Treehouse (2014)

TH1If I had to sum this movie up in three words, it’d be “Slow Burn Disappointment”.

When I review a movie, sometimes I will look up reviews in places like IMDb and Metacritic, just to get a feel of how other people feel. Not that it would affect my own opinion, but it sometimes gives me insight into strengths and flaws I’ve seen. THE TREEHOUSE seems to have divided people, in that professioanl and semi-professional reviewers were okay to positive about it, but ordinary punters ripped it to shreds. I’m finding myself in the latter side, so I’m hoping the other reviewers will still speak to me when we get together at lunchtime in the cafeteria.

(Speaking of high school cafeterias: do you still serve square pizza slices on Fridays? Or is it Friday Sloppy Joe Day?)

THE TREEHOUSE opens with pans over idyllic rural Missouri. Teenager Elizabeth (Dana Melanie, JURASSIC CITY) comes home to her farmhouse to find the place dishevelled and with muddy footprints in the kitchen. She suspects this is the work of her father… until she finds a note on the fridge from her father, saying he was going away and could she take care of her brother Little Bob until he returned later that night? warily, Elizabeth searches the rest of the house, but can’t find Little Bob anywhere. Grabbing a rifle, she ventures outside, encountering a shadowy figure in the distance, white light shimmering around it…

We then shift to two teenage brothers, Killian (J. Michael Trautman, who played Iggy Milkovich on TV’s Shameless) and his older brother Crawford (Daniel Frederick), as they go through the usual high school hijinks, including Crawford teaching some bullies a lesson about picking on his little brother. Through backstory and subsequent flashbacks, we learn that the brothers’ father is a hard-nosed veteran who is harsh but fair in the manner you expect for a movie, and that the mother is a long-suffering type in the manner you expect for a movie, that both have died from unrevealed causes, and that the brothers have been sent here to live with their aunt.

Anyway, the local town is preparing to hold a festival involving a legend about a witch, but following the disappearance of Elizabeth and Little Bob (and the cops indicate that this isn’t the first disappearance the town has experienced), the festival has been cancelled and a curfew is imposed, with the kids being sent home from school.

However, the kids will never let The Man tell them what to do, and they plan their own party in the mountains, with fireworks and wine coolers and cigarettes and stuff. Killian and Crawford head up there early on Crawford’s motorbike and discover a huge treehouse high in a massive tree, the sort of place the Little Rascals would give their right nuts to own.

Thinking it’s a perfect spot for the party, the brothers find the missing girl, Elizabeth. She’s hurt (having raced over something sharp in her bare feet at the beginning of the film looking for Little Bob) and as it turns out is diabetic, so really shouldn’t be hanging around in the middle of nowhere. She babbles about “they” are out there and are not going to let them leave alive. The boys are unsure what she means, but Crawford decides to leave and get help, while Killian stays with Elizabeth.

While waiting, Killian talks to other students on a radio, trying to warn them to get away and call the cops, but of course they don’t, and of course they die. As day turns to night, Killian and Elizabeth hear things crawling over the roof of the treehouse but don’t actually enter. But they can’t stay there forever, if only because Elizabeth is going to need her insulin, so Kilian must work up the courage his father always claimed he lacked, and help her and himself escape whatever awaited out them out there.

The biggest surprise for me about THE TREEHOUSE is that it was directed by British filmmaker Michael Bartlett, whose earlier movies THE ZOMBIE DIARIES and THE ZOMBIE DIARIES 2 were reviewed by yours truly nearly four years ago. And I will say this for Bartlett: THE TREEHOUSE looks like a well-made, professional film, miles away from the cheap zombie crap he offered the world, with some beautiful shots of the rural side of Missouri. And the main cast are fine in their roles, especially Melanie and Traughtmann, who have to carry much of the picture themselves. And even the setting is novel enough; although most of us have never even seen a treehouse in real life, let alone been in one (although I used to make a mean blanket fort when I was a kid), the idea of such a place evokes images of childhood innocence and sanctuary.

However, where THE TREEHOUSE fails is in the story. Even at 96 minutes, the story overstays its welcome by spending far too much time on pointless scenes like the bullying and the extended siege in the treehouse. The poster and the first half of the movie sets up a supernatural threat, one that seemingly can’t enter the treehouse where the kids are, but the reveal of the nature of the threat, something far more down to earth, makes one wonder why they didn’t just go in there and get the kids. The setting is modern-day America, and two children have gone missing (and the police openly exposit that this isn’t the first disappearances, either), and yet there are no signs that anyone has been mobilised to search for them, call in the FBI – nothing.

And while the actors playing the kids are okay, and Killian’s character is given enough background for a satisfying character arc from punching bag to more assertive figure, Elizabeth’s character is off, way off – a teenage girl, diabetic, looking for her little brother and trapped in a treehouse with things supposedly after her, and she’s flirting with Killian, acting more like a cougar checking out some jailbait in a bar.

And the last few moments of the movie take an unexpected, unlikely turn, thanks to a very convenient stash of automatic weapons – and the director doesn’t even commit to this sharp left turn, cutting away to the credits, and not because Bartlett wanted to leave something for the sequel.

Had there not been something of great potential here, I would have dismiss this as a slow forgettable bore, but as it is, all I get is a sense of disappointment.

THE TREEHOUSE is available on DVD and VOD from February 20, and teh trailer is below:

Deggsy’s Summary:

Director: Michael Bartlett

Plot: 2 out of 5 stars

Gore: 1 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Deggsy. From his blanket fort.

4 Responses to “Treehouse (2014)”
  1. OMG this looks amazing! Thanks for the post 🙂


  2. Thanks for commenting, HtS! And I agree, the movie *looked* amazing! LOL


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