Sunday, January 15, 2012

Horror Film Review

Attack the Block (2011):  I was excited when this DVD finally came.  I knew the movie was about some folks defending their homes against aliens and that the buzz was good.  And yet, I was ready to turn it off after 15 minutes.  Why?  Well, the main characters are a gang of South London punks who speak in the most annoying slang I've ever heard.  I soldiered on and stuck with it, though.  So was it worth it?  Eh.

First of all, "the block" refers to an apartment block rather than a neighborhood block of houses in the suburbs.  The teenage punks are led by Moses (John Boyega), a sullen if not angry boy the others idolize.  After mugging fellow resident Sam (Jodi Whittaker), the amped-up gang witness a meteor crashing into a car.  They investigate, discover it's a small creature, kill it, and haul it back to the block as a trophy.  Not the best idea, turns out.  See, the critter was the first of many of its kind heading to earth and also the only female.  Soon thereafter, more "meteors" start crashing into London.  These newcomers are not so little.  They look like werewolves on steroids, are blacker than a bucket of tar in a cave, and sport scary teeth that glow a fluorescent green such that you'd think they'd been rinsing with anti-freeze.  And wouldn't you know it, they have one purpose...get to the female.  Oh, yeah...and kill anything that gets in their way.

After lots of running and screaming and a subplot involving the block's quite nasty drug dealer, the green-fanged beasties converge on the block and it becomes a siege.  Luckily, doper Ron (Nick Frost) has a reinforced safe room in his flat.  Well, it's actually a marijuana grow room but has a steel door and no windows.  Moses eventually figures out what the aliens are after, and recognizing he's to blame for all the mayhem, comes up with a plan to take them out. 

One rumor about Attack the Block that turned out not to be true was that it's funny.  It's not.  Well, not like Doghouse or Shaun of the Dead, which is kind of what I was expecting.  And if you look at the movie poster, you'll see those film festival accolades.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, do not trust film festival accolades.  No matter how much a movie sucks, the producers will always find at least one person who swears it's the best film since Alien.  Not that this movie sucks, mind you.  I'm just not a fan of false advertising.


Acting:  Boyega, Whittaker, and Alex Esmail (he plays Pest) stand out.  It takes a supreme effort, though, to get past the South London punk-speak. 
Story:  Not exactly a cliche, that's for sure. 
Direction:  With a sizable cast and lots going on, director Joe Cornish does a commendable job of staying focused. 
Production Values:  A budget of $13 million may not sound like much these days, but in the horror genre, this means it's not low-budget, and it doesn't feel like it. 
Gore/FX:  The R-rating was more for language and drug use than gore, which is too bad.  There is some blood, but the real gross stuff isn't shown.  The creatures are CGI, of course, and don't look too awful.
Scares:  No so's you'd notice. 
Ending:  Now, I'm the one who always complains about horror movies ending with the killing off of main characters.  In this case, however, killing one of them would have been much more effective. 
Verdict:  Should you see Attack the Block?  Eh.  If you're interested in an example of atypical British horror, then sure, give it a try.  If you do, here's a tip:  turn on the subtitles. 

My Rating:  2 out of 5 stars.

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