Review: If a Tree Falls (18) / Director: Philip Carrer / Screenplay: Ryan Barrett / Starring: Breanne TeBoekhorst, Jennifer De Lucia / Release date: Out now
Imagine a world where every single half-baked student film gets a release on DVD, well it seems like we may well be living in that reality because based on the quality of things like Evil Things, The Watermen and now If a Tree Falls, it seems like anyone can make and release a movie. There are advantages to this, there is the occasional quality title that passes most people by and gets to an audience on home video. However the signs all point towards a coming apocalypse for these people when Blockbuster eventually goes the way of the Dodo. The fact is sex and violence sell, so the straight to DVD market is flooded with anything that features a half-naked brutalised woman on the cover whilst other more interesting genre films languish in obscurity. The latest film with a cover of this type is Canadian horror If a Tree Falls. With that title, I was prepared for an existential exploration of silence and our relationship to nature; sadly this is an endurance contest of epic proportions…
Initially things start well, we are treated to the Tarantino approved ‘Our Feature Presentation’ title card that appeared on his Kill Bill and Grindhouse films. Hopes were high for a Hobo with a Shotgun style romp at this point. Things then go all grainy in a pleasingly retro video nasty way as we witness a scantily clad woman running through the woods and confusingly killed and dragged away by some men we don’t see. Then we meet our lead characters and this is where it all goes wrong. Siblings Brad and Lisa Carpenter with two other friends, the ‘slutty girl’ and ‘the beefcake’ head off into the Canadian wilderness to camp by a lake. The sound is muffled and the dialogue atrocious but I got the sense that Lisa was pregnant with someone’s child and was keeping it a secret, for all I know it could have been her brother's child, but this interesting plot twist is never expanded on. At some point between drinking beer and flexing by the lake and then going for a pee outside the tent in the middle of the night, six or so burly men show up with tights over their heads like they are about to rob your local post office. The next hour of the film is spent in the company of these grunting men as they torture and brutalise the four characters you couldn’t give a toss about.
To approximate what it is like to watch If a Tree Falls, I would have to put you in a rabbit hutch, throw shit at you and then run around the hutch kicking it with all my might. There are times during this film where I questioned if I was actually watching a snuff film. Somehow an incriminating film had been misplaced by some rich perverts and it had inadvertently arrived at my house. I was considering calling the police and possibly The Samaritans and I realised that life isn’t this crap, ‘It’s only a movie’ as they say. Faced with the complete loss of all hope in humanity at 9.30 on a Thursday night, I reminded myself that this is merely so very badly shot it just seems like it’s a snuff film. Did I mention that the killers actually film what they are doing? Because they do, and what they film is shot even worse and is inserted into the film very badly as the director flirts with the realisation that he should have made a ‘found footage’ movie like everyone else.
The acting here is terrible, not even porno bad but rejects from auditions for Degrassi Junior High bad. Most porn looks like The King's Speech compared to this film. Canada definitely has some talent, as evidenced by the careers of David Cronenberg and Jim Carrey. Canada also gave us Bryan Adams and along with this film they should probably be brought before the Hague tribunal for crimes against humanity. Any idiot can get a camera and go make a film, Brett Ratner has made millions this way but it takes real talent to film drivel the way director Gabriel Carrer does and then slap a Grindhouse presentation on it so it seems like it’s meant to be this bad. The ending of this film is trying to make some kind of point about something to do with how men in tights will eventually make you one of them but this moment of piqued interest gives way to more badly executed violence.
Unless you hate yourself and feel a powerful need to wallow in misery for a never ending hour and twenty minutes, you should probably give this one a miss.
Extras: None, thank Christ…