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Exclusive: Dread Central Chats with Cherry Tree Lane Director Paul Andrew Williams

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Out today on DVD is Cherry Tree Lane, a home invasion thriller written and directed by Paul Andrew Williams (The Cottage) that follows a seemingly ordinary couple through one terrifying night after they’re taken hostage by a gang who has a beef to settle with their teenage son.

Dread Central had the chance to jump on the phone with Williams earlier today to talk about Cherry Tree Lane and what inspired his take on the modern home invasion subgenre. Williams also discussed his experiences working with his cast while filming the indie project over two weeks and why it’s the violence you don’t see that he finds far more terrifying than obvious gore shots a lot of horror movies rely on these days.

Check out the highlights from our exclusive chat with Williams below, and look for Cherry Tree Lane out on DVD now courtesy of Image Entertainment.

Dread Central: Can you talk about what inspired you to write a home invasion story?

Paul Andrew Williams: Well, I made the movie about four years ago now, and the one thing I’ve always tried to do is not follow all the trends out there; I know a lot of people have called our movie “hoodie horror,” which is in reference to a lot of those movies about violent youth here, but that wasn’t something I was aware of really. So I never really tried to think of Cherry Tree Lane as a horror movie- I knew it had horrific elements, but my focus was more on the story more so than getting it to fit inside a label.

Dread Central: What inspired you to do a movie that takes place sort of in ‘real time’? Did that present any difficulties in regards to your own style of storytelling?

Paul Andrew Williams: Not really; I really thought the idea of presenting this story in real time gave the film a very realistic feel because you’re just following these people over the course of an hour or so. In that kind of time people don’t change, and they certainly don’t grow as people, which is something you often see in these kinds of projects. That’s not what I wanted to do; in reality when there are these kind of situations (home invasions), those stories aren’t like the typical Hollywood story that unfolds with some great heroic moments- they’re just awful moments that could also be considered somewhat ‘mundane’ in comparison.

I also wanted the audience to feel like they were trapped there with Rachael [Blake] and Tom’s [Butcher] characters, wondering just what it was these kids ultimately wanted, all while letting that uncomfortableness of their presence settle in throughout that hour. Strangers watching your TV or mulling through your belongings? Not scary. Strangers watching your TV and looking at your stuff while you’re bound and gagged on the floor? Now that’s terrifying.

Dread Central: You chose to have a lot of the violence in Cherry Tree Hill take place off-camera; was that a budgetary consideration or was it more of a stylistic choice for you?

Paul Andrew Williams: Maybe a bit of both, but it was more about just telling the story and not relying on violence to do that. And for me, I just really don’t get much enjoyment out of watching people being brutalized in film either so I didn’t want to really do that in here. It just didn’t fit the approach we were going for.

When you look at a movie like John Carpenter’s The Thing and how gory and gross it is (which is great), that kind of gore serves that story. It makes sense and it had purpose. That kind of gore didn’t make sense for me and it didn’t really serve any purpose either. The reactions in this movie are what really sells that story- seeing someone else’s pain when someone they love is taken away and raped and there’s nothing they can do to stop it, that’s just horrific to me.

Exclusive: Dread Central Chats with Cherry Tree Lane Director Paul Andrew Williams

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The Open House Review – Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here

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Starring Dylan Minnette, Piercey Dalton, Patricia Bethune, Sharif Atkins

Written by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote

Directed by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote


Mere weeks, even days, after effusively beating Netflix’s original horror content drum (The Babysitter, Before I Wake, Creep 2), I’m here to confirm that The Open House is emptier than an vacant bomb shelter. Cold, unappealing and thoughtlessly plotted to the point where “generic” would have been an improvement. From the moment we’re welcomed into Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote’s scripted imprisonment, it’s nothing but loose floorboards and busted plumbing. The home invasion genre has rarely been navigated with such little attention to detail, asking for our suspension of coherent storytelling early, often, and without earning the right to be deemed mindless genre fun. Not even Ty Pennington could save this extreme renovation disaster.

Dylan Minnette plays Logan Wallace, a track star and student who must find closure after watching his father fall victim to a fatal car accident. It is his mother Naomi’s (Piercey Dalton) idea to spend a little time away from their suburban home – escape those painful memories – so they retreat to her sister’s luxurious mountain getaway. The catch? It’s in the process of being sold and open houses are on the regular, so Naomi and Logan must vacate their temporary premises on certain days. It’s after one of these very showings that Logan begins to notice slight changes around the house, and he fears that an unwanted visitor may be in their midst. Guess what? He’s right.

To understand how little The Open House cares about conscious blueprinting, just read the poster’s tagline. “You can’t lock out what’s already inside” – right, but you could have prevented them from coming in, or checked the house to make sure they weren’t squatting, or explored numerous other possibilities to avoid this scenario. The mansion’s realtor allows prospective buyers to come and go but it’s not her job to make sure no one’s hiding in the basement? Naomi can’t even keep track of the *single* visitor she lets look around the house? It’s infuriating to see so many people neglect safety out of forced coincidence because the script couldn’t rationalize the killer’s entry any other way – a confounding strike one.

