Brit horror “Devil’s Tower” might not have the most original name or premise, revolving around sinister goings on in a shabby housing estate tower block, though it does at least have a pretty interesting cast, led by actress Roxanne Pallett, best known for her work on popular UK countryside soap “Emmerdale” and Jason Mewes of “Jay and Silent Bob” fame. Directed by Owen Tooth and written by Adam J. Marsh, the film follows the recent trend of combining urban decay and grounded anxieties with the supernatural, throwing in some oddball comedy and nudity for good measure.
The tower in question is Albion Court, a rundown block long past any former glory it might once have had, now home to squatters and drug dealers, and where two residents were recently found dead in mysterious circumstances. Roxanne Pallett plays Sarah, a young woman thrown out of her home by her thoroughly unpleasant alcoholic mother (Frances Ruffelle) and forced to move into one of Albion’s grimy flats for want of other options. Though her neighbours prove to be a friendly, if strange lot, she’s unsettled by her new surroundings and the weird noises coming through the wall, not to mention the disturbing images inexplicably appearing on her TV. After more disappearances and deaths, Sarah teams with an American squatter called Sid (Mewes) to try and get to the bottom of things, coming up against a vengeful ghost and the resurrected dead.
There’s clearly nothing new when it comes to the story, setting or themes of “Devil’s Tower”, Owen Tooth and Adam J. Marsh pulling together a mixed bag of scenes and scares, the likes of which have been seen before in a variety of other films. As a low budget horror this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise or taken as too damning a criticism, though it’s hard not to feel a little unenthused by the general lack of invention. It doesn’t help that none of the film’s horror aspects are particularly effective, Tooth never managing to get the pulse racing or to generate much suspense. A few vaguely gory moments aside, there’s not much in the way of threat or menace, and though the film technically ticks a reasonable number of genre boxes, it’s hard to imagine fright fans finding anything to get excited about.
Where the film fares better, and actually works surprisingly well, is in its comedy and general eccentricity, Marsh’s script featuring some solid character writing and a pleasing attention to leftfield detail. Without falling back on spoofery or silliness, the film has a good few genuinely amusing moments peppered throughout, and though this defuses any potential tension even further, it ups the entertainment value considerably. The cast also help, Roxanne Pallett likeable as the female lead and managing the all-important balance of vulnerable and tough, and Jason Mewes defying expectation by turning in an amiable and convincing performance. While it’s hard to imagine anyone caring about what happens to their protagonists or indeed the rest of the cast, it’s fun to watch them panic as their situation worsens, and this helps keep the respectably short film rolling along at a cheerfully brisk pace.
As a result, though “Devil’s Tower” certainly isn’t one for hardened horror addicts or viewers looking for either scares or splatter, it makes for a harmless and fairly enjoyable hour and twenty minutes, and despite its dearth of originality is more watchable than many others of its ilk.
Owen Tooth (director) / Adam J. Marsh (screenplay)
CAST: Jason Mewes … Sid
Roxanne Pallett … Sarah MacColl
Frances Ruffelle … Kim
Jessica-Jane Stafford … Kate
Emma Buckley … Lucy