Film Review: Cherry Tree Lane

This low-budget thriller from the director of The Cottage and London to Brighton aims for a tense atmosphere throughout, but is only partially successful.

Christine and Mike are having dinner in their London home when the doorbell rings. A gang of youths push through, looking for the couple’s son, who is due home shortly…

The film takes place solely in this one house; therefore you would expect a feeling of claustrophobia. This isn’t really reached as often action takes place off-screen, in other rooms of the house. Cherry Tree Lane is not so much a horror movie; it doesn’t offer the moments of fear you would expect from a film like this. Rather, it contains elements of a thriller and a crime film.

The action takes place in real time, an attempt, it seems, to make the film as realistic as possible. Whilst this works on some levels (such as the limited time before the couple’s son is due home), it also reveals the mundaneness of the situation. The tension of the couple being bound and gagged is off-set by one of the gang grabbing a digestive biscuit when he goes into the kitchen. Whilst this real-time style may add authenticity to the action, unfortunately it is not very interesting to watch.

Paul Andrew Williams, who wrote and directed the film, seems to have developed his villains, but only to a certain extent. Of all the characters, Asad (played by Ashley Chin) is the most believable. It seems he has only gone along with the plan on the say-so of leader Rian, and seems to show some compassion to his captives. It is unclear whether the message advocated here is that evil comes in many forms, or that there is good even in those who have shown wickedness.

It is the sound used in Cherry Tree Lane that does the most to generate tension. The film does contain some violence, but most of the more gory segments take place off-screen. It is the sound of these incidents that is unnerving; nothing too graphic is actually depicted but the sound feeds the imagination sufficiently.

The acting is a bit hit-and-miss in Cherry Tree Lane, but perhaps that is not too surprising considering the low budget and brief nature of the shoot (the whole movie was filmed in fourteen days).  The main problem with the film isn’t the acting or the plot holes; it is that Cherry Tree Lane fails to sustain the apprehension so essential to a film such as this. It may aim for the heights of Hitchcock’s Rope, but does not even get close to The Last House on the Left.

Cherry Tree Lane was screened at the Curzon Soho followed by a Q&A session with director Paul Andrew Williams.