A South London apartment complex is under siege by savage aliens and it’s up to a gang of inner city teens to protect their turf. From the producers of “Shaun of the Dead,” “Attack The Block” follows five South London “thugs” as they battle bloodthirsty extraterrestrials over the course of a night of gruesome adventures.

Words & Interview: Kristie Bertucci
Images: Courtesy of Screen Gems

Despite sounding like a Sci-Fi horror flick, Attack The Block actually leans more towards comedy thanks to the witty humor of its junior protagonists, who are more like thugs in training. *SPOILER ALERT* Viewers first meet the racially mixed gang led by 15-year-old Moses (John Boyega) as they mug Sam (Jodie Whittaker), a young nurse walking home from a day’s work. Looking as though they’re just as nervous as their victim, a ball of light crashes through a car, capturing their attention. The nurse quickly sees this as her chance to getaway, while the guys who are now curious, immediately approach the car. Moses gets too close and the creature gashes his face before sprinting away in the dark.

Being the tough guy he is, Moses runs after the creature determined to kill whatever it is, while the rest of the guys follow and encourage him on. He kills it and decides to parade his dead alien prize on his backpack. Looking like a cross between an overgrown rat and the mythical chupacabra (or what it’s rumored to look like), the gang goes back to apartment of their local weed dealer Ron (Nick Frost) to contemplate how much they’d be able to get for the alien on eBay.

What happens next is pure melee as more aliens start landing in their area. But these aren’t as timid as the first. They are much bigger and meaner. Looking more like big, black fur balls than aliens, their gargantuan white teeth glow in the dark, providing a bit more edge to the puppets.

At first the guys are pumped for what’s next and each go back to their apartments to grab a slew of weapons (a bat, ninja swords, fireworks and more). But then they realize what they’re dealing with and run away to find refugee back in The Block.

They almost make it until Moses has a run in with the cops—who just so happen to be looking for the nurse’s muggers, while she sets in the front of their wagon. When he tries to explain that there are aliens after him, they shrug him off. Of course, they are then killed, and Moses and the nurse are forced to work together to escape the horde of killer aliens.

The movie continues on with various members of the crew gruesomely dying, as well as The Block’s main drug dealer, who just before the whole alien incident crowned Moses one of his “top” guys. Throughout the rest of the fiasco, the nurse aides Moses and the remaining guys from the gang escape the aliens who always seem to be following only them. It finally dawns on a routine pothead customer of Ron’s, who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, that the aliens are only following them because they killed a female alien and all the others are following her pheromone scent. It’s here that Moses has his grand moment to rise up and be The Block’s hero.

Joe Cornish, the film’s director, was actually inspired to make the movie after he became victimized by a similar mugging. He noticed that his young assailants were just as afraid as he was and became interested in the lives these urban youth. Besides his personal experience, Cornish looked to his love of ’80s creature films (think Gremlins and Critters) for further inspiration.

Currently, Attack The Block has garnered quite a buzz in the festival circuit, taking home audience and critic awards. Many have also praised the movie for being a modern take on a coming-of-age story, in addition to how it comically addresses stereotypes, urban misconceptions and ends with a “don’t judge a book by its cover” morale.

While it’s not the most outrageously funny or the most action-filled movie out, Attack The Block is most definitely great entertainment. And for a low budget movie, Cornish actually made a pretty decent film riddled with laughs, some gore, fantasy and other pleasant surprises. The best thing may very well be the very realistic portrayal of Moses by newcomer actor John Boyega, who’s career will be one to watch.

What made take on the role of Moses?

I like how it made my area, where I lived in South London, cinematic and the insight it gave into a day inside The Block. We’ve never had an urban film that had a Hollywood cinematic feel to it and that really attracted me to the film. I also like that the script was very creative. It starts off with this stereotype and then shows you an element that no other urban film has showed you before, which is how young human beings interact with each other.

Did you ever have moments where you were unsure of how some of the script’s most absurd parts would play out on the big screen?

Yeah, definitely. When I was first reading the script, I had a lot of “hmmm” and “wow” moments. And my manager even was like, “Oh, gosh…is this where they’re taking it?” But you have to have an open mind when you’re approaching new roles. Then when I read it until the end, I realized it was all deliberately done—from the beginning with a stereotype to later defeating it throughout the movie and explaining why these things happen. But it’s also still a fun, gory alien movie that I found to be exciting.

Was it hard getting into character?

We had a long audition and rehearsal process where we all spent days and days talking about characters. I also watched the fourth season of The Wire to get inspiration from the intensity and subtlety of their characters. A lot of research went into these characters by not just me, but by the entire production team.

What was it like filming it and working with Joe Cornish?

It was fun. He’s a very, very nice man. Before we started filming, he told us to just imagine this project as [being] with a bunch of friends who were given $8 million to make the best student film ever. It’s just so exciting to make a great film that the entire cast was very passionate about. We are all very humbled that people have taken to it and like it.

What’s your favorite scene of the film and why?

I have various favorite scenes, but the one I enjoyed filming most was the hero scene when Moses goes into action mode. I enjoyed shooting that one because I did all my own stunts for that and it just gave me this natural feeling to feel brave. I really got into character at that moment and felt like I was Moses. It was just a crazy, yet natural feeling.

In your opinion, what was the audience supposed to take away from the film beside a bit of comedy?

I think that it’s a learning curve. It shows you an urban neighborhood and its stereotypes. The characters start out judging each other, but in the end have more of an open mind and heart, which isn’t always easy given how things are portrayed. Other than that, it’s just a fun, alien invasion film.

Attack the Block hits theaters July 29th, 2011.

Images courtesy of Screen Gems.

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