Joe Cornish’s debut film is a terrifically entertaining take on the suburban horror film. With an engaging script and some amazingly well handled action this is a film which marks out the director as one of the finest new talents to emerge this year.
While fireworks explode above London one light, brighter than the rest, falls to Earth and finds it target in the middle of a mugging, exploding on impact and sending the young attackers and their victim to the floor. As something escapes from the burning wreckage the gang rush off to find and kill what turns out to be an alien while more lights fall from the sky.
The young boys return to their tower block, running into serious trouble with the drug dealer who runs the block, fending off two very young would-be gang members who are eager to prove their worth and finding safe haven in a room full of weed as the creatures grow in number and hone in on the gang.
It’s a simple tale exceedingly well told, with an excellent cast and a knowing script and some impeccable direction. I knew as soon as the credits rolled that it would be one of my picks of the year, and looking back on the film now three things are apparent.
First that Joe Cornish knows exactly what he’s doing behind the camera, handling an ensemble cast with great confidence. The tower block may as well be the Nostromo, with the corridors and lift shafts playing host to the tension and blood pumping action as well as any genre film in recent years. Secondly the ensemble Cornish directs so well is full of great characters, each given enough to make the camaraderie believable and the film to engage from the off, the actors doing great work, with a star making turn from John Boyega as Moses.
Finally it’s just such damn good fun, something it shares with Exec Producer Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, although the story is far more linear and contained in Attack the Block, something that works in its favour. The creature is original and genuinely unsettling, the simplicity of design and excellent work by the man in the suit Terry Notary brings a sense of menace to the setup, something so implicitly necessary that if it had failed, if it had been pure CGI for example, the whole film would have come off as a bad joke.
Here it works. The whole film just works and Cornish joins the ranks of Chris Morris, Gareth Edwards and Richard Ayoade as emerging directors whose careers will be something special. Stylish, vibrant and a lot of fun, Attack the Block is one of the films of the year.
It’s a cracking film and it’s good to see the home entertainment release given the appropriate polish with a discful of extras which hint that it was as fun to make as it was to watch.
Behind the Block – An hour long video diary directed by Phil Stoole, taking us through the shoot from the first day to the last with the young cast profiled from auditions and through the shoot, all the time the whole group have such fun on set, with Joe Cornish doing his best to keep the energy together and trying not to shout at the kids.
Cornish is candid and genuine about his fears and hopes for the film, proving an excellent interviewee when grilled by the crowd pleasers Probs and Mayhem (watch the film and you’ll know why this is a great idea) about his inspiration for the film (imagine Signs in South London) and then later on set getting a Google alert that the script leaked on the net – something he takes really well.
It’s easy for these behind the scenes docs to fall into the trap of a series of taking heads and backslapping inanities but this makes you feel part of the production and you have a new respect for Cornish and anyone willing to work with both children and animals, albeit extraterrestrial ones, for their first film.
Creature Feature – A 20 minute look at the aliens from concept to creation, and how these furry apes with neon teeth are brought to fearsome life by Terry Notary and the visual effects team. It’s great seeing the creatures physically being there on set – ripping throats out and lunging menacingly at the cast when the cameras aren’t rolling.
Meet the Gang – the group introduce themselves. Basic but fun – thankfully the cast are all great to watch off set as well as on.
It’s a rap – brilliant – cast rapping on set – far funnier than it sounds. Probs and Mayhem are the best.
Unfilmed Action – Joe Cornish talks about what he had to cut with one scene given particular attention. Moses and Sam are trapped in a flat and climb up five stories on the outside of the building to escape the oncoming army of creatures. The storyboards and Cornish’s narration make this look elaborate and epic with wire work and stunts but this may be one of those moments when the budgetary restrictions gave rise to something more interesting in the final film. There’s also a great moment with Pest and some Rizla and an alien in an off licence.
Attack the Block is out on Blu-ray and DVD today.