Most film fans leave SXSW a few days early to avoid the music portion of the festival and it was easy to see why. Those who ventured downtown to attempt to see the final screening of “Attack the Block” found themselves battling terrifying crowds and streets filled with booze and vomit and all kinds of irritating hipster shenanigans.
Was it worth it just to see a low budget science fiction-action-horror hybrid about London youths battling an alien invasion in their crime-infested neighborhood? If the crowd reaction is any indication — and it should be — then the answer is a YES. Yep, an all-caps YES. “Attack the Block” is phenomenal.
Everyone in the audience belonged to one of two groups. Some were like me, people who had been hearing all week that the film was the big discovery of the festival, an instant classic that more than deserves its status as the Audience Award winner of the fest. Others, at least half of the theater, were seeing it for the second time that week. To hear them talk about the film in the lengthy line outside of the theater, you’d think they were describing a religious experience.
Any film that finds itself buries under such a mountain of praise has to work twice as hard to win over newcomers, but “Attack the Block” feels effortlessly good, a stunning debut for a first time director, a first time director of photography and a cast full of young teen actors who had never acted previously.
“Attack the Block” walks a fine line, straddling several genres and finding a way to be scary and funny and exciting in equal measure. The main characters begin the film as deplorable street hoods and over the course of one terrible evening (pitch black monsters with mouths full of luminescent teeth invading your apartment block and eating your friends is sure to ruin anyone’s day) learn that actions have consequences and earn our trust and love. It’s a remarkable character transformation that never feels tacked on — the fact that it exists comfortably in a bloody horror/sci-fi movie is a testament to director Joe Cornish and his talented young cast.
To say the crowd went nuts for the film is an understatement. To watch this audience was to watch a couple hundred people run the gamut of every possible emotion. There were legitimate screams when it got terrifying, big laughs when it got funny, cheers when aliens got taken down and even that subtle but detectable melancholy when characters were forced to make difficult decisions.
It’s easy to call a passably entertaining film a crowd pleaser. It’s another thing to see a film that can unite an entire audience in pure, undiluted love. Whether you eventually see it in theaters or on DVD, “Attack the Block” is destined to become one of your new favorite movies.