This is also a film that admits no reasoning for why its own murderer has targeted the Wallaces, or why he stokes a violent fetish when it comes to open houses. We never actually see his face, just his imposing handyman-looking attire, nor do we savor any kind of tangible backstory (his family died during their own open house and he suffered a psychotic breakdown – just give me *something*). His undefined form never demands curiosity like John Carpenter’s “The Shape” once did, because scripting is nothing more than bullet notes for basic horror movie necessities. Here he is, your bad guy – too bad he’s introduced without fear, handled without originality and unable to characterize beyond torturous kidnapper dotted lines. He’s just, you know, a guy who sneaks into open houses and kills – COMPLETE WITH A FINAL PAN-IN ON AN OPEN HOUSE SIGN WHEN HE MOVES TO HIS NEXT TARGET [eye roll into infinity].

Every scene in The Open House feels like an afterthought. “Ah, we need a way to build tension – how about a senile local woman who lives down the street and wanders aimlessly into frame?” Overplayed and in no way suitable to most her inclusions, but sure. “Oh, and we need inner conflict – what about if the breaker-iner steals Logan’s phone and frames him for later acts?” I mean, didn’t Logan canonically lose his phone even before Naomi’s mid-shower water heater issues – but sure, instant fake tension. “How are people going to believe the killer is always around and never blows his cover – think they’ll just buy it?” No, we don’t. Worse off, his cat-and-mouse game is dully repetitive until a finale that skyrockets intensity with jarring tonal imbalance. This closing, dreadful end without any sort of redemptive quality. More abusive than it is fulfilling.

If there’s anything positive worth conveying, it’s that Minnette does a fine job shuffling around as a character with severe sight impairment. The killer makes a point to remove his contacts as a final “FUCK YOU,” just to toy around a bit more, and Minnette frantically slips or stumbles with nothing more than foggy vision. Otherwise, dialogue finds itself ripped form a billion other straight-to-TV Logo dramas about broken families, no moment ever utilizing horror past a few shadowy forms standing in doorways after oblivious characters turn away. You can’t just take an overused subgenre and sleepwalk through homogenized beats…case and god-forsaken point.

Even as a streamable Netflix watch, The Open House is irredeemable beyond fault. The walls are caving in on this dilapidated excuse for home invasion horror, benefiting not from the star power of a temperamental Dylan Minnette. I have seen most involved players here in far better projects (Minnette’s stock has rightfully been skyrocketing, Matt Angel in The Funhouse Massacre, etc), but this is bargain bin theatrics without a fully formed idea. A nameless villain, doomed nice guy (Sharif Atkins), woefully unaware plot advancement – all the worst cliches found in one rage-quit worthy effort. Anyone who makes it through deserves an award…or a dunce cap.

  • The Open House
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Summary

Unless you’re irrationally afraid of cold showers, The Open House fails to deliver on a premise that can be summed up by no more than two lines of text.

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Michael C. Hall Buried in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary

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Now here’s an audio book we can REALLY get behind! Entertainment Weekly is reporting that former “Dexter” star Michael C. Hall will be narrating the first ever unabridged recording of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. Sometime’s audio is better!

Readers have been asking for this audiobook for a very long time,” Stephen King said in a statement. “I know the listening experience will be worth the wait with Michael as narrator.

We’re thrilled to finally bring Pet Sematary to King’s audiobook fans,” Simon & Schuster Audio president and publisher Chris Lynch added. “Michael C. Hall is a perfect match for this timeless story, which has long deserved an unabridged production.

The unabridged audiobook of Pet Sematary will be released by Simon & Schuster Audio on March 27. Speaking of Hall… you know he would make a pretty friggin’ good casting choice to play Victor Pascow in the upcoming Pet Sematary remake. Just sayin’.

BUY IT NOW!

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Saw-inspired Game Play With Me Sets a Trap on Steam

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Saw fans have a lot to be happy about right now. In addition to Jigsaw being teased for Dead by Daylight, a new Saw-themed game called Play With Me has launched on Steam, and although it’s not officially connected with the franchise in any way, developer Airem promised that they created a videogame which looks and plays as though it were made by Jigsaw himself. As you can tell from the trailer and screenshots, the production values and overall quality of Play With Me appear to be considerably higher than most other indie horror games released on Steam, and you’ll probably be very happy to see that Airem took the time and effort to create stylized hand drawn environments rather than using purchased assets from the Unity Store.

The killer behind the sinister traps in Play With Me is known as the Illusion, with the player taking control of investigative journalist Robert Hawk as he tries to fight his way through a series of sick and twisted obstacles created by the lunatic. The voice acting in the trailer was a little cheesy, although we see at 1:09 that the player will be tasked with using a kitchen knife to cut open a dead body (presumably to retrieve an item hidden in the cadaver’s stomach), which is not an image you’ll be forgetting anytime soon.

IQ Publishing are offering a 15% discount off Play With Me for those who purchase the game before January 24, so Saw fans might want to mark that deadline in their calendars and purchase it from Steam before the time is up. After all, it can’t be worse than Konami’s awful official Saw videogames.

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