MARCH 31, 2011
I ordinarily try to avoid as much as I can about a movie before I see it, but when Devin told me that I could count Attack The Block as a horror movie, I figured I’d watch the trailer to see if I could make a good judgment call from it. And I still wasn’t sure; the aliens looked kind of scary and there was a jump scare in there, but that could be editing. But all those fears quickly went out the window when the film began with an awesome homage to The Thing (even the score was kind of Carpenter-y), and then the first scare made me jump. ME.
So yeah, it counts as a horror movie. In fact I was often reminded of the tone of Critters, where it’s fun and scary in fairly equal measure, but Block is even MORE of a horror than that film, which dealt heavily with its sci-fi aspects (i.e. the opening scenes, pretty much anything with the shapeshifter guy, etc). Also, unlike Critters, it’s a great movie that I think will hold up 10-20 years from now, possibly beyond.
I literally had no issues whatsoever with the film. I was laughing and cheering throughout, and many of the scares did indeed give me a jolt. And I LOVED the aliens, which were sort of ape-like, but without eyes, blue-glowing teeth, and fur that was “blacker than black” (something they use somewhat sparingly). Plus, it’s an R rated horror movie starring a bunch of kids barely into their teens – and there’s still a decent amount of gore. Not all of our little heroes make it out, which surprised me – they introduce some older characters who I assumed were just there to allow the film some deaths without actually killing off a 14 year old, but that is (thankfully) not the case.
I also enjoyed how small the focus was. Pretty much the entire movie takes place in a single apartment building, not an entire block (hey, it's Critters 3, then!), and, without spoiling anything, there’s a perfectly movie-logical explanation for why the entire city of London isn’t being besieged by the alien monsters. It’s not like Night of the Living Dead where we are focusing on one part of what is obviously a large scale problem – the aliens are all sort of contained to this one area. It’s the rare alien film that has an open and shut story without having some lame deus ex machina at the end to solve all the problems in one fell swoop.
The Carpenter influence isn’t just from The Thing, either – the relationship between the two main characters mirrors that of Assault on Precinct 13 (or Ghosts of Mars, I guess – Mr. Beaks from AICN hilariously pointed out that Attack the Block retroactively justified the existence of that film), and I always love that sort of thing. It didn’t hurt that the female of the pair, one Jodie Whittaker, was wonderfully cute and even more personable – she reminded me of Sandra Bullock from her Speed days. John Boyega as Moses was also quite good; there’s a minor ‘reveal’ about his character late in the film, and what’s great about it is that for a second you might think “Oh come on!” but then if you think about it and pay closer attention to that aspect of his character, it makes total sense. Well played, sir.
And all this from a first time feature director. Joe Cornish has done some TV work, but this is his first full length film, although you’d never know it from watching. The pacing is perfect; aliens arrive pretty much in the first scene, right after the character conflict between Whittaker and Boyega is introduced (that’s economy!), and the pace barely lets up after that, as our heroes make their way around trying to stay ahead of both the aliens and 3rd parties who are after them for various other issues I won’t spoil here. But it still finds time for plenty of good character tics and well placed humor (the little white kid of the group, whose name escapes me, gets most of the best lines), and no one element ever overcrowds the others – the balance is flawless.
Speaking of the humor, the trailer would have you believe that Nick Frost is a bigger character than he is; in actuality nearly his entire performance is in the trailer. Hopefully no one sees it just for him, they will be disappointed. But otherwise, I didn’t recognize anyone, which is also a plus – buying into the reality is actually more important than usual, since the movie at its core is about some misguided kids looking out for their own. I really believed they were a bunch of punks from London; something I wouldn’t have been able to do if they decided to throw in a Harry Potter cast member looking to surprise his fans by playing a punk. That said, the accents can be a bit thick at times, but nowhere near as impenetrable as they were in Cherry Tree Lane. I know there was a rumor about dubbing or subtitling the film, but I find that ridiculous – I think there was maybe one line in the entire movie I didn’t quite catch. And I’m an ignorant American (comment section).
I am confounded that the movie doesn’t have a US distribution as of yet. This is a hugely entertaining, nearly perfect horror/adventure that deserves to be seen on the big screen. This and other praise aside, it’s the type of movie that should come out in August and just shock the hell out of everyone who had grown tired of the generic summer fare coming from the big studios. It was fitting that the Hangover 2 trailer debuted a couple hours before the screening began – that trailer was almost insulting as it rehashed the original movie note for note, and we can probably expect the same sort of déjà vu from Pirates 4, Transformers 3, and every other major genre film hitting over the next 3-4 months (let’s not even BEGIN to consider Cars 2, a sequel to the only Pixar movie no one likes). Attack The Block may be informed by films of the past, but it’s very much its own thing, and not insulting to those films OR their fans in any way shape or form. Without a doubt, I can say that I felt the most pure joy watching this movie than I have in years; I think I’d have to go back to Trick R Treat for something else I watched with so much glee and admiration. The rare genre film I honestly could not even conceive of someone disliking. Believe!
What say you?