NB: slight spoiler warning.
An entry in the surprisingly persistent strain of ‘broken Britain’ horror cinema, this almost conflates the premises of Attack the Block and F as gang-members on the run-down Hallows Estate – in the parliamentary constituency of Haddonfield – are assailed by sack-headed, silent, determined invaders whose coming on Halloween is presaged by sinister graffiti. Roman (Lenox Kambaba), just promised to local Top Dog because the former gang leader has been hospitalised after a mystery beating, thinks a new gang wants the turf and has fantasies of fighting back … but his ex-girlfriend Cassie (Sarah Akokhia), who has left to go to college and is only in the game out of concern for her younger brother Darren (Ethan Taylor), thinks that there’s more going on than he can see. The early stages of the film lay on the council estate miseries, and drop conspiratorial hints about new housing developments that would replace a derelict but listed factory if it happened to burn down by accident – while a series of concerned or disapproving adults (cops, parents, social worker, amateur neighbourhood watch) are clearly on the point of giving up on their kids altogether.
As is often the case, the attempt to show the suppressed potential of the kids – Ethan is a possible artist, another kid raps tolerably, two girls are loyal friends – rings less true than the anti-social behaviour and the simmering resentment Roman feels that Cassie has abandoned him as well as the no-hope hood. As in Brad Watson’s previous Asylum Night, much of the plot takes place over one long night in one big building as the teens are dragged by the sackheads into the abandoned factory and chased around and killed, in what turn out to be ways that tie in with their specific previous crimes (a girl whose abandoned needle poisoned a child is given an overdose, etc) and prompt revelations of more serious mischief than even Cassie expected. The logic is a bit fuzzy – the former gang-boss, who surely must have been worse than his not-all-that-committed followers (the cheery short kid who just wants to join up, for instance), is only hospitalised while lesser troublemakers are killed. The ending is set up as a shock but heavily foreshadowed – under the hoods are all the adults of the estate, including (in a far-fetched bit) the parents of the victims, who want to clean house after appalling crimes but have credibly varied reactions to their own actions the next morning.
For the vigilante scheme to work, one has to be left alive to tell the tale – an interesting rationale for the final girl convention – though there’s a last-minute bit of self-sacrifice that means it’s not the obvious survivor type who walks away. Like many of these films (Tower Block, Demons Never Die, Comedown, Wilderness, Community), it is torn between editorial – a recurring image in the genre is the assembly of clippings of credible bad news and hewing to genre conventions: this plays a lot with its Halloween references, hinting at a possible gang of Michael Myers types (which, admittedly, is Assault on Precinct 13) and staging several pastiche or parody shots which evoke John Carpenter’s world.