Director: David Keating
Writer: Brenden McCarthy
Stars: Anna Walton, Naomi Battrick, Sam Hazeldine
Movies about witchcraft seem to be making a comeback, which is fine by me, but properly executing a film about the subject is much more difficult than one might assume. Done correctly, it can, at the very least, be creepy and unsettling. Take one step in the wrong direction, however, and you’ve crossed over into the absurd. David Keating’s Cherry Tree falls much closer to the latter.
Faith (Naomi Battrick) is a bit of a high school misfit. As she struggles with being bullied by some of the more popular girls, she must also deal with her father’s terminal illness. Enter Sissy (Anna Walton), the new field hockey coach, who takes a rather sudden and self-serving interest in Faith. As it happens, Sissy is a powerful witch whose coven worships at the roots of an ancient cherry tree. The tree is part of the local folklore and the legend is explained during a conveniently timed class presentation. This elusive tree, which happens to be in Sissy’s backyard, bears fruit the witches use in rituals such as resurrecting the dead. What the coven wants to resurrect is the Anti-Christ.
Sissy makes a deal with Faith. If Faith has a baby for her, she will cure her father. Since her dad is really all she has in the world, Faith agrees, not realizing the consequences until it’s too late. To ensure she keeps her part of the bargain, Sissy inserts herself into Faith’s life both in and out of school. Faith also finds herself in an unnecessary (to the plot) love triangle with her only real friend and a boy they both fancy. Faith ultimately wins out and gains a baby daddy in a consensual, but blatant Rosemary’s Baby nod.
Director David Keating was fairly successful in his last horror effort, Wake Wood, with interesting characters, a good cast, and genuinely dark, troubling moments. Cherry Tree offers none of these elements. The characters are one-dimensional and the acting ranges from over the top to completely phoned in. Walton, who I thoroughly enjoyed in Soulmate and Hellboy II, brings nothing to the table here and Battrick, who seemed to be trying too hard, came off more pathetic than sympathetic.
Cherry Tree’s production value is impressive, utilizing some interesting special effects, practical sets, and a lot of creepy close-up shots of centipedes crawling into… well, places no insect should go. Although there were random flashes of potential, Cherry Tree is the pits.