Labelled as a horror this film doesn’t work, I’d happily review it better if it was a psychological thriller but even then a lot of the story building is quite dull. It’s annoying though, because the beginning and the initial set up in the wooden tree top hideaway makes you think you’re in for a treat of a horror film, but no.
Brothers Crawford (Daniel Fredrick) and Killian (J. Michael Trautmann) decide to go out of the city limits on finding out the usual fair has been cancelled due to recent kidnappings. Though their plans of meeting with friends for fireworks, fun and frolics quickly vanishes when the others don’t show, so they stick to brotherly bonding instead and happen upon a tree house where they find a bloodied and shaken girl called Elizabeth (Dana Melanie) whose little brother is the subject of the recent kidnap crime. Night’s fallen and the three of them are stuck in the woods with the criminals out there watching their every move.
The cinematography of it all is very good, framings and scenery are all caught in crisp and hollow detail really making these woods stand out as twisted, gnarled and creepy. J. Christopher Campbell is the cinematographer and it’s evident he has an eye for setting up shots to work in this horror setting. The open door of the tree house with its slanted moonlit glow casting limited light into the entrapping hut is a lovely central shot for a long time as Elizabeth and Killian interact.
Sadly the majority of the film never dazzles, there’s no grand spark to emulate the fireworks that the brothers set off. The killing kidnappers are never truly threatening as we know nothing of them and see nothing of them til right near the end, the relationship between Elizabeth and Killian becomes obvious and uninteresting and their survival chance is something you begin to care less about. It’s really not a horror, I am one that finds horrors playing too much on gore and jump scares pathetic and unscary but a good horror needs to be tense, shocking and creepy and ‘Treehouse’ never concretely ticks any of these boxes.
It’s an interesting and atmospheric opening, the sunlit trees with the shadow of a man or creature, you don’t know at the point for sure, makes for fantastic foundations but soon it begins to crumble as characters die leaving two left and the two aren’t in any way interesting enough to warrant the screen time they have. Flashbacks thrown in to the writing pot work for later purposes in Killian’s defending stance but apart from that they’re another thing dragging the film down. It doesn’t need to cut back to the flashback at one point in the climax as the audience are smart enough to get the parallel being used.
I appreciate the small budget, small scale idea of director Michael G. Bartlett’s vision but it doesn’t suffice or appetize and I feel only a select small few would really like this movie. There’s just not much in the way of scares, it’s just moody and something as plain as that isn’t worth unless you have an amazing pay off, which this film doesn’t really. There is no wrap up and the open ending is sort of okay but it feels like a stupid religious note of deus ex machina to help them along in some Bonnie and Clyde moment of forced romance. Odd.
A less than overwhelming movie that somehow falls into the horror genre thanks to some effective blood work, prime nightmare location and killings but the tension is missing along with shocks, chills and excitement. Average at best.