After narrowly escaping a lengthy prison term, Karl and his father Bill return to the family home in suburban Brighton and attempt to figure out who the informant in their midst is and what to do about it.
Laced with a heavy dose of acerbic wit, black humour and an overall downbeat-ness, Down Terrace documents a week in the life of a close-knit criminal family. Set almost solely in the familial abode, we are witness to the comings and goings of various suspect friends and associates, Karl’s psychotic outbursts/tantrums, ex-hippie Bill’s fond reminiscences of the ’60s & acoustic folk jams, and some nasty acts of violence.
Along with not being set in London – as is the trend with the recent glut of British crime flicks – it it also the family dynamic and lack of action that sets this apart from the herd. The fixed location and often hand-held camerawork transform this into a tense, claustrophobic drama spiced with the odd bit of ultra-violence. In reality it has more in common with the “kitchen sink” aesthetic of Ken Loach or Mike Leigh than the likes of Guy Ritchie.
There is no glitz and glamour to be seen here: 34-year-old Karl is constantly picked on by his Dad, even more so when an ex-girlfriend appears saying she’s pregnant with his child. There is non-stop domestic bickering with an undercurrent of plotting and paranoia that has everyone on edge. And when the brutality hits, it is often completely unexpected and has that much more power. Another facet that adds a feeling of realism to the proceedings is the fact that Bill and Karl are real-life father and son and the house the film’s shot in is their family home.
Down Terrace manages to break free from its budgetary restraints by relying on superior acting abilities, an understated, believable plot-line, and loads of grim humour. Dead bodies are casually regarded with little more than bemusement by these cold-hearted killers, yet Karl will bellow for his Mum the instant he can’t locate something in his messy room.
Many familiar faces from Brit comedy appear throughout the goings-on as well: Julia Deakin (Spaced, Shaun of the Dead) is chillingly convincing as the family matriarch, Michael Smiley (Spaced, Wire in the Blood) brilliantly portrays an enthusiastic yet inept hit-man, and David Schaal (The Inbetweeners) is Eric the disposer.
Extras-wise the most interesting thing is an extended scene in which Bill talks about his days as an acid-head in the ’60s. There’s also a bizarre extra scene with Bill, a toad and a saucer of milk. The rest of the special features mainly consist of camera/acting tests and an 8 minute “stunt wizards” short where Robin Hill (Karl) and a friend demonstrate their FX/stunt expertise, which often end in horrific accidents.
- Acting test: Bill and Karl
- Camera test: Like father like son
- Extend scene: Bill talks about the 60s
- Extra scene: Bill and the toad
- The Amazing Wizards!!! stunt team sketches
- Theatrical trailer
Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.