Starring: Greg Jamesm, Micheal Draper, Johnny Lee, Dan Kyle, Marlyn Mason
Directed by: Brad Douglas
Written by: Sam Klarreich
Running Time: 74 Min

Reviewed by: Dan Oles

The circumstances behind the making of Between the Trees must be considerably more fascinating than anything in the film itself. At face value it’s nearly a checklist of horror standbys. A group of archetypical frenemies go on a hunting trip to an isolated cabin and after their means of escape is revoked they find themselves at odds with a mysterious enemy and each other. We’ve got the nebbish outsider, the belligerent psycho with marital issues, the drunken porn-addicted loser…they’re all here and you’ll recognize each as they play out their well-worn parts. No one in the main cast is particularly bad or memorable. From the characters to the monster stalking them it all works at a base level and above ordinary cinematography makes the package look much shiner than many a similar project.

But what baffled me and made this more than just a retread was how confusing the tone of the production was. In some instances the tone was not only comedic, it was downright farcical. Bit characters played up stereotypes so broadly it wasn’t inconceivable that the film wasn’t taking itself seriously at all. But then, moments later, when we’ve already had sequences making fun of the goofy featherweight whining or the washout guy being a lush, the film desires with all its might to achieve pathos and emotional weight. So, I like to play along. The tone is darker, the music is more calculated to chill rather than amuse. We’re in the realm of drama and terror now.
Or are we? Smack in the middle of brutal murder and paranoia we have a dream sequence which harkens back to an older jokey beat. There’s a difference between comic relief and an abrupt tonal gearshift.

It’s…intriguing to have a film in which a redneck bartender literally fires a shotgun into the ceiling like a cartoon character exists alongside long, slow, intense character interactions like the actors are trying out for their Oscar clips.

It all wraps up with an outtake after the credits that isn’t even based on anything that happened in the film proper. Was this a project that ran out of money? Several projects that became entangled?
A bizarre personal venting perhaps, or an homage to beloved films? (I spotted clear references to The Shining and the Wrong Turn series).

Between the Trees left me stumped.

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