IF A TREE FALLS
Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
Jennifer De Lucia
What's it about
A quartet of young adults are brutalized after making the mistake of camping out in some woods patrolled by a bizarre cadre of killers in this Canadian terror film.
Is it good movie?
Rain is rust, and thoughts are thunder in this prison.
Siblings Brad and Lisa Carpenter seem like happy-go-lucky party kids in the prime of their lives, but each has a black cloud hanging over their heads: Brad is suffering from a bad heartbreak, and Lisa is pregnant outside of a relationship. With their friends, pothead Will and amorous Vanessa in tow, the foursome head out for what is supposed to be a weeklong Carpenter family outing somewhere in the wilds of Quebec. But when they make the fateful decision to camp out for a night in the woods on the way, they run afoul of a bevy of bizarre killers who systematically torture the hapless quartet.
If A Tree Falls is a vicious one-two punch from director Phillip Carrer and writer Ryan Barrett, who also stars as Brad. Carrer had his fingers in most of this pie, from directing to producing to editing, and I think he is a director to watch. Most of the cast also doubled as crew. It was a real communal guerilla effort, and that sort of commitment and involvement works to great effect. When all of your players are invested in the production like that, you’re bound to get great results. And great may be a strong word for this film, but I would at least say very, very good.
The tagline “From Dawn to Dusk…help is NOT coming” is plenty accurate. The killers in this film are totally alien, wearing pantyhose to give their faces a lumpy, misshapen look, and hugging and caressing their victims, as well as slapping, punching, and ultimately gutting them. At points they seem as innocent as children, not understanding that pulling a dog’s tail hurts it, but then at other times clearly aware of what swinging an axe down on someone’s face will do to them. The fact that some of the killers were girls also disturbed me, for some reason.
From the jagged edits to the lopsided color correction, the whole visual presentation seems geared to invoke a nauseous reaction, to give your limbic system a twist. The tight close-ups and subjective camera angles help that, and even small things like Brad’s obnoxiously bleached-blonde hair, in contrast to his sister’s natural raven locks, upsets the eye. And Carrer was smart enough to imply most of the violence and gore, certainly for budgetary reasons, so that when he spends his dime and shows you a hacked-open face or someone pulling a girl’s guts out of her stomach, it has quite an effect, to say the least.
Then there is the strange brainwashing aspect. But I’ll let you form an opinion on that for yourselves. When you watch the movie, not if.
Video / Audio
Video: No specs on the screener, but the retro 70’s grindhouse vibe calls for splotchy colors, grain, and shaky cams, so that stuff just adds to the effect.
Audio: Again no specs, but I really dug the music in this movie. Once again Carrer had his hand in the score, which was creepy yet unobtrusive, and the songs by Luke Nares and Hoolie Snatch made me very happy.
If A Tree Falls is like Deliverance meets Martyrs. It’s The Strangers directed by Dario Argento in the backyard of The Last House on the Left. It gets off to a somewhat shaky start, but it quickly finds its legs and takes off running (pun intended) and becomes a visceral, uncompromising essay on casual brutality and the degradation of being helpless in a hopeless situation. It made me uncomfortable in many spots, and that is saying something. Recommended.