Attack the Block (15)
Teenage gangbangers in the midst of a mugging are interrupted by a meteor that plummets from the sky and unleashes an alien. So they kill it.
Thus begins a barmy throwback to the ‘80s monster movies of yore. The difference is that this one is set around and within a South London tower block and the good guys are a band of street toughs, their intended victim and a fat slacker who deals in dope.
Comedian Joe Cornish (of Adam and Joe fame) pitches hoodies against hairy, scary balls of fur with luminous teeth. It’s a full-on alien invasion foiled by a bunch of lairy teens armed with baseball bats, knives and fireworks.
These kids speak home-grown gangsta patois. Cornish turns these juvenile lowlifes into something close to heroes, which cannot even remotely be a good thing. The star turn is newcomer John Boyega as Moses, leader of the gang and a nasty thug who is redeemed by his actions over the course of the night.
His victim is Huddersfield actress Jodie Whittaker who, albeit reluctantly, joins forces with the gang who targeted her in an attempt to survive the invasion.
Of course Attack the Block is meant to slip into the same genre as Gremlins. The fact that it cannot is due to the undercurrent of social realism that flows through it. Too little comedy is balanced by too little straight action. As a hybrid it trips itself up.
Yet Cornish has nonetheless created an old-fashioned monster-on-the-loose movie with an ensemble cast of victims to be chewed up and spat out. Nick Frost plays the drugged-out dope fiend, Jumayn Hunter the drug dealer known as Hi-Hatz. Guess which one comes to a sticky end…?
Cornish has been accused of racial stereotyping with his cast of largely black villains. He argues that the black community has a rich history of antiheroes that fits the remit of Attack the Block. What he also achieves is a heightened realism courtesy of the aliens – actually men in furry suits – that bring genuine physicality to scenes that, in bigger movies, might have been created in the computer.