If you’re going to be watching a movie this Halloween, it has to satisfy a few requirements. You want something that is at least a little scary, but preferably light-hearted enough to keep the evening’s spirits up. You want something cool, interesting, and different, but something admittedly accessible too. And of course, the context is crucial here – you want something easy to follow and fun to play as background during a party, and maybe something with a little more bite to it for a smaller group. Yet no matter your situation, you want Attack the Block.
While still wildly original on its own terms, Attack the Block is kind of like Gremlins by way of Boyz n the Hood, with a liberal dose of Shaun of the Dead along the way. The central premise – a group of aliens invade a south London housing project – may seem conducive to broad gags and tired stereotypes, yet writer-director Joe Cornish (and frequent collaborator of Shaun writer-director Edgar Wright, who produces here) knows just how to keep the proceedings brisk and inventive until the final frame.
The protagonists are a terrific assortment of young teenage would-be alien killers, from pint-sized pothead and lone white boy Pest (Alex Esmail) to the soon-to-be-iconic Moses (John Boyega), a seemingly detestable gang leader whose steely resolve soon gives way to genuine heroism in the wake of impending extraterrestrial apocalypse. The creature designs are terrific, eschewing any sort of recognizable biological realism in exchange for a sheer badassery that earns them the in-film moniker of “big alien gorilla wolf motherfuckers,” their glow-in-the-dark teeth being a particularly clever touch. Even the soundtrack is tops, with Basement Jaxx contributing an excellent score that is equal parts dubstep groove and John Carpenter in nature.
Yet the real reason to check out Attack the Block (which just hit DVD, iTunes, and presumably your personal entertainment hub of choice yesterday) this Halloween weekend is that there’s nothing else quite like it. Part sci-fi adventure, part suspenseful horror flick, part urban social commentary, and part straight-up comedy, Attack the Block manages to be a little bit of everything without letting any of these tonal changes overwhelm the narrative flow. It even manages to be the rare creature feature where you care when a character gets eaten! Yes, these kids are all mostly young teens, but don’t assume that any of them are safe from an alien mauling.
However, that’s the joy of Attack the Block. It’s not just a spectacular piece of entertainment, but rather one which proves that fun movies don’t have to be stupid, and smart movies don’t have to be boring. (Think District 9 with more KRS-One.) You’ve seen Halloween. You’re sick of Freddy and Jason. This year? Make it Attack the Block. You won’t be disappointed, trust.