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Film / Attack the Block

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South London Gang vs. Giant Alien Gorilla Wolf Motherfuckers.note 

"That's an alien, bruv — believe it!"

Attack the Block is a 2011 British comedy horror film directed and written by Joe Cornish and produced by Edgar Wright, starring John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, and Nick Frost.

One fateful night in South London, a street gang of teenage hoodlums — Pest, Dennis, Jerome, Biggz, and leader Moses (Boyega) — are mugging nurse Sam (Whittaker) when a meteor comes crashing down onto a nearby car.

It's no meteor, though — it's an alien. A hostile, violent alien. With big, scary, glow-in-the-dark fangs.

After attacking Moses, the alien is killed by the gang, but more come crashing down in its wake — and the newcomers are much more deadly. Using their wits and whatever appliances and weapons they can find, it’s up to the kids to take them down and save their block.

A sequel, reuniting Boyega with Cornish, is in development.

Check out the trailer here.

Attack the Block features examples of:

  • Action Girl: Tia and Dimples, most definitely. Sam may count, though seeing as she snuck up on the one alien she killed, whereas Tia and Dimples faced the one alien they killed head-on, Tia and Dimples may count as a better example. Lampshaded earlier by Moses.
    Sam: Where is he taking us?
    Jerome: Tia's flat.
    Sam: What makes you think we'll be safer in her place than we were in mine?
    Jerome: Security gate.
    Moses: She wouldn't be asking that question if she'd seen them girls fight.
  • Action Survivor: Sam
  • Aliens in Cardiff: Downplayed, it's aliens in a South London council estate.
    Dimples: What kind of alien, out of all the places in the whole wide world, would invade some shitty council estate in south London?
    Dennis: One that's lookin' for a fight!
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Played with. It's hinted that Tia's got a crush on Moses, and she and her friends get along with Moses and the other guys. On the other hand, Tia makes it clear she dislikes their gang activities when she chews Moses out upon learning they mugged Sam at knifepoint.
  • All There in the Manual: Several characters go unnamed in the movie. Tia and Dimples' other two friends (Dionne and Gloria), the older woman who comforts Sam after the mugging (Margaret), Jerome's sister and her visiting friend (Roxanne and Bubbles) and Hi-Hatz's other two henchmen (Patrick and Beats).
  • And This Is for...: Dennis furiously gets ready to charge an alien in the name of his newly-slain dog, Pogo. Subverted when they get a good look at the alien and Dennis turns to flee with the rest.
  • Anyone Can Die: While the movie avoids the Sole Survivor trope common in horror films featuring a Dwindling Party, two of the main five teens are killed, as well as their dog.
  • Alien Blood: The aliens have dark blue blood.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When the gang sees some kids playing with guns, they confiscate them and Moses orders them to, "Go home! Lock your doors! Do your homework! Watch Naruto!"
  • Asshole Victim: Hi-Hatz. You will not feel sorry for him. At all. When Moses expresses guilt over the people he saw killed by the aliens, this is the one person he doesn't mention.
  • Author Avatar: Joe Cornish based the character of Brewis off himself when he was younger.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Tonks. While Hi-Hatz's is arrogantly confident, impulsive and volatile, Tonks is quite calm, logical and level-headed, but Hi-Hatz has little to no respect for him, as seen when Tonks refuses to go check out the weird noise and Hi-Hatz threatens to shoot him so he'll do it. This gets Tonks killed when an alien surprises him and rips a big chunk out of his neck.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Despite being shunted aside for most of the movie because they're just kids, Mayhem & Probs arrive at just the right time to rescue Biggz from an alien who's trapped him in a dumpster.
  • Bioluminescence Is Cool: The aliens have neon turquoise fangs.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Moses and Sam reconcile over the earlier mugging and Moses saves the block. However, Moses, Pest, Brewis and Ron have been arrested. Sam's testimony should help with the sentencing especially since there are several alien bodies around to help corroborate the stories. Unfortunately, Dennis and Jerome don't make it through the night.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The males have perfectly black fur that doesn't reflect light at all and have nothing to their faces but a mouth with rows and rows of glowing blue fangs.The first arrival is a female that crash-lands and spreads pheromones. When the males crash-land later they are drawn to her scent.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: The aliens appear to navigate by echolocation, sound and scent.
  • Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: While the male aliens are large, black, and hairy, with glowing fangs, the female is small, pale and only sparsely furred, and has non-fluorescent fangs. They do look similar otherwise.
  • Black Blood: The gorillas have "the blackest blood ever."
