Attack The Block's Aliens Were Just As Terrifying Behind The Scenes

Before John Boyega became everyone's favorite rebellious stormtrooper and righteous critic of the sidelining of people of color in the "Star Wars" universe, he had his breakthrough role as Moses in the British indie alien favorite, "Attack the Block." After Moses and his best gang of mates rob a young nurse named Sam (Doctor Who herself, Jodie Whittaker) on Guy Fawkes Night, they find their low-income housing block in South London invaded by brutal alien beasts. The group must form an unlikely alliance, save their friends, defeat the aliens, and keep their block safe from intergalactic creatures looking to tear them apart and feast on the planet's resources. The film underperformed at the box office but became a cult hit, with director Joe Cornish and John Boyega teaming up once again for an upcoming sequel.

Cornish — a dear friend of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost (who appears in the film) — is, similarly, a huge genre fan. Taking inspiration from the filmography of John Carpenter and Walter Hill, Cornish wanted to merge the fantastical and almost comic book-like worlds of genre films from the 1980s with the fresh and modern storytelling of the 2010s. Over a decade later, and "Attack the Block" is still considered by many to be one of the best sci-fi films of the new millennium. Not only did the characters and story break new ground in the alien film genre, the horrifying and totally awesome alien designs were unlike anything seen before. Better yet? They were almost entirely practical.

The aliens were mostly one guy in a costume

Vice published an oral history in honor of the film's 10th anniversary, where members of the cast and crew shared incredible stories from behind the scenes. Alex Esmail who plays Pest noted that the "big gorilla-wolf motha f***as" was not a cloud of CGI, but rather a stuntman in a suit with arm extenders that allowed him to run like a gorilla. "It was genuinely scary," Esmail said. "It wasn't just a dude in a bright green suit that's got to have effects put on it." The alien actor was Terry Notary, a stunt coordinator/double and movement coach who has performed in "Avatar," "The Adventures of Tintin: Secrets of the Unicorn," the "Planet of the Apes" reboot series, "The Hobbit" film trilogy, and as Cull Obsidian in the "Avengers" films. The suit Notary wore was nearly identical to the huge, black, furry creature with "glowing green sharp arse teeth" we see in the final product. "In real life it looked like what it is," said Esmail.

At one point in the film, Pest gets chased down by aliens, and Notary really did chase Esmail for the scene. Thanks to the arm extenders and Notary's peak physical condition, he was much faster than Esmail which led to an even more realistic rundown, complete with Esmail running in terror. "He's a really nice, soft spoken guy from California but he's amping himself up to chase me like, 'I'm gonna get you bitch' and they're all like 'Alex can you run a bit quicker, he's actually going to get you,'" he says. Obviously, the glowing teeth and black fur were enhanced using CGI, but for the most part, it's all Notary.

Cornish was inspired by his own pet black cat

While the iconic glowing teeth was suggested by a cartoonist friend of Cornish who then used plastic Dracula teeth to help create the effect, the ultra-black void design of the aliens was inspired by Cornish's pet cat. "They look really beautiful when they're backlit, just like silhouettes," he said. "So we had people in suits and rubbed out all the reflections, so it was just a black shadow." The silhouette look reminded him of the old "Space Invaders" arcade cabinet illustration of the aliens from the 1980s, which was a perfect way to bridge together the old world of sci-fi with the new.

Franz Drameh who plays Dennis applauded the realism of the monsters, and cited the practical effect as even helping with his performance. "It's one thing to run away from fake aliens when you're working with green screens and CGI, but when it's physical, everything changes," he said. "They can't really see as well in the suits, so if you stop they will charge at you." Jumayn Hunter who plays gang rival Hi-Hatz refused to get a preview look at the aliens before filming, wanting his first time coming face to face with the creatures to be on camera. "Joe [Cornish] started rolling the camera, didn't tell me, and said there was a power cut or something," he recalls. "The lights went out and then this thing nipped round the corner toward me and I freaked out!" While the aliens in "Attack the Block" did a perfectly fine job of scaring the hell out of audiences everywhere, at least we can say we never had to outrun one of them in real life.