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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cherry Tree Lane (2010)

Paul Andrew Williams has been a director to watch for British cinema fans since his powerful debut in 2006 with London to Brighton. Dealing with such pleasant acts as child prostitution and drug addiction, it was the perfect introduction for a no-holds barred director such as Williams. Two years later he returned with The Cottage, the complete opposite to his debut. The Cottage, by comparison, was a throwaway horror comedy about a couple of would be kidnappers whose choice of hideaway really couldn't have been worse. It was no-brain horror goodness that shocked fans of his debut, but now he's back with Cherry Tree Lane and he's giving audiences another horror film with the social realism that drove London to Brighton. Prepare to be depressed.

The story is a simple one. A middle-class couple are held captive by three, angry, young men who want to murder their son for reporting a crime in which a cousin of one of the youths was the perpetrator. Problem is, he's not home and the youth decide to kill time by terrorising his parents while waiting for him to return.

So, enjoyable premise it is not, but that's not to say the film isn't worth the discomfort the film will cause, and believe me when I say you'll be left destroyed by this film. The film has been labeled as a brutal, unflinching horror film – which it very much is – but the actual onscreen violence in minimal; all be a few slaps and some punches, every other act of violence is not shown. As with another British film that dealt with disillusioned youth menacing the rich, Thomas Clay's The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael, Paul Andrew Williams has applied the ol' Hitchcock favourite of 'what you don't see is worse than what you do see' (and which was lacking in the horrific finale to Robert Carmichael) and has pushed it to the limit.

By using nothing but sound and characters facial expressions to get across the message, Williams masterful restraint has created one of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences in some time. With ever increasing graphic images finding their way into modern horror films, it's refreshing to see a film that is prepared to put it's effort into destroying it's audience by using the their own imagination rather than relying on the special effects team. It's nothing new by any means, but it's all to rarely seen in movies these days outside of Michael Haneke's filmography.

As an exercise in film-making, Cherry Tree Lane is a success but the film as a whole doesn't work as well as it could have. Williams knows he's using a tabloid hot-potatoe with lower-class youth victimising a middle-class couple, but he has no answers or input as to why such events actually happen. He seems more content with using it as an additional tool to mind fuck his audience with, which relegates the film to basic exploitation, as he certainly doesn't have a message or suitable reason for the films brutality. Some may take offense by it, some will not be able to appreciate his film-making abilities regarding violence and others may actually anticipate more brutality than what they'll have been given.

Cherry Tree Lane may not be as important as it might like to appear, but it's certainly an exercise in terror unlike most in the genre. Fans of the technical side of film will likely appreciate it more than a viewer just looking to push their limits of horror; but it's a worthwhile endurance test for anyone who enjoys being manipulated by a film-maker as there's no real substance to the film outside of it's creative inventiveness. It does show Paul Andrew Williams as a film-maker who continues to grow and with each passing movie shows us what he's capable of, needless to say I'm excited for his next movie.

Cherry Tree Lane is out buy now on DVD.

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