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February 20, 2013

Movie Review: Cherry Tree Lane (2010, Image Entertainment)

Directed by Paul Andrew Williams
Starring Rachael Blake, Tom Butcher and Jumayn Hunter
Run Time: 77 minutes

Mike, Christine and their son Sebastian appear to be living a fairly comfortable and safe life in their home on Cherry Tree Lane. All of that is about to change though, as one night their home is invaded and taken over by three teenage thugs who are looking to exact revenge on young Sebastian for apparently dropping the dime on one of the hoodlum’s cousins, who ended up in prison for ten years. With Sebastian being off at football practice, the thugs tie up his parents and hunker down, waiting for Sebastian's return. What ensues is a night of terror for the mother and father, as they are tortured and tormented, always with the looming thought that their young son will surely be slain the moment he arrives back home.

Upon first inspection, I assumed this was going to be just another low budget home-invasion, torture-porn flick. The kind of movie I honestly don't really care for, where the main premise of the film is usually just mindless and pointless violence for the sake of violence. The kind of movies that usually just go for the “shock factor” but end up failing to create something that is even mildly entertaining. What Cherry Tree Lane accomplishes that just about every other film of this kind that I’ve ever seen doesn't, is the ability to create a stunning sense of realism.

From the opening scene where we watch an uncomfortable dinner between Mike and Christine which exposes a crumbling marriage, the viewer slowly begins to slip into the world that director Paul Andrew Williams is creating. And as each moment passes and things suddenly take a horrifying turn for the two parents, it isn't long before the viewer is no longer watching a film, but experiencing something that is terrifyingly real.  This unique sensation you can chock up to the excellent work of the director, the amazing acting by all parties involved and a script that is just genius in its simplicity. Nothing in this movie feels forced, and it has a fantastic flow to it. The suspense is absolutely delicious and reaches a peak that literally had my heart racing for the last ten minutes or so.

I guess the best way to describe this movie is that it is perfectly understated. Unlike other movies of this psychological thriller/horror sub-genre, nearly all of the horrendous violence is implied. The best example of this to me was the rape scene (trying not to give away too much of the plot), which happens off-screen in the next room. If you are a fan of these kinds of movies then you have undoubtedly watched plenty of overly-graphic rape scenes. Director Williams, through cunning omission creates the disturbing effect by simply forcing the viewer to Listen to the violence from behind a wall, which is chilling in its effectiveness. And while the final show-down scene is done in pretty much the same way, what otherwise would have felt like a let-down was actually a perfectly executed finale. Satisfying, without resorting to graphic violence to achieve its effect.

It was a movie which preys on one of our modern-day fears (a home invasion), but its done in an almost old-school style where well developed characters drive the story, instead of the violent acts doled out by them. Add in the plot-twist at the end which has you contemplating a truly disturbing scenario and you’ve got a film which is able to actually transcend the boundaries of its own genre.
Final Word- I loved, loved, loved this movie. It was gritty and ultra-realistic without being overly amazing film. And I highly recommend indie fans check this one out.
I rate it 9 out of 10.

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