  • Black and Nerdy: Jerome, the Token Good Teammate with coke-bottle lenses and relative pudginess also happens to have the largest vocabulary and the best grasp of standard interaction in the group of lads as he's the first to offer his real name to Sam.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: The boys are certainly not angels, as they are introduced as muggers and general hoodlums in the beginning, but compared to psychopaths and drug-pushers like Hi-Hatz, they seem downright saintly.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: In-Universe for Sam, as she does not understand the boys' logic when they explain that they never would have mugged her if they knew that she lived in the same building as them. This could also double a very mild version of Even Evil Has Standards, since mugging defenseless people is never okay, but at least they would never do it to someone they knew was struggling to get by just like them.
  • Buffy Speak: The aliens are consistently described as 'big gorilla wolf motherfuckers'.
  • Chained by Fashion: Well, it's not a fashion choice, but Moses spends most of the movie wearing a broken pair of handcuffs.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Union Jack draped over the side of the apartment building ends up saving Moses when he blows up his flat.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Brewis is shown to have an interest in Zoology and the nature documentary on moths he is seen watching helps him figure out why the aliens seem to be pursuing Moses.
    • Also, the jump Biggz makes from the bridge to the stairwell when being chased, after previously boasting that he could make it.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The car that got flattened by the first meteor happened to be Brewis’ dad’s car.
  • Council Estate: The Block, where the story takes place.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Sam can be this at times.
    • Pest too has his moments, when he sarcastically suggests to Sam that she go feed the "dogs" with some Pedigree Chum.
  • Delinquent: The boys, at the beginning at least.
  • Don't Tell Mama: All the boys lie about what they are actually doing (mugging people/fighting aliens).
  • Dramatic Irony: About halfway through the movie, Brewis and Ron have a chat about the likely threat of the aliens, and conclude they're no big deal because the one they've seen is eyeless (and therefore probably blind), quite small, and was casually beaten to death by a group of teenagers. Of course, by this point, the audience has seen that all the other aliens are the size of bears, strong enough to rip through metal, and highly capable, hyper-aggressive hunters.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Hi-Hatz: dear God, man... look at the road!
  • Eagleland Osmosis:
    • One of the characters mentions the FBI will arrive, only to be told that "that's America".
    • The term "Feds" for police doesn't make much sense in England, but plenty of actual English teens use it so the film does as well.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Played with. The boys are introduced in an unsympathetic light, mugging a defenseless woman. Part of the point of this movie was to show that this event actually doesn't show their full character.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: When told they are heading to "Ron's Weed Room", Sam asks what that is only to receive the straightforward answer "It's a big room. Filled with weed. And it's Ron's."
  • Eyeless Face: Obvious on the female alien, although obscured by the males' thick fur.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Sam goes from being mugged by the gang to telling the cops they aren't the muggers, but her neighbours and they saved her life.
  • Free-Range Children: The whole gang, pretty much, but especially Moses; it's revealed late in the film that his only adult "supervision" comes from an uncle who is seldom around.
  • Genre-Busting: Sort of an inner city horror action sci-fi comedy with social commentary.
  • Genre Throwback: Many critics have compared it to '80s monster movies and horror-comedies like Gremlins and The Goonies.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Subverted. Our first view of a male alien is a dark silhouette emerging from the shadows with two glowing patches of light visible. Dennis initially mistakes them for eyes until it opens its mouth to reveal row after row of pointy, glowing fangs.
  • Gorn: The film generally uses the Gory Discretion Shot to keep from being extreme, but it does have its moments like when Pest gets attacked receives several deep gashes on his leg and especially Hi-Hatz' death.
  • Hard-to-Light Fire: It takes an alarmingly long time for Moses to light the firecracker so he can set off the gas in his kitchen.
  • Held Gaze: A recurring motif between Sam and Moses. They stare into each other's eyes about five times over the course of the film, going from fear and hostility to trust and gratitude as the night goes on.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The calls of the aliens, which vary between bird screeches, little-girl screams, or a strange electronic buzz.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Moses, the hero, uses a katana for most of the film.
  • Homemade Flamethrower: Mayhem and Probs use something like this to burn aliens alive. Their weapon consists of a super-soaker full of petrol to soak their target, which they then ignite using a firecracker. It's... very effective.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Set on Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes Day.
