Director: Michael G. Bartlett
Cast: J. Michael Trautmann, Dana Melanie, Daniel Frederick
Plot: A group of teenagers find a treehouse in the woods, while heading to a party, but end up getting cornered up there, with three things in the shadows, stalking them…
Have you ever really wanted to remake a movie, but due to copyright laws or legal reasons you couldn’t? Maybe your vision of the original is so different that you have to move away from the old brand to adequately make and pitch your movie. I ask this, because the further you get into Treehouse, you begin to realise that it is essentially the remake of a very classic horror franchise, without ever fully embracing the original title. I won’t spoil which horror series is being borrowed from, because Treehouse’s biggest strength is the slow reveal at what the movie is about, but I can tell you that for the most part it improves on the source material. I never thought too much about the old version, because it never really scared me, but Bartlett approaches the story from a different angle, minimising the cast to three leads and a handful of red shirts, and keeps his movie villains in the shadows right up until the very end. Despite occasionally coming across as a rip-off, which will hold this movie back when more critics begin reviewing it, there is a lot of original elements to this movie that makes it a very comfortable horror thriller to sink into.
So I don’t accidentally spoil the horror series it has similarities to, I am going to break away from the source material and discuss the original aspects of Treehouse. The first half of this movie is spent entirely in a treehouse and this is a surprisingly good technique. It never feels constrained by the set-piece (although it does abandon the location, so the ending has a bit more bite to it), and has some eerily original shots. I loved the moment when the trapped teenagers peer through the cracks in between the floorboards to see vague glimpses of the creatures below them. The movie doesn’t rush the reveal, which makes Treehouse far more intimidating than the usual B Movie horrors. There is a sense that there is much more to the story going on outside the treehouse, but we only get snippets of what is happening through the perspective of the characters, trapped in the treehouse. Radio chatter on a walkie talkie, clues in the distance. We get a second hand insight into what is going on, which makes you feel like you are trapped with the characters. It makes the tone of Treehouse much more precise and enjoyable. When it wants to be, Treehouse is a very clever movie.
Sadly, I wouldn’t describe this movie as scary. It lacks that non-stop terror horror fans crave, and I can’t see anyone who isn’t a horror fan, looking out for this movie. The atmosphere is more tense than terrifying, and there was never any moment, where I was tempted to hit the pause and take a few moment’s breather. Perhaps it is the fact that there are too many safe moments. The horror feels too confined, so when the director wants to start scaring you, you are aware when this is going to happen, which makes you more prepared for when the sinister elements kick in. Also, when we finally get the reveal of the monsters, it is a little disappointing. In the original, there were more grotesque and inhuman, but in this ‘remake’, they are a little average. They were much scarier when they were shadows in the distance, probably why the writers are in no rush in to show off their bad guys too early. This is a shame, because the final twenty minutes would have been so much more hard-hitting if the fear factor was raised to the roof. It works as a thriller though and while this isn’t a scary movie, the director does get a chilling atmosphere. The little insights into the back story of these monsters is very fun and disturbing to explore. For the horror veterans who click onto who these monsters are meant to be, these little twists won’t be too surprising, yet they still hold some thrills, as we get a better idea of what these villains are capable of.
Final Verdict: Bartlett probably doesn’t want anyone to draw attention to the clear connection between Treehouse and the horror series it is inspired by, but he does improve it considerably, even if he drops the ball in other places.