Independent Indies – TREE
Having just recently watched The Wintress, I found it a bit amusing that another film starring Bill Elverman would focus so much on splitting wood with an ax. Knowing Elverman wrote both The Wintress and TREE I secretly wondered if Elverman had an unhealthy obsession with axes. My guess is he watched The Shining one too many times as a child. I know I did. But evidently, their was a far more innocuous reason for including so many axes in both films, TREE was made first, and Elverman likes to plagiarize himself because this idea works quite well in the context of these two films.
Note to self: Make sure to have a close up of the ax. An ominous close up.
TREE follows Tom Brueggeman (Elverman) and his family when they move into the old family house after the tragic death of loved one. Soon after they get settled, Tom discovers that a large tree in his front yard is causing him to see ominous and cryptic visions of the future. But while Tom’s wife Ellie (Kate Berry) and daughter Katie (Avery Laine) are witnessing positive results from the visions, Tom struggles to understand why his are dominated by visuals of his own demise.
Note to self: And seriously, does she really think she is going to win some pie contest? All because some TREE told her she would?
While I brought up The Shining in jest earlier, it is clear that film is an influence on TREE. Both involve a family moving to a new home and dramatically changing their lifestyle as a result. And more importantly, they both focus on the main character struggling to maintain his grip on reality as he is bombarded with strange and mysterious visions. But while Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson) is antagonized by his physical isolation, in TREE it is Tom’s emotional isolation that is his primary foil. As the visions become more prevalent he draws further and further away from his family and friends, setting in motion the events he is trying so desperately to escape from.
Note to self: And that book. If she knew how crazy he father was at the end we probably would have never moved out here.
Visually TREE is an impressive film thanks to the work of cinematographers Nicholas Richards and Michael R. Steinbeck (who also directed the film). Events that take place inside the house are often slightly muted with a warm undercurrent spreading throughout each frame. But when events move outside the colors are no longer warm and gentle but form a far harsher and caustic reality. This is a soft and caring family within the safety of the house, but as events start reflecting the visions seen under the bows of the TREE, it a very different and dangerous world for Tom to comprehend.
Note to self: “The TREE is telling me the story of my death.” Is it now? Perhaps it’s time for the TREE to meet its own inglorious end.
TREE has its weaknesses, it struggles on occasion with moments that stretch believability (No one will rescue the girl because she wants her father too. Seriously?), yet each time it manages to wrestle control of the film back from the precipice of disaster and create a story that is both compelling and wonderfully creepy. And as an added bonus, the ending while obvious, still manages to conceal a few tricks up its sleeve that should surprise and please even the most jaded viewer. TREE might not be The Shining, but it is a wonderful and unique derivative of the iconic classic that is worthy of standing alongside it.
TREE will be screening on Friday, October 10th as part of the Flyway Film Festival’s Wisconsin/Minnesota Showcase. For ticket information and a complete film schedule, visit the Flyway Film Festival website for complete details.