  • Hypocritical Humor: "You swear too much, lady!"
  • Implied Love Interest: There's a certain vibe between Tia and Moses, though it's not explicit.
  • Improvised Weapon: One of the aliens is killed with a broken floor lamp, an ice skate, and a set of polka dot bedsheets.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Applied by Hi-Hatz to interrogate the whereabouts of Moses out of Probs and Mayhem: he walks up to them very friendly and "absent-mindedly" points his gun at their heads as he's talking to them. It works.
  • I Just Want to Be Badass: Probs and Mayhem.
  • Insistent Terminology: It's Probs and Mayhem!
  • Katanas Are Just Better: The one sword used by the gang is a katana originally wielded by Dennis but was passed on to Moses. While it is effective against the aliens, in an amusing subversion, the movie shows why short swords have an advantage when fighting indoors.
  • Kill It with Fire: Probs and Mayhem vs. The Alien. They have an improvised flamethrower. The alien loses.
  • Lip Losses: When the aliens dog-pile on Hi-Hatz, one of them bites his lips off before they start eating him.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Getting tooled up occurs a couple of times, but particularly after the lads see more of the meteors dropping on London.
  • Lower-Class Lout: Almost the entire cast. Mostly played for laughs.
  • Meaningful Look: When Hi-Hatz calls his posse in to get revenge on Moses and company, the two who get into the back of the car share a moment where, without sharing anything except a lingering, information-packed look, they both dive for their seatbelts at the exact same time. This is due to his acute case of Drives Like Crazy trumping any macho posturing over not using the things they might otherwise have gone for.
  • The Medic: Sam is a recently graduated nurse who reluctantly agrees to help patch up Pest after he is attacked. When pressed to do more than her skill and resources allow, she snarks that she "missed the class on alien bite wounds."
  • Minor Living Alone: Moses
  • Mood Whiplash: We go in moments from Jerome's grisly death to a non lethal almost slapstick case of Friend or Foe? on Butt-Monkey Brewis.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The aliens are pretty much just fur and fangs. Glowing, sharp fangs. Rows and rows of glowing, sharp fangs... that can be clearly seen running all the way down their throats.
  • Nerd Glasses: Jerome.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: By killing the first alien and parading it around, they end up making themselves targets for the rest by covering themselves with its scent; Dennis and Jerome are outright killed because of it, and this also causes the death of Tonks (who touched the dead female alien thinking it was a puppet) and two police officers (who got the female's scent on them when they arrested Moses).
  • The Nose Knows: The aliens don't have eyes, so they navigate with a powerful sense of smell.
  • The Not-Love Interest: The central relationship of the film is the one that exists between Sam and Moses. It doesn't begin well (he mugs her and scares her half to death) but the progress of their growing respect and trust in one another is marked by their Held Gazes until the point when Moses returns the ring that he stole and Sam defends him to the police officers.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Played with. While the aliens are shown in full, their fur is so perfectly black that no detail can be made out except for their glowing fangs.
  • Off with His Head!: Dennis. One of the aliens bites down onto his helmeted head and rips it clean off, sending it bouncing off the walls.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Moses' reaction when his sword gets stuck in the wall after he raises it to attack an alien.
    • Dennis' reaction after realizing the gun he stole from a 'kid' is a toy.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Pest, Biggz and Hi-Hatz.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Moses spends a large portion of the film like this, barring a few exceptions at the start.
  • Police Are Useless: The considered opinion of the gang.
    Sam: We should call the police.
    Pest: You'd be better off calling the Ghostbusters love.
  • Parental Neglect: From a Parental Substitute, anyway. Moses's uncle is The Ghost in the film and basically in Moses's life, for reasons unexplained.
    Moses: He comes and goes. Goes, mostly.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Brewis. His introduction? Woop Woop! Dat's da sound of da police. Pest is also an example, but he actually has grown up on the estate, making him a Justified example.
  • Prohibited Hero Saves the Day: Probs and Mayhem are considered Tagalong Kids, and when things start to get dangerous, Moses tries to intimidate them into going home and laying low. Not only do they disobey him, they end up saving Biggz's life when they take down one of the alien beasts with an improvised flamethrower.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: As Hi-Hatz casually speaks back and forth to Probs and Mayhem, he unwittingly points his gun at the kid he's not talking to. Each kid stares uncomfortably right down the barrel of the gun.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Hi-Hatz is too determined to get even with the kids to care about the man-eating aliens that actually try to kill him a few times. At the climax he even wastes his chance to defend himself as they storm the apartment he's in trying to shoot Moses.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Are the aliens sentient? Their behaviour in the film is entirely animalistic, yet the males landed on earth in ornately-carved pods. Roger Ebert wondered in his review if they were just the attack dogs for the real aliens still on the way.
