A nurse is walking through south London on the way home to her flat in a council estate. As she's mugged by a group of teenagers, a fireball plummets from the sky onto a car. She escapes in the confusion but one of the hoodies is attacked by something that emerges from the ruins of the car. They track it down and kill it but far from ending the matter, it signals the beginning of a night of confusion, violence and terror. Oh, and comedy.
Attack the Block is the debut feature from Joe Cornish, former TV and now radio presenter, famous for his professional partnership with childhood chum Adam Buxton. Cornish has never made any secret of his love of films and it's edifying to see that both this and his sense of humour shine through in this thriller-horror-comedy. Citing films such as Gremlins and The Outsiders, Cornish has created a fun-filled rollercoaster ride of a film that entertains from start to finish.
As ever, key to the success is the script. It's well paced, consistently funny and is full of recognisable characters but who don't all sound exactly the same. For me, this is the council estate film that Anuvahood could have been. Not in terms of the story - this is about aliens, although frankly for the most part it feel a lot more realistic in almost every other way - but in how people really are. The street slang is all there, not everyone is likeable by any means, but although this is fantasist escapism, it also manages to feel gritty, which is no mean feat.
Although not exactly a horror film - it's light on gore and more jumpy than scary - this is nevertheless full of pace and Cornish maintains the tension throughout thanks to the adroit, efficient but never flashy editing. The aliens - "hairy gorilla werewolf motherfuckers" - are kept largely and admirably to your perpiheral vision, a far more effective use of 'the monsters' than modern audiences may be used to.
With such a large ensemble cast, it would be churlish not to mention the performances. The only household name is Nick Frost and good as he is, he's very much a supporting player. Quite rightly, given their importance in the story, it's left to the kids (and Jodie Whittaker's nurse) to drive the narrative forward. John Boyega as Moses is the ostensible lead and does a neat line in brooding teenage menace and he's ably supported by Alex Esmail as Pest who provides a good few laughs from his facial expressions alone. Even the youngest characters play their part - it's virtually impossible not to be charmed by an eight-year-old who insists on being called 'Mayhem'.
Overall, this is a fine first feature intelligent, exciting, technically excellent and laugh-out-loud funny. Believe.
EXTRAS ★★ On the first disc, along with the feature, there are three audio commentaries: one with Cornish and Edgar Wright; another with Cornish and child stars Boyega, Esmail, Jones, Howard, Drameh; and a third with Cornish and adult stars Whittaker, Treadaway and Frost. The second disc was corrupt.