Wednesday 13 November 2019

Movies: Attack the Block **

(16, general release)

John Meagher

John Meagher

In Casablanca, Conrad Veidt's character, Major Strasser, asks Rick Blaine how he'd feel if the Nazis overran his hometown of New York. With a trademark grimace, Bogie replies that "there are certain sections of New York I wouldn't advise you to invade". That joke forms virtually the entire premise of this tongue-in-cheek, low-budget British horror film that might be dangerous if it was half as clever as it thinks it is.

Written and directed by Joe Cornish, Attack the Block opens on a south London housing estate, where a gang of teenage hooligans led by a charismatic thug called Moses (John Boyega) have just robbed a woman at knifepoint when they see a blinding flash in the sky and something crash-lands into a parked car.

Inside they find a strange, slimy, vaguely simian-looking creature which they drag off and kill, presumably for the hell of it. Big mistake, because the creature was merely the advance guard of a force of much larger and more fearsome aliens who descend on south London looking for revenge. They're eyeless, super-quick, remorseless killers, but they'll face quite a battle from the local 'gangstas' who are understandably reluctant to relinquish their turf.

Though it attempts to have it both ways by shaping up like a proper sci-fi thriller, Attack the Block is really hoping to emulate the tongue-in-cheek sensibilities of comic-horrors such as Shaun of the Dead. It's not scary enough to achieve the former aim, and not nearly funny enough to accomplish the latter, and as the aliens are mute we're forced to spend most of our time listening to the dreadful inanities of the pin-headed gang folk. They specialise in one-word sentences such as 'believe', and lovers of the English language will definitely be cheering for the extraterrestrials.

There is the odd genuinely funny moment, and Nick Frost has a bit of fun as a local drug dealer, but overall the comedy pickings are slim in a film that was made on a modest budget and looks it.

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