I purposely avoided promos and trailers for Attack the Block. Other than aliens being involved in some capacity and Nick Frost being in the film, I had no idea what it was about either. When it comes to movies these days, movie studios are banking on titles to be huge hits and promote them into the ground. You feel like you’ve already seen half the movie by the time it’s released while lesser known films usually get little to no promotion and bomb because nobody knew anything about them. And as a movie critic, going into a movie and saying you don’t know absolutely everything about it beforehand is kind of liberating. Remember the days when you’d go to the movies not knowing what to see and you’d pick something based on the movie poster alone? I miss the days when there weren’t a ton of commercials before the trailers, but I digress. Attack the Block, much like any film should in this situation is already entertaining in its own right but is an even stronger experience if you know nothing about it going in.
This is Joe Cornish’s first time sitting in the director’s seat, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way. His sense of perspective is fantastic and the lighting in the film is utilized in the alien creatures’ benefit. Something as simple as lights dimming in a hallway is suddenly way more intimidating after seeing Attack the Block. The cast works better as a cohesive unit rather than individually, but there are a few that standout above the rest. Moses (John Boyega) is probably the most obvious choice since he’s the leader of the gang and the story kind of leans in his favor, but Brewis (Luke Treadaway) is right up there as well. His rather oblivious attitude towards aliens invading their neighborhood due to him being stoned all the time got more laughs than anything else in the film. He didn’t even have to say anything half the time. His appearance and body language will have you rolling at times. Pest (Alex Esmail) steps it up a bit after he has a close encounter with one of the alien monsters. His incessant ramblings about the aliens along with his constant flirting with Sam (Jodie Whitaker) is rather humorous. Nick Frost has more of a supporting role than a main one, but is hilarious every time he’s on screen. The young cast along with its content gives the film a bit of a Goonies or even Monster Squad kind of vibe and that is something to be proud of.
The creatures themselves may be the highlight though. Their original design along with the way they tend to slink around in the shadows is both incredibly cool and really unnerving at the same time. They’re big enough to be described as gorillas, are black, and hair seems to cover their entire body. They have no eyes, have glow in the dark teeth, and also crawl on all fours. There’s a chase scene near the end of the film that’s shown in slow motion that is really spectacular. Most of me just wanted to see more of these creatures even though they’re featured significantly in the second half of the film. Attack the Block is homage to the great horror films from the 80s and is reminiscent of Gremlins while offering the atmosphere of the really fantastic John Carpenter films. Critters also comes to mind, but Night of the Creeps was the first thing I thought of when they started falling from the sky except Attack the Block is an all around better film.
Attack the Block is a unique vision of terror that is laugh-out-loud funny at times, terrifying at others, and massively engaging in between. The film wears its influences on its sleeve, but combines them with a simple but flawlessly executed story and hilariously strong ensemble cast to result in one of the greatest throwbacks to fun 80s horror ever along with becoming one of the most entertaining films of the year.