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30 Aug 2010

Movie Review: Cherry Tree Lane

Cherry Tree Lane instantly appealed to me given its themes and genres. This British-made film sets itself firmly within the Home Invasion Chiller genre, with inspiration taken from past movies such as The Strangers and Funny Games.

The plot line, at its core, is a very basic one. Christine and Mike (no surnames are given) are waiting at home for their son, Sebastian, to come home from football. As they sit down for dinner, they are disturbed by a knock on the door and a group of 3 "chavs" rush in and hold the couple hostage. From there, the horror ensues. This is where the films shines. It preys on the middle-class fear of the knife weilding working-class, and throws it straight into your face, showing the pure horror of what people can do. It sure made me a little bit paranoid.

However, the pacing of this film is its main downfall. If you are going into the film to be scared, terrified and frightened on an unrelenting thrill ride with an experience akin to Funny Games, then you are going to the wrong film. Throughout its 80 minute run time, there are around 3 main scenes, each lasting around 10 minutes. This means that the film is made up of primarily 50 minutes of filler.This "filler" is made up of conversations between the house invaders, thus removing most of the thrill. However, this does have the advantage of giving the attackers a more human side, showing through more personality rather than just relentless, stereotypical attackers. In the end, this makes the ending more human, and more realistic, something that The Stangers seemed to lack, thus making the whole experience worthwhile.

To add the experience, the music is kept to a minimum, with just one song being played twice throughout the film, with a low-pitch droning sound protruding through every other sound in the intense scenes. Again, this helps to add to the intensity of the film. One scene in particular shows Christine bound by masking tape, with a long droning sound being played in the background. It worked especially well, with the end effect making me feel slightly claustrophobic.

The acting is varied throughout. The attackers show the needed degree of animalism characteristics, yet they don't quite reach their potential in that the end up seeming lifeless and unrealistic given their motives. Rachael Blake and Tom Butcher, on the other hand, play their scenes will. Given that their lines are minimal (the masking tape being to blame for that), their acting is mainly through the eyes. This is done spectacularly well, especially by Tom Butcher. He manages to convey fear constantly, with undertones of his character planning something else. Tom, who plays Mike, also ends up having the best ride of all throughout the film. By the end, his character changes dramatically. I would say more, but then I would be giving out spoilers.

Yet in the end, this film may be worth your while, if you don't go in expecting a constant thrill ride. The film may get a bit tedious near the middle of the film, but if you stay till the end, then the ending will leave you wanting more, and it will be worth it, even if the main part of the film doesn't quite give you what has been advertised. However, the distinct lack of large set pieces will linger at the back of your mind throughout, and doesn't help to add to the intensity.

Total Score: 6 out of 10

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