A strong commitment to its theme, and a handful of great gross-outs, isn’t enough to save this misguided thriller.
You never know what you’re going to get when delving into the pool of independent horror flicks. Most are mediocre at best, but occasionally you find one that is so unique, clever, or cheesy that it becomes an instant classic. Unfortunately, more often than not the film will have a few great elements but fails as a composite. Last year’s “#Horror” was a perfect example. This year we have “Cherry Tree.” It opens with an interesting backstory, an ancient coven where the head witch gained her powers from a demonic Cherry Tree whose roots fed on human sacrifices. (And it’s a pretty cool looking tree!) We are quickly transported to modern times where a witchy looking woman is trying to pick up another woman in the local bar. Rebuffing her advances, the second woman leaves the bar, is quickly accosted by men(?) in Nolan-esque Scarecrow masks, and soon finds herself bleeding out beneath the cherry tree. We quickly learn the reasons for this encounter, but the methods are never understood.
The aforementioned witchy woman is Sissy, played by the perfectly cast Anna Walton. Sissy has the look and poise of the coven leader, if not the name. She’s also the local high school field hockey coach, which is apparently the perfect recruiting ground for new young witches. She soon sets her eyes on the cute-ish but outcast Faith (Naomi Battrick). Faith’s father is dying from leukemia and Sissy is able to leverage this against Faith. What does Sissy want from this 15 year old? What all self-respecting coven heads want from young virgins: For her to give birth to the devil.
Everything in “Cherry Tree” looks interesting, which is the best thing about the film. The Tree, the locations, and even the people are visually intriguing. The cherry motif and emphasis on “Red vs White” saturates the movie. They even go so far to point out that the father’s leukemia is a battle between his red and white blood cells. It’s hard to think of another film that has so much RED in it. These are great, fun little touches for a film of this nature. It also lives up to its genre by including a few disturbing gross-out scenes. When you anticipate a certain level of gore in a film, but are suddenly presented with a visual that was completely unexpected it can be quite effective.
Unfortunately, these fun touches aren’t enough to make an entire movie. The dialog in “Cherry Tree” is all over the place and character motivations are mostly nonsensical. At one point we begin to question the town’s ratio between humans and witches. Are there any cops? Or is the witch population high enough that they aren’t needed? The musical score is just as uneven, with (unintentional?) jarring cuts between scenes. During the final act, bad editing completely destroys our sense of location and space (As #Horror also did), Finally, as much as gratuitous nudity is a staple of any self respecting horror flick, having said nudity being topless teenagers in a High School shower is tasteless at best.