Devil’s Tower Premiere, Manchester Dancehouse, September 10th. Part of Grimmfest 2014.
As far as independent British horror flicks go, Devil’s Tower was an intriguing prospect to say the least. Any film that can boast a cast list as random as to include Jason Mewes (the erstwhile ‘Jay’ of legendary movie pairing Jay and Silent Bob), Roxanne Pallet off of Emmerdale and Frances Ruffelle, known for, amongst other things, being Eliza Doolittle’s mum, has to be worth a watch, surely?
The essential problem was that, rather than glorying in its self-evident obscurity from the outset, the film instead went for straight melodrama in what made for a tedious opening 45 minutes. Mewes’ character, Sid, felt crowbarred into the plot and, as it turns out, he actually was. Director, Owen Tooth, explained later that a large portion of the budget had originally been set aside for Sean Bean to take the main role of caretaker, Carnacki. However, Game of Thrones made Bean unaffordable so Mewes was drafted in at short notice and the (now unfeasibly stateside) role of Sid was elevated.
Having said all this, once the movie dispensed with the painful process of character set up, everything seemed to settle down into exactly what a low budget horror should be – funny, violent and tongue in cheek.
Based in a dingy tower block, the story was admirably original. The inhabitants (even the recently deceased ones) find their actions being psychically controlled by a wonderfully ghoulish entity on the top floor. Visually excellent, the culmination of the action – as the protagonists attempt to fight their way out of the building through the ever-swelling ranks of zombies – is extremely well-rendered. Mewes and Pallett are at their most comfortable by far when overacting amongst the lashings of blood and guts.
Once the film decides that it wants to be a romp, the final half becomes a thoroughly enjoyable, and well deserved, pay off which delivers gory and gratuitous lolz.
Following the screening we chatted with both director, Owen Tooth, and the film’s writer Adam Marsh. Asked about Jason Mewes’ contribution to the project, Adam told us,
“Jason brought a lot of the comedy to the table, he ad libs like crazy. A lot of the weird little one-liners were just his. He was amazing to work with. He was shouting lines from Street Fighter during filming all the time. So he’d be doing a fight scene and shouting “Hadouken!” and we were telling him that we would have to cut that out.”
Owen Tooth added,
“What you see on the screen is pretty much him, that’s just how he is. The second we called “cut” he would be dry humping someone, or something. He drinks a lot of Red Bull. His rider for the shoot was just Red Bull, he’d get through 14 or 15 cans of it a day!”
As the movie’s ‘baddies’ are never explicitly categorized, to call Devil’s Tower a ‘zombie flick’ would be slightly erroneous, so how would the writer and director describe their film’s subgenre?
“It’s funny because, until filming started, the word ‘zombie’ was never actually used. The idea came from the Carol Morley documentary, Dreams of A Life, in which a woman died and was left in her home for 4 years, completely forgotten about.” explained Adam, before Owen continued,
“Our idea in the run up to the film was that they weren’t zombies, they were corpses who were possessed – almost like puppets. I saw the film listed online as a zombie apocalypse movie and I thought, “It’s just set in one tower block. How is that the apocalypse?” It’s not the apocalypse and it’s not really about zombies. It’s essentially a ghost story and it’s about the main character, Sarah (Pallett) and her anger at her abusive mother (Ruffelle). But I guess ‘zombie’ is a useful shorthand – and zombie movies sell!”
Devil’s Tower is out on DVD and Blu Ray from Monday.
For more info on Grimmfest 2014 visit Grimmfest.com