“BETWEEN THE TREES” from director Brad Douglas (Besetment) is coming to Video On Demand on March 5th and to DVD June 11th. Starring Greg James, Michael Draper, Dan Kyle, and Jonny Lee this story follows a group of middle-aged friends that head out on a weekend trip to a remote wooded cabin to get away from things. One of them is dealing with a failing marriage but that will be the least of their problems when they discover something is stalking them in the surrounding trees.
Despite the plot-line feeling like a mash-up of other horror/thrillers it was still a movie that peaked my curiosity. I tend to enjoy small-budget horror films and can often overlook miscues to enjoy the good in them. So with a premise that can easily inspire some tension and provide some solid genre killing, I felt it had potential. I wouldn’t say this movie lived up to it completely but it certainly was not a failure either. There were large sections I enjoyed, and others that felt like miss-fires. Overall though I had fun with it and could see the inspiration of past films like “Wrong Turn” and “The Hills Have Eyes” from a creative aspect.
However it also has some of its own ambition in adding unique layers to the story. Not all of them work to be honest. But other scenes did and the result is a surprising tinge of unpredictability late third-act. The direction is very capable. The camerawork in the forest was well-crafted to build a foreboding tension and uneasiness. The natural lighting gave the backdrops depth and it provided the film with a naturally tense atmosphere that I enjoyed. But there were large swings in the tone at times, and not all of the attempts at humor worked as much for amusement, as they instead felt mildly distracting. A few of them land to rouse a chuckle yet many other instances felt oddly placed.
The performances were serviceable for the needs of the script. None really shined and with a bulk of the dialogue for many of the characters lacking personality many of the conversations felt closer to a rehearsal shoot than it did buddies with history between them having normal conversations. The story-line gives this group of friends ample time to provide that foundation for the viewer. Unfortunately though, much of the dialogue squandered that time. Only to cap it off with a less than impressive sub-plot between them to counter the threats in the forest. To the credit of the performances there was continual effort and many of the emotionally driven scenes did hit with some impact.
As for the ominous threats out in the woods surrounding them. I would say that was a strong weakness for film. They didn’t look frightening at all and with the choice of their appearance, I think better make-up design could have been worked into the budget somehow or possibly a better mask chosen. The look was distracting and it admittedly pulled me out of the suspense at times. But this was far from a horrible movie. I enjoy this sub-genre of horror and had some fun with this one. Just not as much as I could have had the writing been a little tighter and the costume-design been a little more sinister. If you enjoy small-budget horror give it a shot. It follows many genre tropes but still delivers doses of fast paced horror fun.