I normally like to start my reviews off with a quote from the movie. The fact that I couldn’t think of or find a good quote from this film should be a good indicator of how I felt about it.
Although I can’t imagine anyone being overly upset to have the ending of this one spoiled for them, you can consider this your SPOILER WARNING.
One of the articles I’ve been hoping to bring you guys is an article about which streaming sites have the best selection of horror movies. As any dutiful blogger would, I decided to start the project by putting in some research hours and watching as many horror movies as I could stream. Though I’m still weeks away from having an answer for you, I think it’s safe to say Hulu will not be my top pick – and one of the big reasons for that is The Tree House.
This movie was an exercise in patience. It wasn’t so bad as to be painful or amusing, but the awkward pacing and poor writing let me know pretty early on that it wasn’t going to be anything spectacular – and sure enough I was bored for the first two thirds of the film. The last third annoyed me pretty much right up until the end, at which point I just had to give up.
The story follows an awkward high school boy named Killian. His brother gets him to go out to the woods to light off some fireworks after a curfew that has been set on the town after some disappearances. They find a tree house, where one of the missing girls is hiding.
The older brother runs off to his death in an attempt to get help while Killian and the girl hide and wait for help. She keeps talking about how “they” got her brother and trapped her up in the tree house. She ran up there to hide and can’t get down because she fears they have her surrounded.
At this point we’ve only seen “them” in quick flashes or in shadows, and for a little while I actually thought this was some sort of forest creature flick, which was somewhat intriguing, as I hadn’t seen one in awhile. This theory was supported by her refusal to answer what “they” are and her ambiguity about what exactly she’s seen.
As “they” are drawn to the noise of the two teenagers doing a terrible job hiding, a lot of the fear is lost by seeing just how stupid they are. We learn that they can in fact climb trees, but don’t seem smart enough to come into the tree house. Our protagonists easily avoid danger by laying down in the shadows on either side of the space. The only tension from the scenes to follow come from the fact that our protagonists also don’t seem to be so bright continuing to make noise all the way through their attempts to hide.
Eventually they have to come down from the tree, as the girl’s blood sugar levels begin to put her at serious risk. They climb down, sleep in the woods (great idea, right?) and in the morning Killian is able to get the girl to a house in a clearing and get her some (not entirely rotted) food.
This was around the time I began to get really annoyed. We discover that “they” are not creatures at all, but a family of presumably inbred torture fanatics who are keeping the corpse of the mother decomposing up in the bedroom, and who have apparently been stalking the girl for some time. This takes all attempts of originality out of the film, which continues to escalate to levels that are beyond ridiculous.
The pair somehow manage to escape and get to the road where a car crashes trying to avoid them, and they could presumably drive to the nearest police station with the information. Instead, they discover firearms in the back of the car, and decide to go back, guns blazing. What particularly drove me crazy about this ending is that the film cuts to credits immediately after the girl acknowledges Killian will wait for her if they’re both imprisoned for the murders they’re about to commit.
That’s right, they’re smart enough to know to realize the consequences of what they’re doing, but not smart enough to just go to the police. Plus they’ve apparently developed a relationship strong enough to warrant waiting for one another in prison, despite there being virtually no set up to this very serious commitment that they make. (Of course, there wasn’t enough character development for me to even remember the girl’s name upon literally just having concluded the film – so if there were attempts at chemistry I might not have noticed.)
There was also a bizarre subplot about Killian’s father, a former soldier who has an obsession with survival. Through flashbacks we’re able to see as the dad alternates between being an actual father figure, and an abusive asshole who nearly drowns one of his sons. This story ties into what’s happening only minimally, but what I found most disturbing about it was the girl’s reaction. She seems to take the information of these abuses in stride, hinting on several occasions that she also was abused and that the whole thing seems normal. That attitude was perhaps the scariest thing in the entire movie, though I feared more for the writers than the characters themselves.
The most memorable thing, by far, was the nickname Killian earns from his potential life-partner; “Baby-bear.” Sounds like a totally realistic nickname for a teenage girl to give a complete stranger, right? I thought so.
And that was The Tree House. It was an experience that I survived, but not one I would recommend.