As you can probably tell I do not review a lot of new releases. There are several reasons behind that decision mainly my prefances in what I like and my lack of funds. I cannot be sitting in a dark sticky theater for five hours at a time catching up on the new releases and I am not lucky enough to get screeners in the mail. So I stick to films that are readily available and easy to access… this usually means old or classic films. I love watching classic films a lot so it doesn’t really bother me that I can’t see every new release. But every once in a while the film blogs I read all converge to create a fervor around one new release that I can’t get out of my head. I want to watch this film so bad that the interminable wait until I finally get a hold of a rental copy of it is way past annoying. That is what happened to me with Attack the Block. Although it came out a couple of weeks ago on DVD and Blu-ray discs, I had other stuff to watch, so I had to wait until now. The wait has been unbearable. I almost died….
Attack The Block is about a bunch of young hoodlums who live in a “block” or an apartment building in London. I know they are hoodlums because they rob, ride around on bikes and talk in a British slang that is sometimes hard to understand. They fight these alien things that are just black creatures with huge gaping glowing teeth. To me they are genuinely frightening. These creatures keep following the “gang” and they have to defend their block from these animistic aliens.
There are a couple of things that made this film stand out from other creature films. One of them is the use of real English youth. Their language, cloths, and their attitudes reflect what is really going on in the neighborhood in which they live. Thus the setting feels authentic and their actions feel justified. I know that if I go to a block I would see these kids walking around trying to blow shit up, hustling or robbing people. It is because not only did the director and casting director cast real youths, but screenwriter wrote roles for them that on the surface seem to be stereotypical, but as the film goes deeper and the action gets more heady, the stereotypes sort of wash away and reveal true people who are really scared out of their minds. One of the most obvious of these stereotypes has to do with the preppy white man who goes to buy weed from the kingpin at the top of the block. He listens to the most popular rap, gets stoned, wears the most ridiculous hair cut that only English hipsters can pull off and he lives with his parents. But by the end of the film when he is done freaking out because he is sooo stoned, he ends up knowing a lot more than first thought. He understands why the creatures are chasing them, how to stop them, and contributes significantly to the ending of the film. The same thing happens with the woman we see the hoods rob at the beginning. At first she is nothing but a scared fragile young nurse, but she reveals she has much more strength than first thought. She even goes with the boys to defend the block and holds up her own against them.
If you have read any reviews for this film, chances are they mentioned the creatures. Essentially a big dog with glow in the dark teeth, they are one of the more scarier creatures I have seen on film. Although you would think they wouldn’t be at all. But the director realizes that every great creature in cinematic history has one trait that scares the bejesus out of people. Whether it is the way the creature walks, the way it eats, the eyes, the mouth, the sliminess or the skin of the creature, it doesn’t matter just as long as the creature is effectively scary. For this creature the glowing snarling teeth shouldn’t work, but they do. Is it because everything else is blacked out and all you can see is the slobbering teeth? Is it because the teeth seem to be at head length so all they have to do is get close enough for head to be snapped off? Is it because I am just a scaredy cat? Whatever the answer, this film would not have worked if the creatures were not scary and the fright was not shown on the characters’ face. I commend the director in choosing to use animatronics as opposed to straight CGI. The reactions you got from these young children are much more visceral and real than say a film like John Carter.
The wait and the hype behind a film usually does not pay off for me. I start to think that the hyped film will fill some empty void in my soul but how can anything live up to that experience? Then sometimes you get a film like this that deserves the hype and the wait . I am glad I finally watched the film…. Now to look enviously at the amazon page wishing I can justify the purchase of the Blu-ray.