BETWEEN THE TREES ** USA 2018 Dir: Brad Douglas. 74 mins
With his marriage on the rocks, Greg James takes his three buddies on a hunting trip to a mountain retreat in the Californian wilderness. After encounters with the expected unfriendly locals and an abundance of ominous nocturnal sounds, the guys are stranded by a vandalised jeep and find themselves at the mercy of “Daddy” when they inadvertently kill a deformed child in the woods.
This set-up and the macho character interactions echo the city-blokes-in-peril sub-genre of post-DELIVERANCE horror / action movies that encompassed everything from the haunting RITUALS to popular VHS fare like HUNTER’S BLOOD. The male-bonding gags are familiar and crude (“It’s poker – it’s what you haven’t done to your wife in years!”) and the alpha-male figure gets to say the line “Drop your cocks and grab your socks, boys!”
In case we didn’t get the connection, one character ponders aloud about “that movie with the banjo and the bridge” while another reassures him that he’s not going to get fucked in the arse. Although nicely shot, the movie sadly fails to build much in the way of tension, not helped by cliched personal stories (and accompanying flashbacks) and distracting attempts at humour. The antagonists are absurd and the scripted contrivance explaining the absence of mobile phones in an emergency situation is groan-worthy. Michael Draper gets tiresome quickly as the obligatory spineless member of the group who panics and vomits when things go wrong, while the 80’s-style final shock is thrown away as a joke at his expense.
Review by Steven West