Friday, August 5, 2011

Attack the Block

Attack the Block

Oh, how do I love this movie? Let me count the ways. I'd been hearing about it for months, ever since it played SXSW in March.

So a young woman named Sam is on her way home from work. She's a nurse, and she's had to stay a bit past the usual end of her shift, which makes her nervous walking home because it's kind of late. Sure enough, as she gets to the home stretch, there are five kids blocking her path up ahead. She tries to cross to the other side of the street, but they've clearly marked her and cross to block her again. She gets the typical mugging scenario - give us your phone/wallet/whatever, she tries to plead with them, they pull a knife, etc. Later, taking refuge and consolation in a neighbor's flat, she calls the kids "monsters." Understandable, but she will see much more frightening monsters before the night is out.

Sam was only able to escape her attackers in the confusion of a mysterious something-or-other falling from the sky onto a parked car. The leader of the group, Moses, seeing that the car has been rendered rather easy to rob, investigates to find something of value, only to be attacked by a strange creature (the thing that fell from the sky) which runs away. The other boys laugh and taunt Moses for being attacked by "Dobby the house-elf" (no kidding), and they all go chasing after it. They eventually kill it and boast that no one messes with their block. Moses thinks the creature might be rare and worth a lot of money, so they take it to "Ron's weed room" (it's a big room, full of weed, and it's Ron's, another character explains later), which is supposed to be the safest place in the block. Ron (played by Nick Frost) has no authority ("I just work here"), but his boss, the gangster Hi-Hatz, agrees to let the boys keep the dead creature there. In exchange, though, Moses must start selling cocaine for him (in addition to the weed he already sells).

The boys then see a strange sight out of the window - streams of light falling from the sky, much like the one that delivered their now dead furry companion. Thinking these are the same kinds of aliens, they go to their homes and "tool up" - with machetes, baseball bats, swords, fireworks, etc. - ready to take some more of these creatures on. Two even younger boys - nine-year-olds who insist on being called "Probs" and "Mayhem" - go to the crash site too, to prove how badass they are. These aliens, however, are much bigger. I'm telling you, it takes a lot to freak me out nowadays, but these guys are SCARY! Pitch black, shaped like something between a bear and a wolf, with no eyes, and blue luminescent teeth. And inside their mouths, where a tongue should be, there's just more teeth. The boys wisely run away.

The rest of the movie sees them trying to escape and eventually taking on these creatures, unexpectedly joining forces with the woman they mugged earlier in the evening. Like the better examples of the horror genre, this film too has a bit of social satire. The idea that no one really cares what happens to these kids, because they're poor or they're not white or their music is too loud is touched on, but the crux of the story is Moses's heroism and his learning that he has to take responsibility for his actions. There's also a bit of Scooby-Doo-ing (or Buffy-ing, if you will) going on, as the boys start to figure out what it is that the creatures are specifically drawn to and how to deal with them.

This is a really, really great flick, and a lot of fun. Once again, it's strange to find this so amazing, but here's a genre movie with some great characterization and amazing performances. John Boyega is the obvious stand-out as Moses, but all of the kids (all of them newcomers) are really great. They're not the fresh-faced, perfectly coifed teens of modern horror movies (though I would probably have crushed on Alex Esmail, who plays "Pest," when I was younger), and that's quite a nice change. Thumbs way up for this one, but with a warning - it's pretty bloody, so if you have problems with that, this might not be a good idea for you.

One more thing. If you see it and love it, I would also recommend checking out the soundtrack, which has a great urban pulse - some parts of it remind me of the 1980s classic "Pass the Dutchie" - and a couple of non-score tracks. "Sound of Da Police" by KRS-One is highly dance-worthy, and you can stop laughing at at that mental image of me dancing right now. :P

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