First off let me warn you that my review of Treehouse – the film by London born director Michael Bartlett, and featuring (to use the word ‘starring’ would give the cast too much credit) Dana Melanie, J. Michael Trautmann and Daniel Fredrick – contains some spoilers. However, considering that overall the film is about as frightening as an episode of Scooby Doo, it’s probably pretty safe to say what I like without ruining anyone’s enjoyment.
Through a series of tragic events teenagers Elizabeth (Melanie) and Killian (Trautmann) find themselves taking refuge in a house built high in the treetops of a local forest. Somewhere below someone, or something, is prowling amongst the surrounding woodland. Waiting, patiently, until the time is right …….
I think it should be established from the outset that modern film releases fall into two distinct categories – those for cinema distribution and those which go straight to DVD. Generally – though not always – films in the second category are of lesser quality: let’s be honest, anything worth its salt usually warrants some kind of big screen release no matter how limited this may be. All this means that when sitting down to watch a film which is receiving its debut on DVD, the viewer already has in the back of their mind the fact that this is something which will most likely not be contending for any gongs in next year’s award’s season. It’s perhaps unjust to dismiss out-of-hand everything which falls into this grouping: sometimes even films released straight to DVD have some redeeming features – either story, acting or cinematography. On the whole though, it’s a pretty safe bet that entries in this category deserve only the most cursory of viewings.
Which brings us to Treehouse.
Referring to this film as a horror movie is somewhat misleading on the part of the filmmakers. Admittedly there are a few half hearted attempts at raising some chills, however these are pretty sub-standard even where the oversaturated market for mass produced fright films is concerned. Having three redneck, hillbilly brothers (at least one presumes they’re brothers, though this is never actually spelt out) chase you through the woods brandishing assorted knives and sawn-off shotguns, is nothing new. Certainly their appearance here does not qualify as horrific, leaving much to be desired in the light of such characters having previously been done much more effectively in classics like Deliverance (1972), The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and I Spit on Your Grave (1978).
As for Elizabeth and Killian, whose ordeal you imagine is intended to make you feel sympathy for them – well, you don’t. Despite writers Alex Child and Miles Harrington’s obvious attempts to inject interest into them by fleshing out their backstories (in particular Killian’s) – the duo are so lifeless that by the end you will have given up caring what happens to them. Their final scenes – if you make it that far – though clearly meant to show them as toughened young adults pushed to extremes by their experiences, are more likely to have you smirking with embarrassed amusement than quaking with fear and terror at what they have become.
The film’s other standout out factor – which is both disappointing and puzzling – is the brief appearance of the ‘treehouse’ at the centre of the action. Considering the film gets its name from the said abode, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it would play a major role in the proceedings. Suffice to say that it’s woeful underuse simply adds to the film’s catalogue of disappointments.
In Treehouse‘s favour it is beautifully shot, with a hazy, slightly clouded palette of natural, earthy tones, which add to feeling of the wild outdoors that permeates the film. Unfortunately this is not enough to save an exercise which you may well question whether it deserves the credit of any kind of release, even if it’s only straight to DVD.