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October 31, 2011

The year's most far-out creature feature descends onto Blu-ray 
Movie Rating: 8/10  BD Rating: 9/10

Amid a summer season of superheroes, sequels and broad comedies, Attack the Block was a breath of fresh air. Earning only a limited release at the tail-end of July in the US and Canada, the British film wasn’t the sleeper hit it should have been.

Writer/director Joe Cornish (one of the screenwriters for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Tintin adaptation) delivers an inventive combination of sci-fi, horror and comedy in this story about an alien invasion set in a housing block in South London. When a freaky-looking creature crash lands in the middle of the hood, a group of teens take it upon themselves to kill it. However, they—and their neighbors—run into trouble when the alien’s much larger mates arrive in droves and terrorize their apartment building. Equal parts frightening, thrilling and hilarious, in a more perfect world Attack the Block would have been the summer’s biggest blockbuster.

Cornish’s film reveals a compelling subtext about class and race when one of the gang’s victims is forced to team up with them to defeat the aliens—all the more resonant since the director was mugged by a bunch of youths similar to his film’s heroes. Far from preachy, Attack the Block doesn’t waste any time moralizing for its audience—it runs at a brisk 88 minutes, each one more amusing than the last.

The best part about watching this Blu-ray is appreciating how much work went into the aliens, best described by one of the kids as “big gorilla-wolf motherfuckers.” Rather than relying on tiresome digital effects, Cornish opted for an actual costumed creature (wonderfully performed by Terry Notary), rotoscope’d in post-production to enhance its inky blackness and glow-in-the-dark chompers. An interesting behind-the-scenes featurette traces the inception of the alien from its early designs, to workshops with Notary and on-set footage. Other goodies on this loaded disc include commentaries, interviews with the cast and crew, and a brief extra that sees the young actors freestyle rapping. —Jackie McClelland