By now you’ve at least heard of Attack the Block. Critics have been praising it since its debut at SXSW back in March and the film even had a limited theatrical release. Unfortunately that theatrical release was so limited that, odds are even if you were interested in seeing it, you couldn’t.
This week Attack the Block arrives on DVD and Video On Demand, and for most of the world this will be your one and only way to enjoy indie director Joe Cornish’s awesome alien invasion debut. It needs support from people like you and me, so I’m here to make one last plea for it: See Attack the Block. It lives up to the hype and, unless John Carter wows in a couple of months, it’s going to end up as the best science fiction movie of 2012. Here are five reasons why it’s worth your time…
Aliens Unlike Any Others You’ve Seen
The alien invasion genre has grown pretty stale in the past few years, particularly when it comes to creating the aliens themselves. Nearly every alien invasion movie ends up trying to copy Ridley Scott’s freakish horror movie characters from the eighties, and those that don’t end up modeling their aliens after some generic bug design. Attack the Block is the first movie in a long time to come up with something new in alien design, and part of the beauty in the look of the film’s alien characters, is that they’re so utterly simple. In a sense they look kind of like hairy apes, except they’re black… impossibly black on a level your brain can barely fathom. And their mouths glow. In any other movie they’d have given them glowing eyes but Attack the Block not only makes fun of that early on in the story, it goes out of its way not to give them eyes at all. The film deserves a lot of credit for coming up with aliens that not only look completely different, but that work brilliantly on its limited indie film budget.
Human Characters Who Don’t Fit The Mold
In much the same way modern alien movies have all resorted to reusing the same basic creature from outer space designs, Hollywood has taken to recycling human character types as well. Here too Attack the Block goes its own way, creating characters which don’t fit any of the usual, stereotypical alien invasion movie molds. Instead our heroes are a bunch of teenage thugs, completely unlikable idiots who only become likable when they’re changed by their experience. You’ll hate the people they are when the movie begins and love the people they’re starting to change in to, by the time the movie ends. Love them or hate them, they all feel like real people. Not a bunch of stock character traits designed to fit some specific movie demographic.
The Perfect Soundtrack
The movie’s soundtrack is full of hard pumping beats and has a completely modern sound, but there’s also something incredibly retro about it. It never tells you how to feel, instead it feels sort of like a throwback to the good old days of alien horror movies, when the soundtrack existed only to raise the level of foreboding and make you wonder what the fuck is going to happen next. It’s hard not to listen to the soundtrack of Attack the Block and think of those great, creepy as hell soundtracks on movies like Alien or The Thing. It’s not as scary as those movies and it’s completely modern, but the influence is there in a way we haven’t seen in any other alien invasion movie in at least a decacade.
Unflinching Violence, No One Is Safe
Speaking of the good old days of alien horror movies, like those films, no one in Attack the Block is safe. It’s a movie which is mostly about kids, but it’s completely willing to brutally murder those kids in the most horrific ways. It’s smart enough to know when to cut away, but it’s really pretty unflinching. Again this isn’t shocking stuff, but Attack the Block isn’t afraid to be brutal when it’s called for. That too is something you just don’t see enough of in movies anymore, let alone movies about a bunch of samurai sword weidling, fast talking, underprivileged kids.
Social Relevance Without Social Preaching
Somewhere amidst all the running around and fucking up aliens Attack the Block also manages to say something about the people and the place that it’s set in. It does it though, with subtlety. Missing is the scene in which a character makes a big speech about how they’re being screwed over by the man, this world is far more complex than that. Instead it pokes fun at the viewpoint, knowing that another movie might have gone that easier route. Rather it comments on this society of crummy apartments and absent characters while the action happens, a glimpse into the lead character Moses’s all too juvenile bedroom, a look into the life of the frightened woman who lives downstairs. It’s completely relevant to the modern world, but it’s not here to preach, simply shine a light on these people’s lives and let you draw your own conclusions.
In a year where someone has had the temerity to attempt a prequel The Thing, it’s nice to have a movie like Attack the Block out there. It is of course, nothing like The Thing but it has that same kind of I’m not going to follow any of the rules spirit, that John Carpenter’s alien invasion horror movie had way back then and that the recent Thing redo didn’t.
And maybe, just maybe, this is the first in a wave of good things to come for science fiction. Sci-fi has always only really been successful when done inside Hollywood, with their big over the top budgets. Independent filmmakers looking to do something other than boring dramas have always had to resort to making straight up horror movies or the occasional zombie flick. But with changes in technology making effects heavy filmmaking cheaper than ever, suddenly science fiction is becoming a viable option for the burgeoning independent filmmaker looking to make his mark on the world.
If Cornish’s film is the success on DVD and VOD that it deserves to be, in a perfect world it’ll encourage other independent filmmakers with the balls to attempt their own Attack the Blocks.