Directed By Menhaj Huda
Early on in Menhaj Huda’s Comedown, I couldn’t help but draw similarities to Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block. Both involve ne’er do wells with strong South London accents calling each other “Bruv” in a situation that finds them trapped inside a tower block fighting to survive set to a mostly pulsing electronic score, though this could simply be a mere coincidence rather than any sort of legitimate influence. While the similarities between the two films stop there, the rest of the film’s cinematic influences begin to rear their head – a sinister caretaker named Grady (The Shining); a torturous madman who wears a hood (Saw), and, of course, the recent spate of films set in or around a tower block, inhabited or otherwise.
The film focuses on Lloyd (Jacob Anderson), a nineteen-year-old just released from prison to the open arms of his pregnant girlfriend, Jemma (Sophie Stuckey). He reconnects with his friends: the fire-loving Gal (Calum MacNab); the seemingly promiscuous Kelly (Jessica Barden); the rough-around-the-edges Jason (Adam Deacon); and quiet and timid Cole, but despite his best intentions to stay on the straight and narrow, he agrees to set up a pirate radio station in an abandoned tower block in exchange for drugs and money. Naturally, things don’t go as planned when Jemma is kidnapped by a mysterious hooded figure (Geoff Bell) with a penchant for torture, prompting the group to try to save her.
At its heart, Comedown is nothing more than a generic slasher flick. People die as expected in particularly gruesome but relatively uninspired ways; a moment with a nail gun might provide one of the film’s few moments of glee from those who enjoy their violence slightly inspired, especially when the weapon of choice is a knife. The comparison to Saw earlier is apt, albeit in a much more anemic manner; the hooded character notwithstanding, it’s less about the traps than it is its predilection toward torture. Perhaps Hostel would be a more appropriate comparison, especially during one scene involving the flaying of skin. However you slice it, there’s never any real suspense pervading the film. It hits the major beats before revealing an underwritten antagonist with a motive that is anything but compelling.
But through it all, it does manage to elevate itself among its straight-to-DVD brethren with solid performances, which helps lift the film up from the relative mediocrity of its premise. Each character breaks the typical “teen slasher” mold thanks to smart writing and genuine stakes at play. Anderson shines above all, delivering a believable and compelling performance, even when the film manages to drift into mindless torture and violence. In the end, Comedown possesses a unique sense of sentimentality that makes you genuinely care about the people involved, but it fails to do anything truly new or interesting. It’s a by the numbers slasher film, although one filled with compelling characters.
2 1/2 out of 5