Reviewed by Patrick Cooper
You guys, we watch a lot of horror movies ‘round here, with lots of gore, ghouls, and demons, but I don’t think anything will ever, ever, scare me more than home invasion movies. The idea of someone coming into your home, overpowering you, and doing whatever the hell they want is absolutely terrifying. Even the poorly done movies of the genre scare the shit out of me.
Another thing I’m horrified of is teenagers. They all have iPhones and cooler clothes than me and they do not care about anything. They’re awful. So imagine how great I’m going to sleep after watching Cherry Tree Lane – a home invasion thriller starring teenagers. There aren’t enough deadbolts in the world to make me feel safe…
Written and directed by Paul Andrew Williams (The Children), Cherry Tree Lane begins as a domestic drama. Husband and wife Michael and Christine are quietly bickering to one another over dinner. They’re speaking in that sarcastic verbal sparring tone that only develops after years of resentment – the kind Mike Leigh is a master of. This scene made me wish the disc had subtitles. It wasn’t their British accents but the incredibly low audio that made miss most of their conversation. Even with my sound cranked I couldn’t make out anything. I thought I was going to miss something crucial, but that’s not the case.
So they’re mumbling when there’s a knock at the door. Christine goes off screen to answer it. It’s someone looking for their son, Sebastian. He’s out until 9:00pm, she tells them, then sits back down to finish mumbling. There’s another knock and this time when she answers it, three rowdy teenagers force their way in. From this point on in the film I kept glancing at my front door to make sure it was locked.
Rian (Jumayn Hunter: Hi-Hatz from Attack the Block), Teddy, and Oscar quickly overpower Michael and Rachel, duct tape them up, and leave them stunned in the living room. Led by the charismatic Rian, the trio (two black, one white) explain that they’re going to wait for Sebastian to come home. They don’t seem interested in robbing them or raping Christine (at first) but as time goes by and tension grows, Rian basically says, “fuck it” and anything goes. He’s making up the rules as he goes along – acting nice to the couple when it suits his needs, then turning violent if he doesn’t agree with the result. It’s a scary performance to watch.
There’s an obvious statement going on here about class resentment – one teen makes a comment about the couple’s like of foreign films, another can’t figure out how to use the remote. But Williams never lets the message interrupt the tension. He builds it up patiently and precisely until it gets unbearable. The majority of the violence is implied (same with the rape, thank god) and that makes you feel just as helpless as the couple.
Of course what makes the genre so entertaining is waiting for the climax when the victims flip the script and get their bloody revenge. There’s always that inkling of hope to latch onto. Williams’ climax is expected, but not done in an incendiary manner. Much like the rest of the film. Highly effective and well crafted, Cherry Tree Lane is a standout of the genre.
Cherry Tree Lane is presented by Image Entertainment in 2.35:1 and 5.1 surround. It’s a DVD. It looks and sounds fine.
Overall Score: 4/5