  • Scary Black Man: Subverted by Moses. Played straight with Hi-Hatz, who even frightens his own men because he's so impulsive and trigger-happy, completely unable to cool down once he gets riled up.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • After the attack in Tia's flat, she and her friends realize that the aliens are going only after Moses' group and whoever is with them and thus decide the best way to stay alive is by getting the hell out of the building asap. It works.
    • After taking out the first alien, the boys are excited to see more meteors landing and eagerly go out to take on the others. Their enthusiasm quickly dies when they get a good look at the new aliens and they all flee.
  • Skewed Priorities: Hi-Hatz doesn't seem all that phased by the alien invasion, and insists on continuing to try and kill the boys because they damaged his car despite the fact it only endangers him. It ultimately gets him killed. He would've been better off backing off and hoping the aliens did his work for him.
  • Spiritual Antithesis:
    • Joe Cornish believed that many of the British "hoodie horror" films of the 2000s demonised young people, especially those from poorer backgrounds, and so he set out and created this film in order to portray them in a more positive and heroic light.
    • Cracked suggested that Attack the Block is this trope to Leprechaun in the Hood. Both films feature poor urban settings and Lower-Class Lout characters facing a supernatural Outside-Context Problem. However, Attack the Block plays up the horror and the social commentary while Leprechaun emphasizes the comedy and the ridiculousness of the premise. The authors suggested that it is a good example of the contrast between British and American horror.
  • The Stoic: Moses — oh, so much. You can pretty much count the number of times he smiles on one hand.
  • The Stoner: Most of the boys smoke but Brewis and Ron in particular.
  • Stupid Evil: Hi-Hatz takes on a whole block full of man-eating aliens with only a handgun and what appears to be only one magazine to kill a single kid. He loses his men to this threat, he gets injured dealing with this threat, and it's obvious that this threat is chasing Moses too so he could just sit back and let the "gorilla-wolf mother-fuckers" do the work for him... but he owns the block and he'll be damned if he's gonna let Moses get away with his disrespect. Not surprisingly, it gets him killed.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The boys are perplexed on how the aliens managed to find them despite being over a hundred rooms in their block. Turns out they were tracking the scent of a pheromone that they stained on their clothes when they came into contact with the female.
  • Team Pet: Subverted in that Dennis' dog is killed almost immediately by an alien.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Subverted. The main characters are young hoodlums, one on his way to becoming a street pusher, but over the course of the film they come across more sympathetically and show their inner humanity.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: The reaction of Hi-Hatz's goons to his driving is a non-verbal case of this. They share one look, and - despite being hardened gangsters - immediately buckle up their seatbelts.
  • Those Two Guys: Little kids Reginald and Gavin - or rather Probs and Mayhem.
  • Token Good Teammate: Jerome is this to the gang, being easily the nicest guy of the bunch. Unlike his friends, he doesn't act in a hostile way towards Brewis when they meet him in Ron's flat, and he's the first one to show politeness towards Sam. Jerome even tries sympathizing with her, explaining that they used a knife for intimidation purposes and were trying to get the mugging over with quick and that they were as scared as her.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Dennis is killed for expecting a firearm he took from a couple of kids to be real without making any attempt to verify that it was authentic.
    • Hi-Hatz. Despite an alien invasion going on, he would rather focus on killing Moses and the other boys, because they crashed into his car and he feels they disrespected him.
  • True Companions: The gang starts the film as this and by the end Sam, Probs and Mayhem join their ranks.
  • Video Credits: The named characters are shown in action at the start of the closing credits.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Sam delivers this to the boys after one says that they wouldn't have mugged her if they knew she was also from the Block — she sarcastically asks if that means it's acceptable to mug people so long as they don't live in the same complex.
    • Tia also gets some fierce verbal jabs at them, especially at Moses, once she learns about them mugging Sam.
  • White Gangbangers: Pest and one of Hi-Hatz's henchmen, Patrick.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: Hi-Hatz and Biggz.
  • The Yardies: Deconstructed. We go into these boys' lives and see why they are the way they are.
  • Younger Than They Look: Much to Sam's surprise, Moses is only fifteen years old. Most in the audience probably share her reaction.