I must admit a slight weakness for low budget, well thought out horror films. Not out and out gore, but ones which certainly don’t mind delivering scares, a little social commentary and aren’t too pretentious (I guess this ultimately falls back on my love of 70’s movies where this was the order of the day). Attack The Block is being marketed as a horror comedy, but it’s far more a straight horror action film that happens to have some comic moments (mainly at the start when we’re being introduced to the characters).
Like all good horror films the plot is simple, aliens invade a South London estate and focus on the protagonists (for reasons I won’t spoil, but there is actually for once a degree of logic to it). Around this a series of compelling characters are drawn into the action and the whole thing moves along at brisk pace before coming to a wholly satisfying conclusion. Interestingly the film never shies away from the fact that the principal character (a superb John Boyega, making his film debut in a way that says “Watch me!”) has the potential to be little more than a thug, although it soon becomes clear that there is far more to him than first appears, and come the end it’s impossible not to root for him. Not bad for a character we first see mugging someone.
It’s also rare that the only criticism you can level at the direction is that occasionally it may be too ambitious. Joe Cornish (making his feature film debut) works wonders with the limited budget and makes the most of the claustrophobic setting by continually moving (rarely does the film stand still). Sensibly he also shies away from CGI for the monsters, instead falling back on clever puppets and costumes and giving them a sinister black-hole like appearance. Only one sequence in a smoke filled corridor misfires, although you suspect that this may have more to with the budget impacting on the ease of filming (or number of retakes that were possible), but this is such a minor grumble that it’s soon forgotten. Come the end the directors true strengths are apparent – a slow motion run down the towers corridors may be the best use of slow-motion for years, it really is that good.
As usual there’s now the question of where he goes next – he could work wonders with a bigger budget, alternatively the lack of constraint could prove his biggest problem. For now it’s an assured a debut as we’ve seen for years. Great fun and certainly worth seeing.