Cherry Tree is a peculiar film.
Produced by MPI, Studio Canal, the Irish film board, Nederland films, Fantastic Films and House of Nether Horror, it does its best to cram as much as it can into its 85 minute run-time. Unfortunately, that mass of content and producers doesn’t equal much in the way of plot.
The story follows Faith (Naomi Battrick), a secondary school student on the eve of her sixteenth birthday. When her father is informed that he will die of leukaemia in the next three months, Faith makes a deal with Sissy (Anna Walton); her hockey teacher who dabbles in witchcraft. Sissy promises to cure Faith’s father if Faith promises to have a baby (prophesized in the opening text to be that of the devils).
The film brims with potential. It could have been emotional and thought-provoking, but instead, has just ended up being somewhat bland and questionable. While some of the cinematography strive for evocative and artsy shots, others, like a shower scene filled with what have already been established as fifteen year old girls, just come off as creepy and unnecessary.
But overall, the story itself flows at a manageable pace. Until about half an hour in, when things properly start to accelerate.
After that point, the film becomes somewhat nonsensical; characters aren’t introduced properly, yet loiter around as if we should know them already, random people are tied to the witches’ coven without any seeding earlier on in the story, and the motivation of both Faith and the witches, whilst explained, doesn’t really make sense.
This is probably down to the script. Brendan McCarthy’s story idea in itself isn’t that bad. Unfortunately, his words don’t translate to screen well at all. This isn’t helped by the fact that the acting is not that moving. Battrick and Walton do a decent job with what they’re given, but no one in the cast is by any means perfect.
And then there are the ‘special effects’; pretty much all of which seem to have been constructed out of wax; whether that’s the very obviously wax skin that the centipedes (the witch’s familiars) burrow into or the zany wax deformities that some of the characters undergo towards the climax. Deformities that look like they have less place in a horror film than they do a classic Doctor Who serial.
By the time you’ve got through all of this, you generally just come to accept the fact that the soundtrack also doesn’t make much sense; so of course they’d build the atmospheric music and have no pay-off, because that’s basically the same of the whole film.
Overall, Cherry Tree is an over-sexualized picture that seems to think that flashing breasts can make up for a lack of a coherent plot. At times, it can be somewhat amusing to watch, but not in the way that it was intended. Fortunately, it’s short run-time means you don’t feel like you’ve been put out too much by watching it.
Dir: David Keating
Scr: Brendan McCarthy
Cast: Naomi Battrick, Anna Walton, Sam Hazeldine, Patrick Gibson, Elva Trill, Minnie Phipps, Valerie O’Connor
Prd: Hamza Ali
DOP: Eleanor Bowman
Music: John Walsh
Run time: 85 mins
Cherry Tree is out on DVD now.