Tuesday, August 30, 2011

If A Tree Falls (2010)

From Black Fawn Films
Directed by Philip Carrer, writer Ryan Barrett & producers Chad Archibald, Carrer, & Barrett.
IMDB page
In this independent Canadian horror film, siblings Brad & Lisa, along with friends Vanessa & Will, set off on a fun-filled cross-country road trip. Along the way, they stop at a lake and decide to set up camp for the night. Unbeknownst to the group, they have been targeted and the good times quickly go terribly wrong. The entire tone of the film shifts to a nightmare of psychological and physical terror. The characters are victimized and tortured by six masked assailants who seemingly act without motive and without reason.

What follows is a deeply disturbing, gritty, and graphic experience in the style and tradition of 70s exploitation horror. From the vintage style opening cards through the Chainsaw-esque introduction (proclaiming the film to be based on true events), the film is firmly entrenched in the tradition of flicks including Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave, through modern films including The Devil’s Rejects and of course, Tarantino & Rodriguez’s Grindhouse. Much like Grindhouse, the filmmakers have adopted the grainy film stock and washed out look to mimic vintage 70s cinema.

Clocking in at 80 minutes, the plot moves along briskly with the simple setup – the cross country outing gone wrong – with some decent character development before the attack– a brother and sister duo are plagued with personal problems and secrets, along with two friends who are mostly interested in partying. However, these characters are not your typical annoying twenty-somethings or teens that inhabit most horror films. They are somewhat likeable, mostly due to the quite good and natural acting by the cast.

The direction is solid with some nice visual techniques and overall look, which serves the chilling script well. Musically, the downbeat soundtrack is effective, with periodic electronic stingers that make the on-screen violence even more uncomfortable.

The killers are a bizarre and unsettling lot – adorned in ripped and torn pantyhose masks, along with punk and fetish-gear like clothing. They do not speak but merely grunt or squeal in a disturbing fashion. No explanation is ever truly offered for their savagery and killing, but the viewer surmises, they do it for no other reason than enjoyment. When one finally does speak, he whispers a chilling statement to the lone survivor - "We find the ones that can't be found" which as others have noted intones that this group is responsible for missing persons all across the nation. There is also a very frightening ranting manifesto presented by this same killer that ends the film and left me even more unsettled.

Given it is unrated, the film contains extreme violence and images not for everyone or all ages. Surprisingly, the violence is not overly bloody or gory, but instead is very realistic. This is not a standard clich├ęd slasher gore fest but rather a suspense filled dread building narrative that ultimately snaps. The tension builds and builds as the killers take pleasure in tormenting and toying with the friends. The viewer is drawn in to several sequences where tension becomes palpable and will be shocked when the characters are suddenly and viciously murdered by the masked assailants.

While seemingly derivative in plot and tone, If A Tree Falls is in fact a harrowingly original independent film well worth viewing and adding to your horror collection. Remember, the next time your friends invite you along for a road trip –“From dawn to dusk – help is not coming.”


  1. Thorough and entertaining review. Thanks for posting JT. We'll keep a look out for that.

  2. Thanks very much Ali. This is is written version of my Hauntcast review.