Directed by Owen Tooth
Distributed by Monster Pictures UK
After being dramatically kicked out of the family home by her alcoholic mother, teenager Sarah (Pallett) is forced to take up residency in a Council-run block of flats by the name of Albion Court. Unfortunately for her, the usual threat of feral youths, squatters, drug addicts, and the various types who populate the scrapings at the bottom of society’s barrel aren’t all she’s going to have to contend with.
As mysterious deaths and disappearances begin to occur amongst the residents, Sarah finds herself placed centre stage in the machinations of an angry spirit determined to turn Albion Court into the setting of its own blood-soaked soap opera.
Owen Tooth’s Devil’s Tower is a low budget British entry into the genre, grounding itself in the kind of semi-social realist backdrop that proves almost horrific enough without the addition of a malevolent ghost and, finally, zombies (of course!). The grimness is ably cut through, however, by a dose of mostly successful wit – which is to both the film’s credit and its detriment. On the positive side, the characters here sparkle with life. Pallett gets the brunt of the real dramatic work as the out-of-luck Sarah: Fresh from an abusive home and dumped head-first into a society that she simply isn’t ready for, she’s a highly troubled and conflicted young woman, and Pallett pulls off her early onset world weariness with impressive stature.
Lighting up the screen around Sarah’s corner of despair are Jason Mewes as right-minded American squatter Sid and Jessica-Jane Stafford (née Clements) as neighbour Kate. For the most part Mewes is as Mewes generally is – helplessly lovable and endearing by his very presence, but here he does put in the extra effort to dial it down and bring a few extra dramatic facets to his character, and it works. He still gets to cut loose with the wisecracks and manic behaviour come the climactic zombie battle, too, so Mewes fans will find very little to complain about here. Next to him in the supporting realm, Stafford nearly steals the show as sexpot Kate, the gossipy neighbour whose delightful demeanour is the only thing that keeps her persistent nosiness from crossing the line. She’s note-perfect in the part from beginning to end.
While the initial mystery behind the goings-on at Albion Court is an intriguing one – ably bolstered by the occasional shot of a decrepit, shadowy figure seemingly monitoring events from an old-style television set in a run-down flat – Devil’s Tower actually finds itself at its weakest when it attempts to move into full-blown horror come the final act. Tooth throws in a few nice flourishes, such as the manipulation of Sarah and Sid in a 1950s-themed dance number that turns deadly, but when the revelation of the antagonist’s identity and motives arrives, it falls mostly flat. Flesh-eating zombies fill the corridors of Albion Court for little reason beyond the film having zombies in it, and Tooth struggles to keep control of his tone amidst the mayhem. By the time the rooftop finale begins, it becomes strikingly apparent that this particular story is on shaky ground, running on fumes, and dangerously close to rolling off of the rails.
Still, within the low budget home-grown genre arena, you could do much, much worse than Devil’s Tower. It’s a strong enough story given some real effort by the cast and was obviously put together by filmmakers with a love of the genre and the drive to make it work regardless of limitations. This and the lively characters that populate its world make it a worthy option for some undemanding entertainment.
Special features on Monster Pictures’ DVD release of Devil’s Tower include a slideshow of behind-the-scenes photos, a fun but all-too-brief blooper reel mainly populated by Jason Mewes’ requisite ad-libbing and goofing off, a strong commentary track by director Owen Tooth and writer Adam Marsh that proves packed with tales from the set and well worth the time to listen to, and finally, trailers for Devil’s Tower and a selection of Monster Pictures’ other releases.
• Audio Commentary
• Behind-the-Scenes Gallery
• Trailer Selection