Horror movies have had something of a renaissance over the last twelve to eighteen months. Crowds have been lapping it up for the original concepts of Get Out and Don’t Breathe whilst existing IPs such as Annabelle Creation and Jigsaw are also drawing big box office numbers. Prior to this, however, the genre had spent a few years in the doldrums with nothing but fairly generic releases hitting the big screens with many movies failing to gain any attention at all. The Body Tree was one such movie but it is hoping for a new lease of life with its digital release.
Set in the Altai Mountains in Siberia, a group of American college students met for a burial celebration a year after the death of their friend and colleague Kara. The reason for Kara’s demise is uncertain but fingers point to one of the group, Brandon, who was found holding her body. The only one sure of his innocence is his sister Alice (Erica Dasher from Jane By Design). With the students together in one place, Kara’s brother and a local Shaman perform an ancient ritual with unexpected consequences, putting the group in peril and uncertain if they will get out of the ‘middle of nowhere in the middle of nowhere’, alive.
From the outset, there are issues with the movie. The opening scene has the protagonists already on a car journey to the destination. There is no backstory or fleshing out of character and this does not really get rectified throughout the runtime of the movie. This leaves the audience watching a bunch of generic stereotypes trying to survive yet having no real interest in the outcome. Avoiding spoiler territory, the outcome is fairly predictable and the majority of the audience will work out the killer before the reveal. The biggest issue is the number of camera angles and the regularity of cutting from one to another by director Thomas C. Dunn. The very first scene is a beautiful overhead of a mountain pass and beautiful location. The next 10 minutes has no one shot being held longer than 10 seconds. It is extremely noticable, taking away from what is happening on screen and that should never stand out to the general viewing public.
This is almost an example of most movies released at the time in that it is trying but feels bereft of original ideas and relies on tropes that have been overplayed. Some people may argue this is more a thriller than a horror but with the primary plot point being involved around ancient rites, that does put this more in line with the latter category. If this were a bigger budget release I would say it was potentially hamstrung being a 15 rated movie but I don’t believe that was what was defined as being the limit when filming and I can’t imagine much being on the cutting room floor that would elevate the movie as a whole. Is the film bad per se? No, it isn’t. I do see positive elements. The acting is mostly solid and the plot is easy enough to follow but it is painted by numbers with nothing to set it apart from hundreds of other films of the genre.
The Body Tree is available as a digital download on 13 November.