Director: Michael Bartlett
Written by: Alex Child, Miles Harrington
Starring: Dana Melanie, J. Michael Trautmann
Run Time: 95 mins
UK Release 20th October 2014 from Signature Entertainment
Brothers Killian (Trautmann) and Crawford (Daniel Fredrick) break curfew and head to an isolated forest for a night of fun. There they discover an old tree house and inside find Elizabeth (Melanie), alone, injured and terrified. Together they must fight an extraordinary evil.
I had low expectations for this film, having not enjoyed the director’s previous work all that much. But it’s fair to say that Treehouse honestly surprised me and I ended up really enjoying it.
First and foremost it’s a beautiful film with gorgeous cinematography, it looks like something that has come from a big Hollywood studio. The aerial shots are a particular stand out for me; reminiscent of the opening shots of The Shining they sweep across the landscape showing off the locations in all their glory. The director has really come a long way from the gritty found footage look of The Zombie Diaries.
The cast are fantastic, especially the impressive young leads, Dana Melanie and J. Michael Trautmann. In lesser actors hands these characters could have been portrayed as the typical clichéd horror movie teenagers but instead we are given engaging, believable and vulnerable performances, which in turn leads us to really care about the characters and their fates. The supporting cast, what little we actually see of them, are all superb too.
The story is a simple one but it works, the film could have suffered from a convoluted plot and too many twists and turns but instead chooses to focus on the characters and is all the better for it.
The atmosphere is very tense and there are plenty of slow and suspenseful moments that filled me with dread. There are some genuinely terrifying moments too; one in particular involving a walkie-talkie freaked me out completely. There is little blood or gore in the film, often the violence and kills happen off screen and it completely works, showing us that brutality doesn’t necessarily have to be seen to be harrowing.
The score, for the most part, is great. It’s slow and foreboding in nature, really complimenting with what we are seeing on screen. There are a couple of misfires with the soundtrack though, a few songs that seem to be a fusion of metal and dubstep creep in and really don’t fit with the tone of the film.
The locations are uncluttered and feel natural; they never become distracting and really fit well with the simple nature of the story. The use of effects, although sparse, is also handled really well. It is often difficult to tell which effects are practical and which are computer generated.
Unfortunately all of the suspense, slow burning tension and mystery are lost in the third act when the film somehow stumbles into The Hills Have Eyes/Wrong Turn territory. It’s an unwise move; it removes all the intrigue surrounding the central villains and doesn’t really gel with the rest of the film.
The film also ends rather abruptly, it is supposed to serve as a vague and open ending, left to our imaginations to finish the story but it instead it came across like the filmmakers either couldn’t think of a satisfying conclusion or simply ran out of money and had to wrap things up quickly.
Despite these flaws Treehouse is a pretty solid horror film, it’s a shame it’s been relegated to a straight-to-DVD release as I feel with the right marketing and a nationwide cinema release this could have been an unexpected hit, hopefully, with time, it will gain a large cult audience because it deserves to be seen.
So if you’re looking for blood and gore or jump scares then go elsewhere but if you’re looking for a genuinely creepy and tense horror thriller then you should really check this out.