The action is confined almost exclusively to one claustrophobic suburban house, where shiftless, insular dope dealers Karl (co-writer Robin Hill) and his petulant, paranoid dad, Bill (a stunning first-time performance from Hill’s father, Robert), are facing trouble with the law and a snitch in their midst. Everyone is in the frame: brooding matriarch Maggie (Julia Deakin), chubby, avuncular neighbour Garvey (Tony Way) and sadistic Irish thug Pringle (Michael Smiley) are all called upon to explain their actions, leading to rows, recriminations and, inevitably, bloodshed. Lots of it.
What director Ben Wheatley and his writing partner, Hill – veterans of TV comedy shows like ‘Time Trumpet’ – manage to achieve in ‘Down Terrace’ is a mounting, sickening sense of a world in freefall, where morality has been compromised to the point of meaninglessness and where distrust leads to murder, even within the family unit. And while this does result in a few berserk plot diversions, particularly in the final act, Wheatley and Hill establish such an oppressive mood and construct their characters so meticulously that even in its most extreme moments, the film remains engrossing, not to mention consistently funny and even, at times, rather sweet.