), a nurse, a college pot-head, and some local weed growers to protect the “block.”
Alien invasion is a well-worn genre, with countless entries this year alone (Super 8, Battle L.A., Transformers). What sets Attack the Block apart is the filmmaker’s fresh approach to the material. The creatures, “Big, gorilla-wolf motherfuckers,” are fantastic old-school creations. Black as night, their only feature being razor-sharp glow-in-the-dark teeth. I’m sure there’s some computer work assisting in their manufacture, but for the most part, these things are made on set. The design is basic but inventive, without all the gimmickry and glut of recent CGI beasts.
The plotting and characters are also handled very well. No crazy twists or larger than life personalities, rather a straightforward structure with complementary characters. I mentioned Carpenter, and this is where his influence is felt. This isn’t spectacle, but minimalism. We only see what is absolutely essential, and that is all that is necessary. A fleet 88 minutes, Attack the Block wisely avoids prolonging its fundamental plot longer than it should.
The teen cast is even better than the wonderful kids from Super 8. Not only do you believe they’re friends with great chemistry, but they make for convincing delinquents. They’re punks, not 100% likable, and the acting doesn’t shy away from this or try to appease the crowd. You end up liking them despite what they do, which is how it should be. Speaking of Super 8, which I did enjoy, Attack the Block makes that film look like sentimental child’s play. There are similarities, but Block isn’t trying to be a film from the past, just a film inspired by it. Also, Block follows through on its promises. When the kids “tool up” to kill some aliens, they actually kill themselves some fucking aliens. Lessons might be learned, but letting aliens escape is not one of them.
Funny moments and great bits of dialogue to be sure, but I wouldn’t say the movie is funny, it’s fun and entertaining! Great action, cool bloody kills, memorable characters, and more memorable lines. You could fill a store with t-shirts sporting catch phrases from this thing. I know I applauded the short runtime, but I could have used about 10 more minutes of movie. Maybe it would have been too much of a good thing, but I was craving a few more kills. The heart wants what the heart wants.
Debut director (and sometime co-writer with Edgar Wright) Joe Cornish has crafted a sly bit of sci-fi horror. It’s not some ingenious masterpiece, but I can see myself watching Attack the Block repeatedly and with a grin on my face.