The horror movie "Attack the Block" (opens Friday, July 29) got a boost at Comic-Con this week. Sharing a hall and time slot with cult favorite "Underworld," the British indie and midnight feature award winner at SXSW had a solid platform on which to show off its creative twists on horror. 

The footage, which was familiar to many in the audience (the film was previously released in the U.K.) was a funny, scary mix of gore and punchlines as a group of kids, trapped in a government housing apartment complex, must do battle with aliens featuring furry pelts and glow-in-the-dark teeth. Fans of "Shaun of the Dead" will likely notice Nick Frost playing the building's resident long-haired pot smoker. 

Director Joe Cornish, who shares a writing credit on "TinTin" with his "Block" (and panel) partner Edgar Wright, explained that, as a fan of 80s horror movies, he wanted to pay homage to the classics, but with a 21st century spin. "[They] take reality like a suburban environment, a world we can recognize, then fuse it with fantasty," he said. "Our aliens wish they landed in Elliott's backyard." Instead, Cornish plants them in the a rough part of London, where their prey isn't soft suburban kids but gang bangers and street toughs. "We has eleven actors between the ages of 11 and 18. And every single one gives an incredible performance."

The kids easily capture not only the urban patter but the seen-it-all nonchalance of kids living in poverty. "We like to call it 'Super 8-Mile,'" says Wright.

Even more unexpected are the aliens. From a distance, they almost look, well, cute. "Sometimes you feel like the monsters are all a bit same-y," Cornish explained. "The dragon from 'Harry Potter' could wander into 'Cloverfield' and nobody would notice."

The film may have plenty of fresh material, but don't look for one thing -- subtitles. When one fan who'd seen the movie asked if they could be tossed in to make sense of the thick accents, Cornish flatly refused. "You know what? I think you guys are smart. Hip hop's been around for what, 20 years now? This movie is specially designed to teach you the language, we had a lexicon of ten or twelve phrases, repeated over and over through the movie in different contexts. Watch this and you'll be ready to put on a hood, come to london and slice some alien heads off."

Not that this is just a movie about tough kids and tough aliens, according to Cornish. "This is a movie about character. It has something to say. I don't want the jokiness to undermine the heart. But it's also a bit crazy and stupid. Because it has aliens with glow-in-the-dark teeth." 


Liane Bonin Starr is an author, screenwriter and former writer for Her byline has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Variety and a lot of other places. Her last book was called "a scandalously catty, guilty pleasure" by Jane magazine. Expect the same from Starr Raving.