While there is somewhat of an oversaturation of multiple horror sub-genres — zombies, found footage, etc — there is one theme I’d like to see explored a little more frequently. What I am referring to is witchcraft. There have been witches in horror before and with the recent release of The Witch, I predict we will be seeing a lot more of it in the near future, as well. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long for that near future, as I was able to enjoy David Keating’s Cherry Tree.
Faith’s (Naomi Battrick) father is very sick and learns that he only has three months left to live. Not soon after learning of the grim diagnosis, Faith is approached by her new field hockey coach, Sissy (Anna Walton, Soulmate), with a proposition that seems all but real — Sissy will cure Faith’s father for good, using witchcraft. The only caveat is that the fifteen year old must bear a child. Agreeing to do so proves to be one of the worst decisions of Faith’s life as she must fight against the witch and her entire coven of followers to escape the devil’s grasp.
Cherry Tree is a beautiful looking film. It is very dark, both in tone and in color-scheme, with its use of deep reds and blacks as is fitting with cherries. Stunning cinematography coupled with an appropriately foreboding score help to solidify the unsettling mood even further.
There are plenty of characters, but Cherry Tree features a small enough cast to still keep things familiar and personal. Anna Walton does an amazing job as the confident, sexy, and seductive witch, Sissy, who seems to have the entire town under her spell. In contrast to Walton’s villainous portrayal of the witch, young Naomi Battrick does a wonderful job as the blonde fifteen year old, who is rather cherubic in character. The two lead a very competent cast of actors who all helped propel the story forward rather successfully.
Writer, Brendan McCarthy, and director, David Keating, have created a rather intricate world of the supernatural and paranormal with a rather strict set of rules and rituals. When one gives, they shall be given; When one breathes new life, another must die. These are only but two of the unwritten laws governed by the field hockey-teaching witch. If the entire theme wasn’t eerie enough, McCarthy and Keating decided to up the ante by introducing the likes of dozens of centipedes, which are seen practically the entire time the film is rolling. In Cherry Tree, the creepy little guys are known as Familiars, those that connect the known world to that of the Underworld. Basically, without them, none of this stuff would be possible.
The hundred-legged arthropods are seen on screen, crawling in and out of the flesh of various victims. This effect is achieved through both practical and visual computer effects. The entire effects team did a wonderful job with slashes, gashes, and peeling flesh all looking eerily authentic throughout the film’s entire 85 minute runtime.
I was thoroughly impressed with Cherry Tree‘s storytelling and script. While I can only think of positive things to say about the film, I do want to point out that I think the final line, delivered by Faith, and very last frame of the film are rather silly and really unnecessary. It didn’t ruin the film by any means, but I think it did leave me in a strange place after delivering such a strong presentation. That aside, I was pleased overall, and I recommend the film to anyone looking for originality and creativity in their horror.
You can pick up Cherry Tree on DVD and Blu-ray from Dark Sky Films, available now. I give this one 4 chicken sacrifices out of 5.