Cherry Tree Movie Review
Written by Giuseppe Infante
Released by Dark Sky Films
Directed by David Keating
Written by Brenden McCarthy
2015, 85 minutes, Rated R
Released on VOD on January 8th, 2016
Naomi Battrick as Faith
Anna Walton as Sissy
Patrick Gibson as Brian
Sam Hazeldine as Sean
Leah McNamara as Caroline
The supernatural genre has graced the big and small screen this millennium with a slew of vampires, zombies, aliens, and ghosts, among other entities that go bump in the night. Sometimes these uncanny entities are moral and virtuous (see Bill Compton in True Blood) and sometimes they want to outright haunt the shit out of people (see Paranormal Activity). Through the popularity of these supernatural beings, witches are usually shunned (along with the mummy; see Bubba Ho-Tep). Contemporary horror has brought crap when it comes to witches (see Dario Argento’s The Mother of Tears). So when I came across Cherry Tree and heard it was about witches, and distributed by Dark Sky Films, I was stoked. After watching the trailer, which I normally don’t do, my inner teenager was yearning to see what seemed to be a hybrid of The Craft and Rosemary’s Baby. After watching the film, I was left wondering how director David Keating and writer Brenden McCarthy went wrong, especially after drawing me in with the first act of the movie.
The story revolves around the struggles of a high school teenage girl, who just so happens to be named Faith (Naomi Battrick). Simply, the movie is about Faith’s brush with a coven of cherry popping witches, led by her new field hockey coach, Sissy (Anna Walton). Mid hockey game, she finds out her father (Patrick Gibson) is dying of leukemia, and soon after Sissy chooses to show Faith she can bring back the dead. It is at this point the logic falls starts to slip into disarray on par with a sloppy teenager’s bedroom. Sissy wants Faith to birth a child for the coven in return for saving her father’s life. When Sissy started to give Faith directions on how to get pregnant in an odd voiceover segment, I couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous this is. A man’s penis enters a woman’s vagina for a bit and boom—a heads up for those who don’t know.
The movie makes use of cherries and chunky centipedes as the central trope and symbols of the film. At first, the cherries and centipedes being the source for the magic/witchery was interesting. I am all for analytical devices like symbolism and metaphor (I am an English professor, damn it!), but by the movie’s end, all I wanted to do was choke on a cherry pit. Way overdone; it was as if they wanted viewers to never forget what a cherry and a thick brown centipede looks like. And to make matters worse, the birthing scene is a fucking joke. Faith legit pops out a baby with no problems, and no umbilical cord. I know this is the horror genre, and a witch baby that only takes six weeks to come full term, but Faith is running around after birthing like she is ready for her next field hockey game. I've been through the births of both my children, and my wife wasn't in any way fit to be chased by evil witches. It just doesn't work like that; there could have been several other ways to pull this birth off with more logic and sensibility.
More on the logic. Faith and classmates go out to celebrate her sixteenth birthday. She ends up hooking up with a boy. I assume they end up at her place (where her dad also lives), because there is an F on the wall in the room they bang in. But the father isn't home in the middle of the night? She is out rocking out all night, and her pops has no problem with this? He has a restaurant, but how late is it open? Also, she is being pursued at one point while it is dark outside; it is no doubt nighttime. She heads to her school, where class is in session. For real? Is this a Euro-thing or night classes, because school ends before the sun sets in America. Lastly, two things: what happened to the mother and nudity. There is no mention of Faith’s mother, which could have been used for motivational reasons on why she wanted a baby. And filmmakers, it is not 1986. As much as I like an occasional boob, nudity for nudity sake in horror movies is overdone and redundant. Just stop.
On a positive note, the production of the film is top tier and looks fantastic, which should translate well onto Blu-ray. The practical effects were pretty bad ass, especially for being on a tight budget. There is a substantial amount of body horror; plenty of flesh cutting, blood spilling and people dying for all the folks who want to exercise their anticivilization emotions and baser urges. The acting is also decent, except for over-dramatization in some scenes with the witches. Naomi Battrick as Faith is a compelling character, and I do not blame the actors for poor writing and plot movement. The relationship between her and her father grips emotions, especially as they embrace at the moment she finds out about his cancer. Another interesting aspect of Cherry Tree is the opening prologue and first scene. The prologue informs viewers that the witches want to be the most powerful coven of all, followed by a student in Faith’s class doing a presentation about the coven’s mythology. This lead-in is not groundbreaking and original, but motivates viewers to delve right into the fictional world created.
If this came on Chiller at 1 am, then I’d recommend watching it—you might need help falling asleep. The movie could have been way better. Sorry for the ranting review, but when something with so much potential fizzles, I get upset. It is as if the New York Giants are up a few touchdowns right before halftime, and then blow the game by the end. The idea and setup for Cherry Tree is thought-provoking, especially from a feminist lens. But after the first third of the film, there is no significance other than the classic cliché of "don't make a deal with the devil." This concept is a great launch pad for a decent into the human condition, but rather becomes another slacking cinematic muddle. Keep the cherries on the tree.