Treehouse (NR)

Horror 96 min. February 20, 2015
By Dan Gvozden
One of the staples of the horror genre is the frustration that's born from watching characters make boneheaded decisions in the face of mortal peril. The best horror films elegantly and invisibly weave these moments into character flaws or plot motivation in order to draw out the suspense. Still, one too many of these bad decisions can make a mockery of the protagonists and undermine a film's tension.
Director Michael G. Bartlett's Treehouse's slow pacing and creeping dolly shots effectively build suspense surrounding the disappearance of two small-town kids. Bartlett's direction of protagonists J. Michael Trautmann's and Daniel Fredrick's performances, as the cowardly Killian and his older brother Crawford, is remarkably understated for the genre. The actors are comfortable but slightly aggressive toward each other in a way that should be familiar to most brothers, as they explore the forest and discover a treehouse containing Elizabeth (Dana Melanie), one of the missing teenagers.

From that moment on, Treehouse's script unravels, as it forces the actors to choke out cringe-worthy dialogue and make unlikely decisions mandated by plot rather than character. Killian and Elizabeth are besieged by shadowy assailants, but neither takes direct action against these figures, despite their friends being picked off one by one. While murderous creeps prowl nearby their treehouse hideaway, Killian randomly shouts into the woods. Even Elizabeth asks him, "Why did you just do that?" The script's inauthenticity and bullishness defile the controlled direction and performances in a rush to a hasty conclusion with a lackluster revelation. For a strong visual stylist such as Bartlett to direct another script like Treehouse would be a bad idea on par with those made in the film.
Michael G. Bartlett J. Michael Trautmann, Dana Melanie, Daniel Fredrick, Clint James, Victoria Spencer Smith, Nick Herra, Shannon Knopke, Darren Kennedy, Caleb Cox Alex Child, Miles Harrington, Michael Bartlett Martin Myers, Andy W. Meyer, Michael Guy Ellis Uncork'd Entertainment

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