The sub-genre of ‘tower block peril’ movies has grown in recent years or may have even came into existence in that same time. It’s difficult to pinpoint the growth of this style of film but it could be said Spanish horror REC (2008) was where it began. Or perhaps The Raid, admittedly non-horror, with its hyper-violent unrelenting pace. Regardless there is a slowly growing genre and fanbase for these films. Devil’s Tower is another must-see movie to add to the list.
The story follows Sarah (Pallett) who is 18 years old and has been forced to move out of the family home by her bitter mother (Ruffelle) that blames Sarah for the death of the husband/father. Sarah seeks help from the local housing services, leading to her finding a new home in the run down Albion Court. A run down block of council flats, Albion Court has a persistent squatter problem as well as a stuck up maintenance man named Carnacki (Webber). It isn’t an ideal first home for Sarah especially when she discovers her new address is referred to as ‘the murderflat’. She invites her friend Lucy (Buckley) over to get drunk, during which they hear some of the neighbours having very wild sex, to help her get settled in. It is during this drinking session a power cut happens and when the lights come back on something is now creeping throughout the corridors of the building.
The big advantage for this movie is its cast. There is not a weak member among the ensemble for Devil’s Tower. Pallett deserves the bulk of the praise here, she gives a great performance. She may be familiar to some as she has previously been in Yorkshire set TV soap Emmerdale and a number of other British television soaps/dramas in one off roles. In a lengthy more demanding role, and the character of Sarah is demanding, she proves that she is a capable leading lady. She tackles some highly emotional scenes with her abusive mother that builds the Sarah character into a person instead of a flat good-looking-but-bubbly horror movie cliché. At points she cries and it appears that Pallett is genuinely crying. Although were meant to believe she is 18 – Roxanne is actually 31. She looks young, but not that young.
Even rent-a-celeb Jessica-Jane Clement (now Stafford) turns in a brilliant comical performance. As Kate she is the eccentric, bubbly and overbearing neighbour who seems oblivious to her annoying quirks. Clement/Stafford also isn’t afraid to take part in some ludicrous sex scenes, some that actually work and have good sight gags. Ruffelle is highly unlike-able which is no doubt the intention of the role she places. Jason Mewes as Sid does seem a little out of place among the British cast and council block setting with his thick American stoner accent. Eddie Webber, Carnacki, is his usual wide-boy sounding self. Which is a good thing.
The plot does take a long time to build up to any outright horror or disturbing moments. This is because Devil’s Tower allows the characters on screen to develop and earn emotional investment by the viewer. Based on Pallett’s acting Sarah is someone that will be viewed with genuine empathy and sorrow – her whole life has been turned upside down and then sinister things start to happen to her. As the story moves away from the drama and comedy it takes a dark, intriguing zombie survival route. Some of the creepy occurrences will remind the viewer of David Lynch with its surreal use of the uncanny and jarring imagery.
Gritty and intense but also funny and touching Devil’s Tower is a fantastic British horror. It aims for several genres in one and achieves it’s target. An impressive and entertaining Lynch-esque film.
Available on DVD, region 2, plus Blu-ray, region B, from September 15th from Monster Pictures.