13th Sep2014

Grimmfest 2014: ‘Devil’s Tower’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Roxanne Pallett, Jason Mewes, Frances Ruffelle, Jessica-Jane Stafford, Emma Buckley, Peter Barrett | Written by Adam J. Marsh | Directed by Owen Tooth

Devils-Tower-cast

Albion Court is the least ‘des res’ in the neighbourhood – a hangout for drug dealers, rife with squatters and two residents recently died in an apparent bizarre suicide pact. However when Sarah (Roxanne Pallett) in thrown out by her abusive, alcoholic mother (Frances Ruffelle), she has no choice but to move in to the notorious block. Determined to make the best of things Sarah tries to settle in but she is disturbed by bizarre neighbours, strange sounds coming through the paper-thin walls, creepy images on the TV and an overwhelming feeling that she is being watched.

Things get a whole lot worse when a badly mutilated body of one of her neighbours is found hanging in the lift and more and more residents begin to disappear – including squatter-come-burglar to Sid’s (Jason Mewes) friend Paul (Jazz Lintott). When Sid and Sarah decide to try and find out why, they uncover the secret of the vengeful ghost who seems to have taken possession of Albion Court forces them into a very bloody fight for their lives – and their souls.

The latest in a long line of high-rise horrors that have proliferated British horror cinema – following the likes of Tower Block, Comedown and CitadelDevil’s Tower is also the latest horror movie from Roxanne Pallett, who is quickly becoming the UK’s very own scream queen, what with appearances in this flick, Lake Placid 3 and Wrong Turn 6. And it’s Pallett that is the main reason for watching this film – she delivers another great performance, not as good as her role in Wrong Turn 6 but nevertheless a solid scream queen role that actually calls for her to channel some of her experience on Emmerdale and the “kitchen-sink” soap opera-style drama which that entailed.

Pallett works well with Jason Mewes (he of Jay and Silent Bob fame), the pair have a great chemistry and Mewes’ character is, despite the characters nefarious origins, instantly likeable – and he turns in a surprisingly amiable performance, convincing as he does as the “bad guy with a heart”, Sid.

Much like Ciaran Foy‘s Citadel, Devil’s Tower (which is one hell of a clumsy title – named for DVD sales no doubt) mixes real world anxieties: poverty, urban decay, family breakdown; with the supernatural. Although whereas Foy strived for realism and terror, writer Adam J. Marsh and director Owen Tooth – making their feature film debuts – pander to the horror crowd with some ridiculous sex and nudity (the constant joke of “walking in on people having sex” becomes tired after the nth time), including the oddest and seemingly misplaced faux-lesbian scene that is little more than a chance to see two pairs of fake tits!

Shown as part of the build-up to this years Grimmfest and released on DVD on September 15th, Devil’s Tower is not an outstanding, blow-you-away horror, and I can see why it only made the preview night of Grimmfest and not the festival itself: it’s too familiar, and not scary enough, to thrill a demanding horror festival audience. The story itself is an odd mix of haunted-house and modern 28 Days Later-esque zombie film, packed with ideas and even scenes you’ve seen before in a myriad of different horror movies (there’s a particular scene in which souls are swapped that looks like it stepped out of any one of a number of 80s horror flicks); and there’s nothing particularly thrilling about any of them.

Despite its familiarity and lack of originality I actually rather enjoyed Devil’s Tower. The film is briskly paced, it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome and the main trio of characters are eminently watchable. Plus the films child-turned-decomposed corpse is an intriguing villain and the madcap ending, in which the entire residents of the tower block are seemingly turned into flesh eating zombies by said corpse, is just crazy enough to be enjoyable!

*** 3/5

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