Filmmakers love to exploit people's worst fears. Think about all the films made over the years about plane disasters, natural disasters, zombie outbreaks, airborne pathogens, serial killers, and any and everything else released in theaters or on DVD weekly. For some reason, we're all drawn to seeing what might happen in any of these situations and experience them from the outside looking in. "Cherry Tree Lane" gives us a "glass house" view of what many people would consider one of the most frightening horrors they could experience: the home invasion.
An ordinary middle-class couple named Christine (Rachel Blake) and Mike (Tom Butcher) arrive at home and settle in for an evening together. Their son, Sebastian (Tom Kane), hasn't arrived yet. You can tell the two have issues between them through awkward talk at the dinner table.
The evening takes a turn for the worse when Christine answers a knock at the door and returns to the dining area held captive by a thug with a knife to her throat. The couple soon find themselves bound, gagged, and beaten as their captors await their son's arrival. It seems Sebastian is running with a rough crowd and turned in one of the young delinquent's brothers.
"Cherry Tree Lane" is a slow-burning and tense movie that does its best to explore every aspect of a home invasion. However, instead of showing you everything, it leaves much to your imagination. It's not worse than seeing horrific actions onscreen, but creates a more stressful viewing experience.
Director / writer Paul Andrew Williams definitely knows how to pace a good suspense yarn. This has been referred to as a real-time thriller by some people. Let's just say a lot can happen in 77-minutes. "Cherry Tree Lane" shows audiences that it doesn't take too much time for lives to be destroyed and bad decisions to change the course of one's future forever.
Williams does a great job showing how messed up these thugs are throughout the film. One calls their parents and argues with them about a TV show they want recorded. Another one invites their girlfriend over to the scene of the crime to hang out. She brings her friend and a young boy with her. To them, this is just business as usual. It reminded me of how Alex and his droogs acted after a night of ultra-violence in "A Clockwork Orange."
Another way of looking at "Cherry Tree Lane" is as a cautionary tale. You never know how your actions are going to affect others. Sebastian's actions caused his parents to come to harm. He not only set himself up to be oppressed, but got others involved as well.
Although the movie is Unrated, it features violence, partial nudity, and a whole lot of bad language. This is definitely not for the squeamish. It's also not something you probably want your teenager or young children watching.
"Cherry Tree Lane" only comes in a regular format DVD edition. There are no special features included in the packaging. It would've been nice to see a "Making of" featurette and get a little background on the project from director / writer Paul Andrew Williams.
At first, I felt "Cherry Tree Lane" was a bit slow-moving for my taste. After reflecting on it, I realized that it's actually a well-paced little film that explores an invasion of our privacy and humanity without being too exploitative. Don't get me wrong. It's disturbing and unnerving, but never steps over the line into "torture-porn" territory where a lot of movies like this tend to go.