Cherry Tree, 2015
Directed by David Keating
Starring Naomi Battrick, Patrick Gibson, Sam Hazeldine, Minnie Phipps, Elva Trill, Anna Walton
Faith’s world is turned upside down after she finds out that her beloved father is dying. When the mysteriously alluring Sissy Young becomes her field hockey coach, Faith finds a compassionate spirit and much-needed mother figure. Little does she know that Sissy is the head of a centuries-old witches’ coven that uses the fruit of an ancient cherry tree in a secret ritual that restores life to the dead and dying.
Getting a movie like Cherry Tree right is a very difficult task. Of course you want to take your movie seriously, but when you make a movie about witches and covens, you have to tread very carefully to remain on the right side of entertaining – otherwise you just end up looking a little bit silly. And in the case of Cherry Tree, the movie is just a little too silly.
Faith is a good schoolgirl who loves her father and is just trying to fit in, but she’s sadly bullied by her hockey team mates. Worse still, her father is dying of Leukaemia. However she is given the option for reprieve by new hockey coach Sissy, who reveals that she is part of an ancient coven that can cure her father if Faith agrees to bring the Anti-Christ into our world once again. Of course, like an idiot, Faith agrees to this plan and things start to go pear shaped. Or cherry shaped, if you will.
Being that this is a movie based around witches, ancient covens and the rebirth of the Anti-Christ, Cherry Tree is hammier than Porky Pig eating a bacon sarnie. The movie starts off innocently enough, but once the act of sex happens and the pregnancy begins, Cherry Tree devolves into an incredibly silly mess. Each passing moment is wackier than the next to the point where it’s laugh-out-loud funny. But the movie isn’t trying to be funny, it’s trying to be scary – which it fails at miserably.
It’s not helped by the fact there’s little to no scenery on show, because its being chewed by the actors on screen. Anna Walton in particular, who plays lead witch Sissy, is incredible in how over-the-top she is with her performance. There are literally bits of the scenery running scared because they’re going to be chewed next and she gets worse as each scene goes on. With that said, at least she’s trying, which is more than can be said for Naomi Battrick who is the total 180 of Walton and is the blandest of the bland. She’s so bland she could give Orlando Bloom a run for his money. It’s difficult to work out whether her lack of emotion is an acting choice, but it would appear that being pregnant with the Anti-Christ makes you devoid of personality. There’s a moment in the movie where she is shown a picture of someone she cares about being held captive by The Devil, and she responds by saying their name with the same cadence you would, ‘that’s a tin of spam’.
And while the witches are the villains of Cherry Tree, coincidence is the true horror of the piece. Brendan McCarthy’s script is so lazy and unimaginative to begin with, but there is so much happenstance throughout the movie that it’s hard to take it so seriously. It feels as though he was trying to be subtle, and all of these coincidences were just planned by the coven, but it’s never said outright and its not obvious enough that it just feels like one big happy accident.
It’s a shame because the practical effects are really quite striking and effectively put together, but they’re simply lost in all the wacky nonsense that surrounds them. Director David Keating seems to have a keen eye for style and Anna Walton’s performance was probably the result of his direction, but there is little to praise about Cherry Tree. It’s not a terrible film as there are some good moments peppered throughout the movie, but there isn’t enough to make it a recommendation. If you can look past the sillyness of its clichéd plot, then perhaps you can give this a go. But if not, give it a miss.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.