We live in a time when lowered expectations are the order of the day in the horror genre. We’ve come to accept so many poor movies that look like they’ve been thrown together by failing film students that we forget that there used to be a lot of well made horrors that not only worked within the confines of the genre, but which stood up as great films in their own right. Treehouse manages to do this. Not only is it a tense piece of genre cinema, but it actually looks great. This should show audiences and film-makers alike that low budget shockers don’t have to look and feel cheap.
From the opening tense scene to the rousing finale, Treehouse gets a lot right. Director Michael Bartlett knows how to bring a set-piece together and frame a shot (easier said than done these days). He takes Alex Child and Miles Harrington’s retro-tinged script and shoots it with the sheen of a studio production. This teen-focused horror is how you stretch a budget. There’s a reveal in the last act, which almost an obligatory element these days that adds an extra dimension to Bartlet’s film. This has something of an ‘80s Amblin feel about it, a movie made for kids that has a hard edge; it’s The Goonies meets Halloween.
Treehouse is the type of film that will reenergise genre fans. It will give them something that feels familiar, but that doesn’t feel like a rehash. It’s a shame that this had to come from outside the studio system, but then again, these days the best things always do. Bartlet has directed his share of low budget horror features and now it’s time that he uses Treehouse as a calling card for a shot at the big leagues. Someone like Bloomhouse or Ghost House should hire him to deliver a production with more scope which has the potential to find a wider audience. That’s not to say Treehouse won’t have an audience, it will – and one that will champion it.
Treehouse has the potential to help all those involved branch-out into new career directions. It’s a thrilling, well produced film that works as a wonderfully constructed piece of genre film-making.