Film4 Frightfest the 13th – Day 5
#23 – Tower Block
First-time directors James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson channel their inner-John Carpenter in Tower Block, a brisk, bare-bones thriller that asks you to check logic at the door and buy unwaveringly into its premise. Redevelopers are preparing to destroy a tower block after it has become a breeding ground for violent crime, and the top floor of residents are the last to be re-housed. However, priorities shift once those residents are targeted by an extremely well-trained sniper, picking off the residents one at a time. Moreover, the assailant has thought of every possible contingency; every exit is either blocked or rigged with a deadly trap. For Becky (Sheridan Smith) and the others, escape will be anything but easy.
Tower Block is an admirably short affair – unsurprising given its singular location – although does still take a good 20-or-so minutes to break into its actual premise; rather, plenty of time – and indeed, too much – is spent introducing us to the various dull stock characters, who are soon to be splattered by high-calibre bullets anyway. Once the mayhem kicks off, the residents, ranging from chavvy single mothers to old married couples, are picked off with violent efficiency, though it better resembles the unfussed simplicity of a slasher film rather than the nuanced thrills of something like Assault on Precinct 13. Contrivance is also an issue; the various means through which the residents are trapped is both unintentionally funny and ludicrously unconvincing, while the discussion of motive only stifles the tension that should be inherent in a situation like this.
Characters frequently act with head-smacking stupidity, and this makes it difficult to become invested in what is taking place; notably, one woman who has been previously shot at runs back into her room to grab her baby, and is, of course, shot and killed. The final third becomes a little more interesting as the characters arrive at a strategic decision they should have made hours ago and probably saved a lot more lives, but the subsequent climactic reveal of the antagonist along with their motives feels incredibly forced and borderline nonsensical. Though there is definitely an Attack the Block vibe at work here, what with the antisocial “yoof” character, Kurtis (Jack O’Connell), proving to be both the funniest and most heroic character, the bland directness of the script works against his admirable efforts to give the film some much-needed flavour. The interesting premise is undermined at every turn by idiotic characters and overwhelming contrivance.
Tower Block is in cinemas September 21st.
And that’s Frightfest for another year! Though many commented that this year’s selection had a higher incidence of truly horrible films than in recent years, we were still treated to a number of superb horrors well worth checking out when they finally get released, and also a couple of terrible films that provided superb unintentional amusement. As always, the Frightfest after-party at the Phoenix Artist’s Club is a must for those who can stay awake, as you’re always likely to find various films’ cast and crew milling about, as I did, bumping into both Katharine Isabelle and The Soska Sisters numerous times. Here’s to another Frightfest; the most sheer fun you’ll have at a film festival in the UK.