Cherry Tree (2015)
Starring Anna Walton, Naomi Battrick, Sam Hazeldine, Patrick Gibson
Directed by David Keating
Wake Wood director David Keating returns to small-town supernatural horror with his sophomore effort, Cherry Tree. Following the disappearance of her hockey coach, 15-year-old Faith (Battrick) quickly becomes enamoured with the stand-in tutor – the alluring Sissy (Walton).
Becoming embroiled with the overly familiar teacher proves a mistake, however, as Sissy is in fact the leader of a local witches’ coven – a group who perform their ceremonies in the catacombs directly beneath the town’s massive cherry tree and utilise giant centipedes, rather than the customary black cats, as their familiars.
Given that Faith’s beloved father is slowly losing his ongoing battle with leukemia, it’s only natural that a devilish bargain should find its way into the equation here – and soon Sissy offers Faith the chance to see her dad magically cured if, in return, she carries a baby for the witches.
And then things get very, very silly indeed.
As Faith’s baby grows inside her at an impossible rate, demonic centipedes burrow into bodies and the sadistic witches set about murdering anyone who threatens to stand in the way of their hell-raising plans – including, of course, Faith and her father when the former decides to renege on her pact.
The effectively brooding build-up (including a great red herring opening) becomes a flabbergasting train wreck of pantomime proportions. Attempts at shock fall woefully flat (one death by head-burning is laughably under-cooked – pun intended) as the overwrought, incongruous score attempts to convince that every single shot is of cataclysmic importance.
The final act transforms into a muddled grab-bag of ideas as Walton chews the scenery to shreds – only ever one theatrical wide-eyed stare away from becoming a total caricature as the preposterously one-note dialogue bewilders and amuses in equal measure.
Finally, the climactic sequence beneath the tree doesn’t so much throw in the kitchen sink as rip it from the wall, smash it to pieces, urinate all over the fragments and attempt to duct-tape it back together before throwing it in. It is, quite frankly, utterly bonkers – all restraint chucked straight out the window in an absurd, woefully edited string of sequences that leads to a groan-inducing final stinger straight out of the DVD bargain bin.
And that’s where Cherry Tree belongs. Compared to the well balanced, creeping horror of Wake Wood, this is amateur hour in the extreme. If there’s anything positive to be said about it, Cherry Tree does bust out some rather impressive physical effects work on occasion, and the lack of sexualisation of the coven is a nice touch. Battrick carries the film capably and manages not to embarrass herself completely amidst the torrential nonsense.
But is that worth suffering the trip down this particular rabbit hole of absurdity?
No. No, it isn’t.