Cherry Tree Lane (2010) Review by: Shawn Savage

“Cherry Tree Lane” is going to split audiences. It’s being sold as an entry into the torture genre, and being compared to the likes of Funny Games, but truth be told, it’s everything but. A solid script, grounded in reality, and some immaculate cinematography elevate this to the top of the pack when it comes to films of the like.

The story focuses on a normal family, settling in after a long day at work to dinner in front of the TV. Soon, a buzz of the doorbell will change their lives forever. A group of teenage thugs have forced their way into the couples home, and are holding them at gunpoint. Apparently, their son has snitched on one of their friends, causing him to go to prison, and they’re there to show him how they feel about that.

The difference between “Cherry Tree Lane” and other home invasion movies, is that here, they aren’t trying to distract you by gratuitous displays of crimson brutality. Instead of concentrating on the carnage, the director opts to focus on the reaction of the other person as they listen in horror to the things being done to their loved one in the background. In a lot of ways, this makes the film more heart wrenching than any gore could have. One scene in particular that stuck with me after the film was over, was a scene where one of the characters is trying to sneak up the stairs, once he nears the top, he can hear the invaders describing what they are doing in the distance. This was an extremely effective sequence, and it really disturbed me.

One of the most impressive aspects of this film is the camera work. Some will certainly find it to bee too artsy, and most probably won’t even notice, but for me, it added an extra layer of efficacy to an already sumptuous presentation. As the film opens, the camera focuses on a boiling pot from behind the stove. Out of focus down a hallways is one of the main characters, you can faintly hear her talking on the phone. This may sound unnecessary on paper, but I felt it was astonishingly implemented. The unique camera tricks and angles continue throughout the picture. A decent amount of otherwise competently filmed movies are held back by their bland, by the numbers presentation. I get so tired of films deploying the same style, the same quick cut MTV style editing, the same cinematography, lacking creativity, or even decent set design. A keen eye for detail will stand out amongst the other tripe, at least amongst some circles of moviegoers.

I’m from the states, so I’m a bit clueless as to the “Chav” phenomenon. I have no way to tell whether or not the performances are authentic. I do know, as an avid follower of film, that the performances in “Cherry Tree Lane” were realistic enough to give me chills. In most films of this nature, the antagonists are always menacing, and written to be clearly evil. This time around, the characters were written with almost a layer of innocence. Yes, they are committing an unspeakable act, but they seem completely unaware of this fact. The time spent waiting on their intended victim to return home is mostly spent eating, watching TV, getting stoned, and making personal phone calls. You really get the sense that these kids were never taught the difference between right and wrong.

One thing I can’t be clear enough on, is that if you go into this film expecting a gorefest, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Brutal, disturbing things happen in this movie, but as mentioned before, instead of focusing on the violence, “Cherry Tree Lane” focuses more on the emotional distress caused by the violence. Most of the time filmmakers, and often critics will explain away their cut-away method of handling on-screen violence by saying “What you don’t see is scarier”. While I can generally agree with this point to a degree, I feel a lot of the time it’s a cop-out. A means to justify your lack of ability to perform solid special effects. I can honestly say that I didn’t feel that way about this film. The way in which the violence is handled, is not only disturbing, but utterly haunting. It takes talent for a director to take a sub-genre of film that’s been done to death(Especially in recent years) and make it feel wholly unique. I feel that this has been accomplished, and I commend director Paul Andrew Williams(The Cottage) for putting together such a masterfully crafted entry into the genre.

After taking a look at the fall line-up of theatrically released movies, I’ve never been so thankful for the indie scene. If it were not for their efforts, this October would be loaded down with ho-hum popcorn affairs such as yet another entry into the “Saw” series, and the sequel to what I feel was last years most overrated film.(Paranormal Activity). If you can’t stomach the thought of Jiggsaw killing people from beyond the grave, or staring at a surveillance camera for another 90 minutes, do yourself a favor and skip it. There are plenty of things being dumped on DVD this October that are far more appealing.