FrightFest 2012: Tower Block
Decent thriller that suffers from one or two missteps.
This year’s festival closer, Tower Block, is an homage to vintage Carpenter that very much wears its influences on its sleeve, has a decent stab at tension but suffers from a few issues that prevent it from really hitting the mark regularly enough.
The inhabitants of the top floor of a council block in London are awaiting re-housing, being the last to be evicted, when a mysterious figure in the opposite block opens fire with a military-grade sniper rifle, killing seemingly indiscriminately as the survivors are forced to band together and attempt to escape.
The setting does work, with co-directors James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson wringing enough tension from the tight corridors and poky rooms, with windows and doors becoming frightening deathtraps from early on – a decent device that keeps things interesting. There is a claustrophobia in place as the characters struggle to find a way out, although they do take a suspiciously long time to figure out some fairly obvious escape routes.
The cast are a mixed bunch – Russell Tovey pops up in a babbling turn as an alcoholic resident, a second poor performance of FrightFest for the Being Human star, but there are two very clear stand-out appearances here. Sheridan Smith goes action star in a likable shift, proving an energetic and sympathetic lead, but Jack O’Connell is perhaps the pick of the bunch. Playing a despicable drug dealer, O’Connell takes the character on an unbelievably sweeping arc, packing in a lot of work in such a tight running time as he takes the audience on a fun chase, trying to nail down just what we make of this toerag.
There are some nice touches on the make-up front too, as the film gets pleasingly gruey, but the film ends on such a bum note as to undermine the tension that has gone before. A reveal so telegraphed you can tell what will happen and why inside the first 15 minutes, it’s a rare misstep from talented writer James Moran. A decent attempt at replicating what made Carpenter classics such as Assault on Precinct 13 great, but Tower Block doesn’t quite work well enough to be truly memorable.