ATTACK THE BLOCK
By Gary Murray
Starring Jodie Whittaker, John Bevega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameth, Leeon Jones, Simon Howard, Luke Treadway, Jumayn Hunter and Nick Frost
Directed by Joe Cornish
Running time 90 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE
The B-picture has gotten a bad rap for more than a few years.
Back in the old studio days of the 1930’s, the companies had crews and casts on salary. They also had millions in costumes and sets. It only made sense to use these resources to make more than one film. With so many people going to the movies, films didn’t stay long and more products were needed.
While Universal was making Dracula during the day, they made the Spanish language version at night. The sets, costumes and actors of King Kong also showed up The Most Dangerous Game. Back in the old days of cinema, the theaters offered double features with an ‘A’ picture like Gunga Din and a lesser film as the under-card or ‘B’ picture. They were films like The Devil Bat and Cat People. Some studios like Republic and Monogram were exclusively making these under-card flicks, mostly Western and Noir thrillers.
When the Supreme Court made the studios get rid of their theaters, the concept of the ‘B’ picture changed to a more schlocky form. Roger Corman and his ilk became the leaders of cheap and fast film-making. The drive-in became the domain of the double feature and the idea of the ‘B’ meant inferior quality. It became double features such as I’ll Drink your Blood with I’ll Eat your Skin.
In our modern day film world, the ‘B’ picture is more of a ‘straight-to-DVD’ release, where more products are needed. But, the idea of an over-the-top flick with a low budget feel is still called a ‘B’ picture. Attack the Block is that definition of a ‘B’ picture. It is over-the-top and low budget. It is also a heck of a lot of fun.
The story is of an alien invasion. In London, a young nurse (Jodie Whittaker) walks home from work. She is accosted by a group of thugs lead by Moses (John Beyega) who takes her valuables. At that moment, a loud crash fills the night. Something has hit a car, destroying it. When the gang investigates, the beast attacks then run away. The boys give chase and kill it. It is a very small alien. They take it back to their block of flats and hide it in the local drug dealers place. The business is covered by a front man (Nick Frost) who is too stoned to really understand much of anything.
Very soon, the boys are attacked by a different group of aliens. These are a cross between a dog and a monkey but with glow in the dark teeth. The guys and the nurse band together, defending their home from the menacing horde. They fight to save their block against the evil aliens.
Let’s be honest, Jaws, Super 8 and Grindhouse are all close cousins to the concept of the ‘B’ flick. Heck, Grindhouse is a ‘B’ film double feature experience, wearing it proudly on its forehead. Attack the Block follows this tradition and is one heck of a fun little cinematic ride. It was the winner of the Midnight Screening Audience Award at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival and the Audience Award at both the Los Angeles Film Festival
and Another Hole in the Head Film Festival. It is the kind of film that the critics will hate but the audience will love. I know it is silly but I loved it anyway.
Director Joe Cornish does an amazing job with his young cast and lack of budget. He gets strong performances from his young cast, giving them more than just thumbnail sketches of personality. He keeps the tightness of suspense throughout the picture, giving not quick shocks but moments of sustained terror. This is masterful storytelling done on a grand scale.
Attack the Block will never be an Oscar contender but it is a fun diversion of a flick. Much like last Summer’s Piranha 3D, this is the sleeper film of the summer. It is bound to become a cult classic.