Attack the Block (2011) – Joe Cornish

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While Joe Cornish’s 2011 Attack the Block is not strictly a horror movie, (it’s really more of a sci-fi/action/monster/ alien movie) it still fits into a broader definition of horror, and it was lots of fun so I figured I’d give it a shot here and let you know about it. At face value, this movie sounds pretty standard-issue. The monsters aren’t amazing, and in broad strokes, the plot is pretty status quot, but the movie has a charm to it that makes you care about the characters and really stay interested and excited throughout the whole thing. It’s fast-paced, the acting is spot on, the script is subtly clever, and the sound effects and soundtrack are awesome.

The movie takes place in a rough part of London and the main characters are a bunch of teenaged street thugs who rob and mug people, break into cars and sell drugs. The film opens up with these kids mugging a young lady while she’s walking home to her apartment. We will later find out that she lives in the same “block” (low-rent, high-rise, crime-infested apartment, like a housing project) that the muggers do. After the mugging, a bright light shoots across the sky and something crashes to the ground right next to these kids. It turns out to be a little hairy monster about the size of a big dog. This creature is white and has no eyes and its whole head is just a mouth with no eyes and big teeth. Moses, the leader of the gang decides to kill the creature and take it with them. So they go to buy some weed, as teenage thugs are wont to do, and they stash the dead alien in their dealer’s apartment in one of the upper floors of the block.

Eventually lots more of these monsters (actually a bigger, nastier version of them) start raining down from the sky and the kids decide they need to protect their hood from the alien invasion. So they grab ninja swords, baseball bats, roman candles, and dirt bikes and head out to rid south London of the invaders. Meanwhile, the cops are after them, they smash up their drug dealer’s BMW and he’s after them, and they team up with the woman whom they mugged at the beginning of the movie (who conveniently happens to be a nurse) to try to save London and ultimately the world from the alien menace.

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Like I said, the plot is not super original, but the characters are all just awesome. The script is actually pretty clever and there are some good one-liners in there too. Also, the best part (I think) of the whole movie is these kids’ accents. They all speak in the coolest fucking half-British-half-Jamaican- half-ghetto accent. Even the white kids. If I were going to adopt any foreign accent, it would be this one. Trust, man. Honestly, it’s a little bit hard to even understand everything they’re saying, but something about it just draws you in. The kids are actually pretty good actors and it feels genuine the way they react to seeing their neighborhood under siege and their friends/pets getting eaten and torn apart.

Now, this is a movie about kids, and usually, movies about kid are for kids. Even though it’s rated R, it’s fairly tame, but it’s not really a kids movie. One of the turning points at the end is when you realize just how young these kids actually are and about the supposedly tough lives they’re living in the ghetto. One of the movie’s taglines was “Inner City vs. Outer Space.” Ok, I get it, these kids are thugs and they grew up in the projects, blah, blah ,blah. And I’ll even grant you that it would change the whole mood of the movie if you had to actually see what it’s like for real kids like this to grow up in the real ghetto. But come on, these kids are wearing nicer clothes than I wear to work, and it’s not just from slinging a few ounces of weed. And the neighborhood around the projects where they live, looks nicer than my neighborhood in real life. Maybe find some middle ground there. Or maybe the UK just needs to see what a good old American ghetto is like. But really, that’s a small criticism. The movie is a lot of fun.

Now there was something of a horror no-no at the end. They were pretty heavy handed in delivering the moral of the story: don’t judge and labeling people and also robbing people and committing senseless violence has consequences. Usually, horror movies just reinforce traditional Christian values: don’t drink, don’t do drugs, don’t have premarital sex-it’s true-think about it- So at least we’re being a little more progressive here.

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I thought I’d mention the score/soundtrack. It doesn’t really do much to make you scared but it’s just fucking amazing. It’s not really dub-step but its electronic, drum & bass or something. But the point is, the soundtrack does a great job setting the tone and the feeling of excitement for each scene.

Now, like I said before, I wouldn’t call this a “horror movie” in the strictest sense, but its close and its fun so it’s worth a watch, despite what will probably be a fairly low score.

  1. Is it scary: 3- There are some intense moments and a couple of scenes where you’re dying from the suspense, but overall, not that scary.
  2. Originality: 5- Slightly different twist on a fairly common theme.
  3. Blood: 4- there were a few scenes with lots of blood but, being that the main characters are in middle or high school, it’s tough to dump on buckets of blood and still hold the audience.
  4. Believability: 6-I thought the acting and the plot were fairly genuine for what was happening. And they didn’t have much of a choice because most of the movie took place in a high-rise apartment building, there was a lot of running up stairs. Minus 1 point.
  5. Setting/Cinematography: 6- There’s nothing particularly scary about the setting. For the most part its just a high apartment building. The cinematography was pretty cool. There are some neat shots where we can’t see what’s happening and that adds to the suspense.

Final Score: 24/50 

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