Title cards inform the audience that although once described as popular living thanks to the views they afforded, tower blocks have now become a breeding ground for crime and violence. Tower Block tells the story of the top floor residence of Serenity House, one such high rise, and their battle for survival from a relentless unknown killer.
Tower Block begins with a graphic portrayal of violence, a teenager being beaten in the dank corridor of Serenity House as the residents passively look on through peepholes. This is undoubtedly a not so subtle comment on society’s tendency to turn a blind eye, to protect oneself before protecting others. The moral of the film is firmly etched in concept of the three wise monkeys, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
When Sheridan Smith’s Becky eventually decides to help the boy, she is left brutally beaten. The residents are later informed that the boy was beaten to death, but all choose to remain silent, refusing to speak to the police for fear of their own safety.
In what is undoubtedly the film’s show piece scene, a sniper takes out the residents of Serenity house one flat at a time, and those remaining must put their differences aside and work together in order to survive. Even within the small group of survivors, the divisions are evident, and the judgements that people cast on each other remain.
While directors James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson succeed in creating a claustrophobic atmosphere, drenched in concrete greys and covered in graffiti, Tower Block is let down by a somewhat underdeveloped script and lack of any real character development.
Smith departs from her usual comic turn and does the best she can within the limited confines of the script, as does Russell Tovey who is severely deprived of screen time. While the credits may read ‘and Jack O’Connell’, this is very much his show. Putting on his best swagger, it is he who both has, and delivers the best lines and generates the most laughs from an audience. His character is given the most room for development, from aggressor to protector to vulnerable victim, albeit within the confines of James Moran’s limited script.
Tower Block touches on some interesting societal concepts, such as the nature of hypocrisy, mourning those that we had previously judged, and the idea of who is culpable of a crime, the person who commits said crime, or the person who does nothing to stop it? In one particularly resonant scene, O’Connell’s character acknowledges that he had done a bad thing, but that doesn’t make it wrong.
While Tower block doesn’t quite pack the punch that it seeks to on the decaying morals of society, it did end to rapturous applause as it closed FrightFest 13th and that’s no small feat.
Vicki has awarded Tower Block three Torches of Truth.