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John’s Horror Corner: Cherry Tree (2015), a bad but watchable witch movie featuring cool effects and perhaps too many centipedes.

April 25, 2016


MY CALL: A low-budget Irish witch movie boasting some cool ideas and neat low-budget practical effects, but cursed with major plot holes and terrible, terrible writing (and direction, I suppose). Definitely not unwatchable, I’d consider it a laughably bad movie with a few moderately redeeming features. MOVIES LIKE Cherry Tree:  Some other Irish horror movies include Rawhead Rex (1986; pretty bad but watchable), Leprechaun Origins (2014; horrible), Leprechaun 2 (1994; decent), Leprechaun (1993; campy but excellent), Grabbers (2012; AMAZING) and The Hallow (2015; EXCELLENT). Also check out Holidays (2016), which features an Irish short story (Mother’s Day).

MORE WITCH MOVIES:  For better witch movies I’ll suggest Warlock (1989), The Witch (2016), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), The Craft (1996) and The Witches (1990), the campy The Kiss (1988) and Spellbinder (1988) are entertaining but bad, the dark noir Lord of Illusions (1995), and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) and The Blair Witch Project (1999) were cool considering you never see a witch. And check out Pumpkinhead (1988) for a great depiction of a witch, though it’s not a “witch movie.” Definitely skip Witchcraft (1989). Lords of Salem (2013) and Mother of Tears (2007) deal with witches in different ways and Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), The Last Witch Hunter (2015) and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) offer action and effects-driven fun. Beautiful Creatures (2013) and The Woods (2006) may appeal to younger audiences. Superstition (1982) and The Haunting of Morella (1990) are allegedly witch movies but don’t feel like it. Deadtime Stories (1986) features a pretty cool witch short story.


I had been looking forward to this Irish witch movie despite the scathing reviews (discussed here). That said, I’m glad I watched it…but it wasn’t exactly good.


Witches had occupied the town of Orchard since the Middle Ages, their coven constantly seeking a woman to bear the son of Satan so that they may gain untold power. After dispatching of the coven, folk tales suggested that the spirits of these witches were linked to an old cherry tree, and through that tree they could return.


A virgin high school field hockey player at odds with her teammates, Faith (Naomi Battrick) would do anything to save terminally ill father (Sam Hazeldine; The Raven, The Wolfman). And she is approached by her new field hockey coach to do just that.  Sissy (Anna Walton; Hellboy II: The Golden Army) readily explains that she has access to magical powers that could cure Faith’s father and demonstrates such proficiency by killing and resurrecting a chicken with what I can only describe as “centipede magic.”


Building up to this, whatever the filmmakers were trying to do in order to drum up dramatic tension–school bullies, her father’s health, ill-temperament–it isn’t working for me. And when Coach Sissy takes Faith to her home, a manor of wealth far beyond a high school hockey coach, it’s creepy and viney and has stairs descending to untold depths below ground level leading to her ritual basement where she asks “do you believe in magic?”  She goes so far as to explain that their “Lord” would reward them with dark power for their devotion.  Why Faith didn’t just freak out at this lunacy or call the police is quite the curiosity.  I don’t care how sick her father is.  Who would believe this crap in the era of the internet and cable TV!?!?!


The price for magically saving her father: a child. Let’s just say the sex scene that consummates this prerequisite is interesting, demonic and, of course, includes a centipede or two.

The direction is uninspired, featuring amateur shots with occasionally nice cinematography that was not at all complimented by the set designers’ attempts to create a witches den. It strikes me more like a well-designed basement-turned-house of horrors on Halloween.


The centipedes, of course, offer some level of creep factor but otherwise really don’t “fit” in the scenes and their sound effects are exaggerated over-the-top. Not that I don’t like seeing centipedes on the walls, biting people with unrealistic power, and crawling into wounds and bodily orifices and under flesh. It’s just more “neat” than “good.”  Why are these centipedes even here!?!?!  There is also a lot of cherry imagery (which has me pondering connections to The Witches of Eastwick), some kind of twig and slimy web cocoon (that makes no sense and is no more explained than the centipedes), and a gross birth scene.




So is it just me?  Or does her head look strikingly similar to the centipede’s hind legs clutching the cherry on the poster art?

This film is shameless with its tropes, depicting a shower scene of high school girls complete with nudity, along with subsequent nudity during a ritual, a demonic sex scene, and yet another breasty ritual scene. That said, Anna Walton–who accounts for two of those scenes–is a visual delight.


Director David Keating (Wake Wood) has produced a melee of ideas that find no sense of synthesis.  It strikes me that a very serious effort was made to make a good film, but the story falls apart at almost every turn with plot holes.  Faith disappeared from school for three weeks, her friend who saw her weeks later wasn’t very disturbed by Faith’s full-term pregnancy, why the Hell didn’t the witches have her locked up in the final hour before the birth of the Devil’s son (Faith just sneaks out the front door), and why would Sissy explain the details of her ritual so that Faith would know exactly how to stop it!  Just painfully bad writing.


And why would they lock her in a car, light it on fire, then leave???  That’s like when Dr. Evil closes the doors on Austin Powers tied up over the shark tank!

Not that this film is by any means unwatchable–it’s entertaining enough–but if there was a reason for me to actually recommend this film it would probably be for some of the practical effects in the final act or, simply put, Anna Walton’s boobs. We find an interesting transformation scene complete with peeling off bloody chunks of flesh revealing a new creepy form beneath that pretty cool but doesn’t show us nearly as much as we’d like to see.  However some effects fall on the laughably cheap side of things.


Overall, I’d say these filmmakers failed at making a good witch movie. But they succeeded at showing me a lot of cool ideas, stretching a budget efficiently and showing a few decent effects along the way, although paved with horrible storytelling and idiotic oversights by our villains.





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