Image Entertainment releases Cherry Tree Lane on DVD today, January 29th. The film is also available on demand and was written and directed by acclaimed horror director Paul Andrew Williams (London to Brighton, The Cottage). To that end, I hopped on the phone with Williams this afternoon. We discussed his approach to home invasion horror, what such an event would really be like, as well as the willingness of his actors to address the film’s more violent material.
In the film, “Mike, Christine and their son Sebastian have always felt safe in their peaceful suburban neighborhood, but a savage home invasion by three youths changes everything, pushing the family into a nightmare fight for survival. Bound, taunted and threatened, each moment is filled with the fear that it might be their last. As their personal hell unfolds, they will learn the shocking cruelty that modern strangers can inflict…and what they’re capable of in order to survive.”
What steps did you take to set Cherry Tree Lane apart from other films in the home invasion sub genre?
It was weird because it was something I decided to write at a budget. I wanted to shoot in particular time frame in a particular budget. The whole idea was to make something that wasn’t influenced by what the audience wanted to happen. We don’t need a hero to come in and save them, they don’t need to be rescued, we don’t need this thing to happen at this point. I wanted to imagine how it would really be if this situation really took place. It wouldn’t be this exciting Die Hard event. It would be fairly mundane at times, which would possibly make it more frightening. The idea was to try to make it feel as real as possible.
The family at the core of the film is fairly unique as well.
Most of the time when something happens to a family in a movie it tends to happen to a family that you love. You’re like, “aw they’re so brilliant. I love these guys.” It’s this perfect couple that’s overrun with negative events. The idea that it’s a normal couple with normal problems was important. They’ve been in a relationship for a while and they’re not [in a perfect place]. It makes them a little more real.
One of your leads is bound and gagged with duct-tape throughout a good portion of the film. How many days did he have to be shot like that?
Well we shot the film over two weeks. And it was shot for about $400,000. And it was in the script, so he was aware that he’d have to do it. And to be honest when we said “cut” he could switch out of character and take the tape off. He didn’t stay like that the whole shoot. He laid down when he needed to and was up for whatever.
I liked the dynamic between the gang and the family. Did you have a lot of rehearsal time to dial that in?
We had rehearsal time in terms of morning build-up. We could improvise some stuff in terms of how they got on. But the idea of there being moments of quiet, I liked. Because of TV and movies we imagine this kind of event as being this full-on crazy night with lots of violence and madness. But when you think about it, these three guys are waiting for someone to turn up. What are they gonna do? Watch the f*cking TV man. Have a look around the house and see what’s there. It’s not going to be a really high octane event the whole time.
Your approach to the film’s violence is fairly frank.
Everything you see in the film is in the script, and you don’t need to see everything. I’m not a big fan of gratuitous violence. You know it’s happening, so if a man is being beaten and kicked, I’m much more interested in the reaction of the wife who is having to watch that. I’m always trying to find ways to see things in a more interesting way.