In my long slog to watch a new movie every day for a year I’ve been stumbling into a lot of bland crap. With the sheer amount of releases I didn’t think this would be a hard undertaking. Hard is a bit of an over statement. With at least 7 new movies a week finding a streaming pick has been difficult lately. I dug deep into the bowels of Netflix and found an Australian Thriller/Drama called Boys in the Trees.
Corey (Toby Wallace) and his friends celebrate their last day of high school. A day that falls on Halloween. The group calls themselves The Gromits. The Gromits are led by Jango (Justin Holborow). A guy who doesn’t inspire loyalty in his friends but demands it by being cruel.
The main subject of Jango’s teenage anger is a smaller boy named Jonah (Gulliver McGrath). Jonah and Corey used to be best friends. The two grew apart as Corey insisted he was someone he wasn’t. Corey never stepped into the harassment of Jonah but was content to let it happen.
Corey finds his old friend Jonah alone. Jonah blackmails his old friend into walking him home. It appears to be an attempt to reconnect and get one last shot at reconnecting with his friend.
As the two friends reconnect they play a game they created as kids. As they pass through a forest they tell each other scary stories. In their child minds the stories would become real. As Jonah tells his stories they become more and more real in Corey’s eyes. More real than Corey would like to admit to himself.
The movie is cut brilliantly. Your imagination does most of the heavy lifting in these creepy moments. The creativity in the stories and the less-is-more approach to horror works. Writer/Director Nicholas Verso also nails atmosphere. Unfortunately, the scenes always fall a hair short of being actually scary.
Although Boys in the Trees is billed as a horror thriller it’s the heart of it that is most impressive. The journey through the woods. The stories. The serious, to goofy, back to serious nature of the co-leads relationship is engaging. As the plot unfolds we see that the movie is wearing a mask of its own. Sometimes the ‘message’ is a bit heavy handed. The ending is a bit obvious. Neither of these elements take away from the enjoyment of the ride.
It’s tough to talk about a horror movie being a guise for a heartfelt drama without mentioning the Babadook. This goes double since both movies are also Australian. Boys in the Trees isn’t quite as good, but few “horror” movies are.
The relationship between Corey and Jonah is the center of the movie. Corey’s coming of age, relationship with Jango, and even the one with his father are underdeveloped. You don’t need any more out of the movie as the young actors do a pretty good job selling their old friendship. The underdeveloped parts of the script are only apparent because they were introduced. If they weren’t we wouldn’t miss them.
We’ve all had close friends that we lose through the undermining of time. It’s a sad reality of growing up. Verso found a way to tell the typical tale in a non-typical and visually rich way.
Not without its faults, Boys in the Trees is a refreshing and creative drama lurking under a horror movie. The young actors do a great job shouldering the movie. Verso does an incredible job with the script and direction even though he’s relatively new to his art.
Boys in the Trees is currently streaming on Netflix