"Attack the Block": monsters, race, and rewriting South London’s outer spaces

Lorrie Palmer

Lorrie Palmer recently completed her Ph.D. in Film & Media at Indiana University, teaching as an Associate Instructor in film genre (action cinema) and film history as well as in race, gender, and sexuality in film and television. She also teaches courses in film, media and culture as an Assistant Professor at DePauw University. She has published and conferenced on sci-fi/fantasy television (Star Trek: Voyager, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Angel, Supernatural, Continuum) and on the intersections of genre, gender, race, technology, and urban space across topics such as Will Smith’s crossover stardom and the digital action of the Crank film series. Her work appears in Cinema Journal, Velvet Light Trap, Film & History, Senses of Cinema, Pop Matters, Bright Lights Film Journal, Camera Obscura, and in several anthologies. Online essays are on

She is currently at work on revising her dissertation manuscript (Accelerated Cinema: Masculinity, Technology, and City Space in the Action Genre) into book form. Lorrie hails from St. Louis, Missouri, home of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project and, having heard about the mysteries and dangers of that site as a child, is now fascinated by the parallel trajectory of Modernism in British public housing. She was also once mugged by a group of London teens on her birthday near a council estate in Walthamstow in the early 1990s. Thus, a confluence of events has made this essay a bit karmic.

She can be reached at lorrieinengland@hotmail.com.

Recommended websites:

I am indebted to Elissa Favero’s excellent discussion of Attack the Block and public housing, which can be accessed here:

Article titled, “Attack The Block: 7 Movies Set in The Projects” by Loretta Arnold (March 23, 2012) http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-lists/attack-the-block-7-movies-set-in-the-projects/

Films set in public housing:

Judge Dredd (Pete Travis, 2012)—Adapted from a British comic book, this 2012 film adaptation, Dredd, is set in a dystopian future and locks its protagonists (Karl Urban and Olivia Thurlby) into Mega-City One, a sprawling lawless public housing structure, ruled by druglord, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey).

Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold, 2009). UK setting in public housing estate. A review of the film is at

The Selfish Giant (Clio Bernard, 2013). UK setting in public housing estate. Review at http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/selfish-giant-movie-review-article-1.1551742
U.S. films and public housing locations:

Movies, TV shows, and videogames set in or inspired by Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing projects:

Los Angeles public housing projects as setting:

  • Menace II Society (The Hughes Brothers, 1993) uses the  location of the Jordan Downs housing project of L.A.
  • The videogame, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Rockstar North, 2004), depicts a recreation of the Jordan Downs projects as “Willowfield Homes” in the fictional city of Los Santos:
  • Training Day (Antoine Fuqua, 2001) was partially shot on location in the L.A. housing project, Imperial Courts, production information (including shooting locations) here: http://cinema.com/articles/713/training-day-production-information.phtml        

Other cities:

New Orleans: Starting in 1977, Andrew Kolker and Louis Alvarez produced a series of half-hour documentaries called Being Poor in New Orleans, one of these is The Clarks (1979) shot at the St. Thomas housing project in 1978. Here is a link to additional information.  http://www.cnam.com/flash/archives/beingpoor.html

Stockholm, Sweden: Let the Right One In (Original title: Låt den rätte komma in) (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)

Hong Kong: Rigor Mortis (Original title: Geung si) (Juno Mak, 2014)

New York City:

  • Straight Out of Brooklyn (Matty Rich, 1991). Dennis (Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.) and his friends struggle to escape the poverty of the Red Hook housing project in Brooklyn, NY.
  • Hatful of Rain (Fred Zinnemann, 1957). Set in a housing project near the Brooklyn Bridge, a Korean War vet (Don Murray) returns home addicted to morphine, confined to a small apartment with his wife (Eva Marie Saint) and brother (Anthony Franciosa, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in Leading Role for this film) and owing money to his “pusher” (Henry Silva). Based on a play by Michael V. Gazzo. http://rowereviews.weebly.com/reviews/a-hatful-of-rain-1957-fred-zinnemann .

St. Louis: The Pruitt-Igoe housing project, St. Louis, Missouri. The architect, Minoru Yamasaki, also designed the St. Louis International Airport in 1955 and New York’s World Trade Center in 1965. The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (Chad Freidrichs, 2011) Link to information on the housing project and on this documentary: http://www.pruitt-igoe.com/urban-history/

Photos of some of the most famous (or infamous) housing projects in the world: