The coming of age story, a classic Hollywood plot that makes the target audience connect and deal with what is to come. It also makes those of older generations become nostalgic for their days of youth and the wonders they discovered. Sometimes these times are handled with emotions, courageous adventures, and the bonds they create. Be it through discovering a dead body a la Stand By Me, going to find treasure to stop demolition of a neighborhood like the titular characters of The Goonies, or even a group being rebellious hoods who happen to witness an alien invasion while mugging a woman. Go home, lock your doors, do your homework, and watch Naruto because the block is under attack.
2011’s cult classic science fiction horror comedy, Attack the Block, directed by Joe Cornish, tells the story of young hoods in South London get caught up in stopping an alien invasion that seems to only be invading the block (apartment complex to us Americans) in which they reside in. With clever humor, beyond stunning cinematography, stellar young performances, and throwbacks to films of the 80’s, this film might be the shot in the arm the science fiction comedy genre needs.
On Guy Fawkes Night (famous outside of England due to V for Vendetta), a woman by the name of Sam (Jodie Whitaker) walks towards into ‘The Ends’ when she approached by five young boys named Biggz (Simon Howard), Jerome (Leeon Jones), Pest (Alex Esmail), Young Den aka Dennis (Franz Drameh), and Moses (John Boyega) attempting to mug her. As this happens, a comet crash lands on top of a car and all of them get in a fright as Sam runs away from the hoodlum. Moses investigates and is attacked by the creature, chases it down alongside his pals, and beat it to death. After their triumph, they head to Ron’s (Nick Frost) weed room at their tower block to hide the mysterious creature as dozens more comet cocoons fall from the sky. Moses tells Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter), an infamous drug dealer who ‘runs’ the block to work out a deal to hide the now identified by alien and are introduced to Ron’s number one customer Brewis (Luke Treadaway), who is getting high and watching nature programmes. The gang finally realize an alien invasion is underway and decide to take it on with swords, baseball bats, fists, fireworks and pure hoodlum antics.
While seeking out the aliens, they finally see their true form as a pure black fur gorilla-sized creature with sharp neon blue fangs. Moses and the boys continue their investigation as Moses is arrested thanks to Sam alerting the police. In the police wagon, an alien begins to attack and kills the police officers as Sam screams for help. Moses saves her, alongside the entire gang showing up, and escape towards the tower block crashing into the beloved car of Hi-Hatz. The gang and Sam are held up at gunpoint as Pest tries to explain the whole situation. Hi-Hatz does not believe it and sends his pal to see if it is true, only for him to wind up getting eaten. Witnessing the alien attack, the gang escapes Hi-Hatz’s foolishness to the tower block and the outskirts of the block where Biggz hides out inside a trash container for most of the feature in a fright. Pest is bitten and the gang tries to convince Sam to help him out due to figuring out she was a nurse during the mugging. Sam retaliates at first due to their behavior, but seeing as there are much scarier things out there than them, decides to join the crew with a kitchen knife in hand. An alien crashes in with Moses deal with it with a katana. The gang heads out to Tia’s (Danelle Vitalis) place and catch up with Dimples (Paige Meade), a young girl who has history with the boys. Aliens decide to break in and kill Dennis with his head bouncing around the room like a pinball. Sam saves Moses from one of the aliens and they all decide to head to Ron’s after being kicked out for causing a commotion as they want Moses.
While headed up to Ron’s, Hi-Hatz return to kill the gang with more friend but the aliens get a hold ready for the attack but the gang leaves for the aliens to get to Hi-Hatz and his men in the elevator. Brewis tries to head out of Ron’s when he comes across Hi-Hatz covered in blood in a blood-soaked elevator after killing the aliens with his friend dead on the floor. The gang head into the hallway soon after and begin to mess with the aliens with fireworks to clear away. Sadly Jerome is killed by one in the smoke. The gang heads to Ron’s room only to find Hi-Hatz again ready to take them down. Luckily for them, aliens decide to crash the party and give Hi-Hatz his comeuppance he so rightfully deserve. Hiding out in the weed room, Moses and Brewis discover that the alien residue left on Moses (visible via UV lights) is attracting the being to him a la pheromones unleashed by female aliens to attract the males to come from the far reaches of space to mate. The moral of the story here is that (even though I do not do drugs or advocate drug use beyond marijuana) getting high and watching nature programmes is probably very helpful in life threatening situations. While this happens, Biggz is saved by two young wannabe hoods, Probs (Sammy Williams) and Mayhem (Michael Ajao) with Super Soakers filled with gasoline and lighting the son of a bitch on fire. Spoiler: It is as awesome and hilarious as it sounds. Back at the block, Moses and Sam hatch a plan to defeat the ‘beasts of the galactic wild’ by having Sam turn on all the gas in Moses’ flat, toss the body of the female into the room, and blow them up with fireworks. The plan goes perfectly well and Moses’ survives by hanging on the Union Jack. The end is bittersweet as Moses, Ron, Brewis and Pest are arrested while Biggz remains free. The police approach Sam to say if they were the attackers but instead defends them as the residents of the block shouts Moses’ name with Pest saying ‘You hear that? That’s for you”.
Fortunately, not much was given in the way of comedy in the synopsis as this is a film that relies on it greatly and excels with it. Attack the Block is a personal favorite film of mine and a truly ambitious venture in science packed with humor and horrific moments. The direction by Joe Cornish is stunning with terrific uses of bright color against the bland and dead looking tower block walls. The design of the creatures is original and having them be near pitch black is terrifying beyond belief. The performances by the young actors are stellar with John Boyega’s heartfelt and intense performance as the courageous Moses and the hilarious Alex Esmail as Pest. The score of the film by Basement Jaxx, famous for ‘Where’s Your Head At?’ stateside, is a straight throwback to the Carpenter scores of the late 70’s and 80’s filled with tracks that won’t leave your head. The comedic aspects are funny when they need to be and do not feel forced what so ever. The boys having to grow as heroes in the face of danger is brillant as they must face themselves to see if being bad is actually worth being the entire time and must grow up. Overall, Attack the Block is a fun diversion that is smart and dares to take risks in the genre while delivering one hell of a coming of age story. Not too bad for an alien invasion film, I should say.
Next week, we head to the world where childhood never fades away filled with pirates, mermaids, and boys lost in time.
Prepare to think happy thoughts and fly to the second star to the right.