May 11, 2012

Filthy Review - If a Tree Falls

If a Tree Falls (2010)

Review by Jude Felton

When watching a movie I never consider the film’s budget, I just don’t see the point. You can throw millions of dollars at a film, but if there is no talent or soul involved you are just going to get a good looking turd. By the same token a film can have a minimal budget, and in the case of If a Tree Falls very minimal, and be a cracking film. If the talent is there and the film has made with passion you see past the surface and just embrace the ride.

Do you ever watch a film and for whatever reason it just gels with you? It’s more than just the plot or the look, or anything else; there is just a groove to the action that pulls you in? Well that is exactly how I felt watching this film. I’d seen the plot before, more of which later, and I have seen other films adopt the faux grindhouse look, to varying degrees of success, but this film just hooked me. Oh yes, I remember why, it’s as bleak as all hell. This isn’t a pleasure cruise; this is a ride down the rapids with no paddle as your head smashes against the rocks
The story is simple and brutal at its core; four friends travelling decide to camp in the woods and end up getting terrorized by a group of faceless thugs. It’s not new, I know that, but then I take each film as I see it and this one worked for me. I won’t go into any more about what happens, what precedes the camping or what follows, suffice to say that it’s a brutal film.

Now, you can either take the grindhouse look or you can leave it, and as the film started I did have a case of “not another one”, here we go again. Surprisingly though that quickly passed and I didn’t give it another thought. Instead what I found myself watching was a stripped down and ugly variation on films like The Strangers or Them (Ils). In fact the feel I got from If a Tree Falls was the aforementioned The Strangers crossed with I Spit on Your Grave. Not necessarily the content, but the style and feel. This is a raw movie, the camera is shoved right into the midst of the action, in turn putting you right into areas you don’t want to be. There is no smooth flow to the action, instead the camerawork is at times jerking about, getting up close and personal.

I personally liked the visual style and any flaws in the sound were masked by the use of a decent soundtrack. Like I said, this is rough around the edges and nasty to watch, so budget be damned, because this would not have been half as effective if it had been cleaned up.

What director Gabriel Carrer has achieved with this movie is a brutal and jarring movie that is downbeat to say the least, and don’t worry I am not spoiling anything here. Regardless of how the movie ends, it could have a Disney musical number tagged on for all I care. It would still be downbeat and bleak throughout, the kind of movie that just makes you feel dirty after watching it. Sure, there are far more violent and gory films out there, movies that are more shocking, but there is a tone to If A Tree Falls that I just relished.

In a time where filmmakers have returned to the grindhouse style of old and made them fun to watch, Gabriel Carrer has made one that is not going to have you cheering at the screen, instead he wants to beat you into submission in this terrific little film.

Whether you enjoy this as much as me I have no idea. It is rough, raw and brutal viewing and works for me. As I mentioned, sometimes a film just has a groove that sucks me in; this was one of those movies.

If a Tree Falls is available now on DVD and VOD through Black Fawn Films.

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