Reviews: Treehouse

Andrew reviews the new horror film, Treehouse.

"My neck kinda hurts."
The scariest scenes of films like Signs or Session 9 lie in shadows.  In both films, ominous human looking, ghostly figures are faintly glimpsed silhouetted in the dark.  What we don’t quite see is infinitely more frightening than when the standard horror film characters flashlights shine on the things that go bump in the night.  It allows our minds to fill in the blanks and apply our own fears to whatever is lurking behind the shadow.  For the most part, British horror director Michael G. Bartlett’s Treehouse gets this notion right and stretches out the nervous tension between imagination and the eventual actualization of our distinctive fears as far as it can go.  When we finally see what the creature looks like, you’re likely to be let down but satisfied you got some spooky thrills out of it.'

Re-reading our own review of British horror director Michael G. Bartlett’s previous film The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill, it’s fitting that his latest offering, Treehouse, wouldn’t provide horror fans with much more than what they got before: Blair Witch kids running around in the woods while being chased by weird noises.  As a firm believer in the notion of less equaling more, Treehouse treads a fine line between effective minimalism and student filmmaker meanderings.  To be fair though, Treehouse makes excellent use of the location and exploits the Fall season of leafless trees to maximum creep effect.  

"Oooooh spooky lighting."
A good portion of the film takes place at night, allowing for eerie sounds and shadowy figures to skulk about the dark.  Unlike other thrillers quick to thwart cliché jump scares on horror fans, Treehouse draws its strength by drawing out the waiting period and having its characters tiptoeing slowly so as to not be discovered.  For a cast of young newcomers, acting across the board is generally good with Trautmann and Melanie providing strong emotional balance to the youngsters forced into a survival horror scenario.

Unfortunately without spoiling anything, the third act revelation of just what’s lurking behind the shadows is something of a disappointment and feels at odds with the mysterious tension permeating the first half of the film.  A shame they couldn’t come up with better, as everything leading towards the grand reveal was genuinely creepy.  Still, Treehouse managed to create characters I found myself caring about instead of standard teen slasher fodder begging to be slain.  Although this kind of is a student film made on a shoestring budget, it’s peppered throughout with standout moments rich in atmosphere and a believable sense of dread.  Yes I agree once the cat is out of the bag, the thrill is gone but it was pretty taut up to that point.

-Andrew Kotwicki