Watch this movie: Attack the Block

British horror done right…


The British are known for many things: great music, bad food and teeth, and their one-time love of controlling the planet. But they’re not as well known for horror movies. Maybe this is good: they have little to prove, so there’s no pressure.

Case in point: two of the best horror movies of the past decade: 28 Days Later, a zombie-ish movie that starred Irish actor Cillian Murphy, and one of the coolest, underrated, most bad-ass and too-short-lived doctors from Doctor Who, Christopher Eccleston. It’s a hard-edged, smash-bang-fun time. Whatever you do, avoid the sequel (which shall remain nameless), as it nearly ruined the whole thing.

The second film is a horror/comedy, Shaun of the Dead, with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Couple dry British humor with gore and you have a classic. 

And then there’s Attack the Block, a low budget (I’m assuming) indie-style horror. Why low budget? Well, the monsters are kind of… rough. And the movie features the classic horror fail: the empty city streets. 

Get over it. I did, and it was worth it.

So here’s the plot in a nutshell, ripped straight from IMDB: a teen gang in South London protect their block from an alien invasion. There you go.

First, it’s great fun. The action starts pretty early, and once it starts, it rolls along, not too slow, not too fast. It lies somewhere between 28 Days Later (super serious) and Shaun of the Dead (tongue-in-cheek), though more toward the 28 Days Later end of the horror spectrum.

What stood out for me, most of all, was the unique set-up. You meet the teenage hero, Moses, as he, along with his juvy gang, are mugging Sam, a nurse on her walk home. Moses is cruel, someone who you would not choose to identify with, but over the course of the movie, he morphs into the hero of the story, in part because the other characters (drug dealers, vicious aliens) are so much worse, and in part because the extreme situation he finds himself in (battling aliens), forces him to grow as a person.

Rent this movie. It’s worth it, not just because it’s fun, but because it’s a great example of the anti-hero in drama, and it also shows another of my favorite literary conceits: the ordinary man (men and women in this case) forced to confront extraordinary circumstances. None of these people are Jason Bourne or James Bond, and their fight scenes reflect that, which makes it all the better. 


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