Sunday, June 5, 2016

Cherry Tree (2015)

Welcome to the charming town of Orchard that got its name from - and I quote - an “evil cherry tree” and the shenanigans witches trying to betray Satan got up to some centuries ago. In the Now, Teenager Faith (Naomi Battrick) lives in Orchard with her father Sean (Sam Hazeldine). Alas, Sean is dying of leukaemia, the experimental drug his doctor gave him not having the hoped for effect.

Faith’s new hockey teacher Sissy (Anna Walton) – the old one got murdered by a satanic witches coven wearing stylish sacks on their heads in the prologue – offers the girl a pact: she’ll save Sean’s life with black centipedes and evil cherry tree based magic if Faith agrees to be impregnated and carry Satan’s love child for the witches. Obviously, there’s no way this could possibly go wrong for anyone involved.

Now, if you’re like me (or even better for you, if you are indeed me), you’ll probably have expected a witch-based horror movies by the director and the scriptwriter of Wake Wood to be some sort of folk horror film, probably with quite a bit of emotional depth. Then you’ll read about the evil cherry tree, get the first (and only, boo) lesbian kiss in the very first scene of the film, encounter the first moment of gratuitous female nudity about five minutes later, and just might change your expectations in the right direction. For this is indeed a deeply silly, trashy, and somewhat lurid horror film that reminds me a lot of many a regionally produced US occult horror film from the 70s, with a bit of Eurohorror of the same era thrown in, just much slicker looking than the former (Keating’s visual style has improved considerably since Wake Wood), and not as authentically dream-like as the latter.

If that’s the sort of thing that sounds as if it might float your boat, Cherry Tree will most probably indeed do so, for while little of the film makes sense, or shows much depth or insight into humanity at large or in detail, it does dance the seductive dance of lurid trash very, very well. After the comparatively sane and serious first twenty minutes or so, there’s hardly a scene going by where the film doesn’t adorably work up to something awesome, be it one of the more absurd demon sex scenes I’ve seen, or its attempts to try and find more use for centipedes than Centipede Horror had, or the grand finale including random demonic violence, ripped off skin, and the not-inspired-by-Hellraiser at all look Anna Walton spouts there. It makes little sense – be it as a narrative, a dream, or just a film with a coherent idea of what its supernatural is actually about – but it looks and plays really well as what it is. Whatever the hell that may be.

Speaking of Walton, I’d be remiss if I didn’t praise her overacting here, as well as her pretty successful attempt at not throwing a single look (and she really throwing every single one of them with greatest gusto) that doesn’t paint “I am an evil evil witch!” in the sky in letters made of blood and centipedes. Naomi Battrick for her part plays Faith as if she were in some sort of at least semi-realist kitchen sink drama, making a dignified teenage (well, sort-of) mien to the insanity going on around her. And the film really does get pretty insane, not just with one of the more hilariously absurd stinger endings I’ve seen in quite some time (so bizarre I couldn’t even get annoyed by it) but also with all of the random stuff it throws out again and again. Why does Faith wake up in a big cocoon she shares with her dad, and what’s with the webbing surrounding it? Is that something Irish centipedes do? Why does Satan need a teenage girl to fight his battles? And so on, and so forth, until one’s mind is all filled up with the incredible nonsense Cherry Tree produces, and the special kind of joyous glow that comes with pregnancyhorror films this unashamed about being schlock.

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