Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Attack the Block (2011)

Image from IMP Awards

Attack the Block (2011)

It's interesting thinking about this film post London riots. The protagonists are after all a bunch of inner city gang youths! It doesn't make me re-evaluate my take on the film mind you, but the timing of the film having come out just pre-riots is a tad amusing.

Running at a snappy 90 minutes, Attack the Block is an old school horror-comedy about an alien invasion of London, and more specifically a council housing estate (i.e. 'the projects'). It begins with a gang of kids from the building led by Moses (John Boyega) mugging a young woman, only to be interrupted mid crime when an alien crash lands mere metres away. They kill it, but it ends up being the first of many and soon the group are fleeing for their lives and forced to take up arms to defend their turf.

The film is superbly crafted on what seems to be a modest budget. It has a lean and focused script that, coupled with frenetic editing, relentlessly hurtles from one scene to the next, stopping only to set up characters and situations before the next set-piece It's economical storytelling, but no less effective for it. And the characters, despite being archetypal, are very well defined and funny, thanks in no small part to the excellent cast which is spearheaded by Boyega's charismatic performance.

It's funny but not campy - the horror sequences are genuine horror sequences, and there are gruesome deaths aplenty. Writer/director Joe Cornish, making his first feature film, strikes the perfect tonal balance between these elements in much the same way films like Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead do. It's got story, characters, excitement, and humour, with a smattering of social commentary thrown in for good measure.

By making the most of dimly lit hallways and dark run down city streets, the film maintains an atmospheric visual style. The creature designs deserve a special mention as they are creepy and alien looking without seeming derivative or fake. The effects used to bring them to life belie the modesty of the film's budget; truly impressive stuff! It's all rounded off with an energetic soundtrack by Basement Jaxx, the aural icing on the cake.

Fans of horror comedies are in for a treat with Attack the Block. There's nothing particularly original about it but it's very well made and features an unconventional setting and characters, particularly for a genre film. It's definitely on my blu-ray list!

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