Monday, 19 September 2011

Attack the Block

In the most recent series of The Apprentice (UK) contestant Susan Ma wondered aloud ‘Are the French very fond of their children?’. She was derided for it on the post-mortem show because it’s not politically correct to criticise the French. After all they’re not Zimbabwe.
A more relevant question would be ‘do the British care about their children?’.

‘Chav’1 is a term coined by southerners2 to describe what northerners call ‘scally’ (the American equivalent is white trash/ghetto). Circa 2004 the British media were frothing at the mouth in gleeful use of the word to spite the young3.

2005 witnessed a politically correct backlash over the word. There were left-wing accusations of elitism4 and unfounded right-wing bleating about inverted racism (white trash5). The media sidestepped the issue by adopting another word. ‘Hoodie’ is the current parlance. It’s safer as it obviously refers to an item of clothing. As said clothing is favoured by the young ‘hoodie’ has become code for yob, lout, scum etc; anything derogatory but with a youth prefix6.
The demonization of the young did not begin in this media age. The idiom ‘children should be seen and not heard’ dates back to the 15th century7. The Victorians believed parents should break their children’s will8. The plight of children inspired Charles Dickens to write Oliver Twist (pub.1838). British history is blighted with chimney sweeps, borstals and Catholic paedophile rings tacitly ignored by the authorities.
courtesy of
Why are these people so angry?

During the May 2010 General Election the Liberal Democrats pursued the student vote. They promised to revoke university tuition fees9. When they joined the Conservatives in a coalition government they reneged on their promise and raised tuition fees10. In November the students took to the streets.

The media reaction was savage11.
In August a police death squad shot and killed Mark Douglas12. Two days later rioting began and spread throughout England. The media response was more savage than the prior student protests13.

12 Since 1969 British police have killed an average one black person every 15 days. No police officer has been charged in over 1000 deaths.

The media have hijacked the riots as a ‘looter’s day out’. They have ignored the evidence of police terrorism and pointed the finger at young as opportunistic criminals. The British public who can’t think for themselves agree.

Do the British care about their children? Babies beware. This country is a hostile environment for those under 18. Into this atmosphere came Attack the Block 2011. It was theatrically released on 13th May.
This is not Byker Grove
An alien falls to earth but lands in the middle of a gang of hoodies. The kids do what the streets have taught them – they kill the blighter.

They retire in triumph to their South London tower block for rest and recreational drugs but soon discover the creature was not alone. It’s a full scale alien invasion and these monsters are worse than the police. With their block under attack it’s time for the youths to fight back.

Attack the Block is horror-comedy in the same league as Tremors 1990. The ethos of this subgenre is to induce mirth and fear without detracting from the other. There are very few films that accomplish this. Attack the Block succeeds because of its subject matter.

The heroes consist mainly of the most vilified demographic in Britain today – young black males. Writer-director Joe Cornish takes the stereotype, doesn’t apologise for it, and indulges it. He takes the audience for a run with this crew the way Quentin Tarantino did with the two hitmen in Pulp Fiction 1994. The result is criminal high jinks with alien deathly stakes.
Hoodies night out: (l-r) Alex Esmail, Simon Howard, John Boyega, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones
The best movies have great scripts; they tell their stories well. Attack the Block is as witty and insightful as Clueless 1995. Joe Cornish writes his social commentary subtly but it cannot be ignored. In the opening scene the gang mug the lead female. After rifling through her purse one of them whines: “Aw she’s a nurse. They don’t get paid nothing fam. Ai Moses. Why you sticking up poor people man?

Each character arrives on their own terms and there are plenty of them; the toy gangster, the herb farmer, the girls and the middle class twit. They all bring humour and they all face peril. Attack the Block is choc full of aliens, horror, patois, comedy and social commentary. Despite all those ingredients the film is a cohesive story. It is not just exciting it is jolly good fun.
nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker) and her token white Pest (Alex Esmail)
The best joke in the movie takes place when the crew are hiding from the invaders. One of the kids – Pest – starts sniffing after the nurse:

Pest: You’re quite fit y’know. Have you got a boyfriend?
Nurse: Yes.
Pest: You sure about him? Where is he? ‘Cause he aint exactly looking out for you tonight.
Nurse: He’s in Ghana.
Pest: You going out with an African man?
Nurse: No. He’s helping children. He volunteers for the Red Cross.
Pest: Ooh. Is it? Why can’t he help the children of Britain?

Attack the Block is released on DVD today in the UK and 25th October in the US.

Read more Thrill Fiction: 10 Horror Movies forthe Fall 2011
1 Chavs and the towns they live in
2 Origins of the word ‘chav’ Wikipedia
3 Media student expert on chavs BBC
5 Julie Burchill in The Times
7 Children should be seen… The Phrase Finder
9 Lib Dems tuition fees pledge BBC
10 Tuition fees raised BBC
11 Student protests The Daily Star
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