johnlink ranks ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011)

ATTACK THE BLOCK is a modestly budgeted horror-comedy which supposes an alien invasion smack in the middle of a tough South London block. A young group of budding juvenile delinquents become our focus as the attack plays out. This was an indie darling a year ago, winning Audience awards at film festivals and receiving nominations from niche genre organizations like Fangoria and the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. So could it live up to the hype?

I watched ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011) on 7.26.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

No aspect of this film is bad. The writing is clever and hip. The acting, from a group of young local Londoners mostly, is effective. The camerawork is a step above where a film like this usually comes in, with some nice angles and more than a few clever surprise scares. Coming from debuting Director Joe Cornish (whose previous career highlight was a multi-year run on a UK Channel 4 series called The Adam and Joe Show), the technical ability is refreshingly good. He even tapped a fresh cinematographer, Thomas Townsend, who had previously only worked on shorts, TV movies, and documentaries. Not all skill comes from vast experience.

I really like the characters, especially the ‘gang’ leader Moses (John Boyega) and the mugging-victim-cum-gang-mom Sam (Jodie Whittaker). One success of this film is the ability to turn a group of five unlikable boys who mug a nice young woman into a group of five likable boys who join forces with their mugging target. The relationship all of them build is nice, and doesn’t feel forced or fake.

The entertainment value, somehow, is unable to surpass some of the other elements of this film. That is particularly surprising for a horror-comedy, especially one which has so many good scenes. The connecting fiber isn’t always there to make this flow as some others do. That isn’t a giant knock on the film, but certainly worth noting. Even at under 90 minutes, this film doesn’t feel particularly short.

Special effects are usually left behind in favor of practical puppets. I like that choice, and it adds some terror to the film. Because the aliens themselves are giant poofballs, they don’t appear particularly menacing until they open their teeth. But once they do, they certainly provide some scares. These creatures don’t ever appear unbeatable or even uber-dangerous. Instead they attack when convenient for the film.

There are some messages to be found here, as Cornish wants to make a point to show us how disadvantaged and normal these kids who turn into thugs really are. In fact, the kids are all less-than-menacing except for Moses, who turns out to be the softest of all of them anyway. He delivers a nice speech about how the government brought guns and drugs to the hood to kill the poor people off, and that they are sending aliens to finish the job. It’s a well-delivered message by the actor, only the message itself it a little less than effective when you’re using aliens to extend the metaphor.

I didn’t fall in love with this film on first viewing. I certainly respect it, and I absolutely am glad a small Indy film got some well deserved attention. Perhaps my expectations were slightly too high. Regardless, this is a film worth seeing for fans of the horror-comedy genre. And it is also a film I could see growing with repeat viewings.

SCORES

FILM: 6; MOVIE: 6; ACTING: 7; WRITING: 6

6+6+7+6+0=25

FINAL SCORE: 6.25

 

~ by johnlink00 on July 27, 2012.

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