Directed by Owen Tooth, Starring: Roxanne Pallett, Jason Mewes, Frances Ruffelle,Jessica-Jane Stafford. Horror, UK, 2014, 82mins, cert 18
Released in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray on 15th September 2014 by Monster Pictures.
Having been (literally) thrown out onto the street by her abusive alcoholic mother, Sarah is forced to take up residence in Albion Court, a tower block seemingly filled with wall to wall drug dealers, generic low-life characters and a murky past. “What, you’re moving into the murder flat?”(exclaims one of the residents). “He’s just winding you up, they didn’t die IN the flat”, reassures another. But Sarah will soon find out that it’s what is residing in flat 254 on the top floor that she really needs to worry about...
Not entirely sure where to begin in trying to review this film. I guess I’ll start with the lead, Roxanne Pallett (formerly of TV ‘Emmerdale’ fame), making her ‘scream queen’ debut playing Sarah a character who is either 21 or 18 years of age. Let me explain. Her most treasured possession, a silver cigarette lighter, is inscribed ‘21st Happy Birthday’ from her mum and dad (dad’s dead: not explained). But - and here’s the rub – when mum (Frances Ruffelle) subsequently totters up unannounced and unwelcome at her flat she tells Sarah that motherhood is a life sentence which started: “...18 years ago when you were born”. Perhaps the booze has clouded her timeframe – then again, her confusion could be down to the fact that her onscreen daughter is being played by an actress who is in reality 31 years of age.
This low-budget British supernatural zombie rom-bonk is crammed full of awful cringe-inducing characters uttering cringe-inducing dialogue which even the script editor for ‘Eastenders’ would baulk at. Remember the film David and his dead friend Jack watch in the porno cinema on Piccadilly Circus in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (‘See You Next Wednesday’ of course), well the acting in that for the most part surpasses most of the performances here.
In fact, its sheer preposterousness is actually its only saving grace; such is the level of seemingly unashamed amateurism on screen you feel somewhat obliged to see it through to its bitter end just to see quite how much further down it will sink.
And then there’s Jason (CLERKS, JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKES BACK) Mewes, whose career has faded so far he can’t even claim top-billing, turning up surreally as ‘Sid’ the squatter. “Sid, no offence, but you’re a bit of a lunatic” pronounces Sarah’s best friend Lucy in a rare moment of perceptive insight. But then everyone is a loony in this loony tune of a horror film which is described as a ‘zombie home invasion horror’ but which doesn’t deliver on this promise (and which is laughably half-hearted even then) until there’s only 20 minutes left of the running time. Presumably the make-up budget must’ve run out by this point as the zombies appear to be munching down without a hint of viscera or steaming innards in sight. And speaking of ‘home invasion’, everyone seems to blithely leave their front doors unlocked. There are countless occurrences where characters just barge into their neighbours flats – surely this shockingly lax sense of home security belongs back in the ‘Ena Sharples’ era of Coronation Street rather than a contemporary graffiti littered hell-hole like Albion Court?
DEVIL’S TOWER is frankly a car-crash of a film which you can’t help but stare at in astonishment. Why Roxanne Pallett thought a film where she gets to deliver dialogue such as: “He tried to rape me [“What?”] No, it’s alright I tried to rape him too” would act as the propellant to launch her ‘scream queen’ career is unfathomable. (On the evidence of this I don’t think Danielle Harris needs to worry about any competition). Perhaps she should have taken more heed of the caretaker’s advice: “This building isn’t kind: now bugger off!” Then again, as the film staggers limply towards its daft climax, a possessed participant utters this particular gem: “Don’t ask me to explain, his mind is otherwise engaged”. This sums up DEVIL’S TOWER in a nutshell.
Extras: Commentary by director Owen Tooth and writer Adam J. Marsh, bloopers, trailers and ‘Behind the Scenes’ stills.