CHERRY TREE LANE
My main gripe that bugged me throughout the watch of this british horror by London to Brighton director Paul Andrew Williams, is the tag that this is the new Eden Lake, when the obvious influence throughout is of Funny Games and being one of the biggest fans of that Michael Haneke film, I felt at times this went against the best attentions of this film.
Cherry Tree Lane is the new wave of horror that sees home invasion the main thrust of the plot. Gone are the days when Blonde Virgins would get slaughtered by a masked fiend while the viewer could sit back and enjoy the dumbness. It seems those days are a distant memory and even the recent craze of going on holiday and meeting danger has been replaced by the terrible thought that not leaving your home can bring your death. The French classic IIs has been the benchmark for all things homely, and with last years other French horror Inside taking things to extreme, the only non foreign film to really stand out is The Strangers, which was effective from start to finish. Cherry Tree Lane has all the hallmarks of a fantastic horror, there are some ingenious decisions by Williams that raises the film to a massive highlight, it has a mean lean running time of only 77 minutes, a performance of utter evil by Jumayan Hunter who plays leader Rian in which I am telling you, will hate from start to finish, so why can you sense a massive “but!” coming, because if you have seen the films I have mentioned like IIs and co, then all what happens in Cherry Lane will not come has a surprise.
To show this point, just look at the start. A married couple with problems, sit down for dinner, its 7:52 pm, they talk with what seems hostile tones, there is a knock on the door, you can overhear this boy asking if their son Sebastian is in, (he is not!), the mother sits back down, the hostile environment continues, until there is another knock on the door and before you can shout Funny Games, the house is invaded by three boys who beat and tie up the Dad, and threaten the mother with violence if she screams. Its a set piece design that has became the norm in recent times, even Martyrs riffed on it at the beginning with the family sitting down for breakfast before that mad french chick came calling. Only recent another British horror and the much superior The Torment had a best friend ringing the bell, bringing a whole sense of trouble. Who needs to pack a bag these days and head off to places like Camp Crystal Lake. Horror is where the home is, and like all the rest Cherry Tree is not going to be pretty.
The basic plot which to be honest is not hardly a head scratcher, is that these three hoodlums are there to sort out their grass of a son who is due home in an hour, so to pass the time, they raid the fridge, check out the DVD collection, constantly attack the tied up father who dares to move, and brag about their muscles and how they built their reputations by being stabbed and who they have attacked. The real horror comes from Rian, the mouth piece of the clan who begins to start having an unhealthy obsession with the mum which leads down a path with only one outcome. This is where I have to praise the director Williams who decides to show the violence off camera. Every attack on both Mum and Dad is not seen by the naked eye, and its that way that brings out the fear factor of the film. When Rian decides to drag the Mum into the spare room, the camera lingers on the Dad, and we can only share his torment and suffering at what Rian could be doing, and our imagination goes into overdrive. It really brings out the anger inside you, and the feelings of hatred particularly towards Rian, in which you wish to just be there and stop these thugs.
Hunter is quite wonderful has Rian, he carries the film from the moment of arrival to the climax, a real bad ass who deserves much praise for creating such a vulgar and angry man. Its scary to know that there are actual many of these Rian’s walking the streets at the very minute, and its only a matter of time before something like what happens in Cherry Lane happens in real life.
Many who read my thread, know that I am not one of the ones that brand Eden Lake has this masterpiece. Its a good little horror with a great end scene, but for me it was not a patch on IIs which carried the same threat of kids gone wrong without the social commentary on hoodies and two different classes colliding together which seemed to engulf that Lake film! Here this film may take the threat away from the lake into a home, but the social theme is still there, and at times it can seem quite tasteless. The greatest thing that Hanekeput into Funny Games is a rich mix of dark humour that seemed to manage to unsettle you more. There is no attempt of humour here, and at times the real time aspect which the plot introduces from the start, goes against it, as waiting for the son to come home, stretches the plot to nearly breaking point. Anyone hoping for The Strangers a british way will be disappointed, while that was more slicker with the jump factor set up high, Williams tries to be realistic as possible, making the viewer think that everything that is happening here, could happen anywhere to anyone.
Even when the Son comes home, again Williams shows great restrain by not showing what they are doing. The laughs and cheers followed by the pleas from the son to his dad, brought more horror to my mind than any violent scene, and you just wish you could help. We do though get some of our wishes, unlike Funny Games with its now infamous rewind scene in which Haneke gave the viewer what they wanted, then ruthlessly pulled the rug from under us, here we get some relief, even though the way its done is quite unrealistic. Williams then spoils all his good work with a terrible abrupt ending that will leave you frustrated at the outcome. It really is a silly moment that ruins everything before it, and makes Cherry Tree Lane a watchable little horror instead of a good one!
OVERALL: Another home invasion horror following in the footsteps of IIs and more importantly Funny Games. Its that film by Haneke that is like a dark grey cloud over the entire show, failing to match the horror, dark wit, and style. A great performance by young Hunter raises the bar, but its a horror you have seen all before even though the non screen violence gives it a quite unique style, it loses a 3 rating for a stupid dumb end shot that will leave you deeply frustrated…..