WRITER: Michael Pleckaitis
DIRECTOR: Michael Pleckaitis
STARRING: Kevin McCauley as Mark Cody
Peter Randazzo as Squint
Philip Gardiner as Max Cooper
Mary Ann Nilan as Helen
Raymond Michaud as Swindell
QUICK CUT: Did you ever think Jaws was just an okay movie, but what it really needed was to be about killer pine trees? Too bad, because that's what you're watching.
Mark Cody - The local park ranger in Hazelville, and he's a bit wishy washy. He has a fear of the woods after some trauma in his past, which is a shame since he works there.
Squint - The biggest, baddest lumberjack in all of Vermont. He's brash, he's a loudmouth, and he always gets his way.
Max Cooper - A botanist from out of town that is trying to save the trees, or at least learn about them before they eat everyone.
THE GUTS: Trees came to my attention thanks to a fellow reviewer of schlock, Obscurus Lupa. She mentioned Trees on Twitter, and I took a quick look at them and bought them instantly. How could I not get a terrible movie about killer Christmas trees in Vermont? If you're a fan of my stuff, you should check her out if you've not already done so. She's way better at this than me, infinitely more funny, and much easier on the eyes.
The movie starts off with a comment on Jaws, and how this movie is an homage and love letter to that classic piece of cinema history. But...this is about trees. This is going to be painful, isn't it?
Anyways, we get going after that with an opening monologue that is way too serious and a spoof on the opening to Jaws. I question the line of things that 'evolved without change' though.
When the credits finish up, we see some kids around a campfire, and the local blonde entices one of them off into the woods. He does his best to keep up as she draws him deeper and deeper into the woods to go swimming...er, hiking. The change from the beach to the forest is going to make for some awkward dialogue choices, isn't it?
And sweet Kaufman is this movie filmed in murk-o-vision. Everything is either black or dark brown. I'm not even sure the girl is blonde.
The guy just can't keep up though, and lays down for a bit. When the girl notices she's all alone, she starts to hear creaking branches, and she gets watched through a green filter, trying to find the source of the noise.
It's not long before she's surrounded by branches and I presume killed, while the guy lays back on the forest floor and burps. Nice.
The next day, forest ranger, Mark Cody awakens to a phone call reporting the missing person. He hurries off to work to investigate and get the plot ball rolling.
He meets up with the guy Nancy tried to take camping, and talk about the missing girl. While he's being reassured there's nothing dangerous in the woods, something besides this movie starts to blow; a whistle, alerting the ranger and the kid that the body has been found.
They head back to the ranger's station so Ranger Rick can write up his report on the girl, and uh...he says she died from tree attack. Is...is that a thing, now? Are we just going to avoid any and all explanations and assume yep! Trees are murderous in this movie's universe? You can't just take the script for Jaws, and reshoot it after doing a find-replace on shark. Which, psst, here's a secret. I'm certain that is exactly what they did.
As Cody is about to hit up the camground and close the woods, the mayor shows up to bitch about that idea. See, they have an image to uphold, and he is not going to stand by and let this park ranger make things seem dangerous!
I like one change from Jaws they made. Instead of a speedboat, the alternate cause of death for a tree attack is a lawnmower.
Cody heads into town to get a haircut, and as he's waiting, he hilariously freaks out as a tree passes by the shop window, but it's okay! It's just a guy carrying around a plant for home while he stops in for a haircut! I'd complain about things like this making the reality of the movie crumble, but...what reality?
It gets even sillier as this guy can't stop laughing and he waves the tree threateningly at the ranger. Seriously, this is just...weird. It's not even funny. Just...just weird.
But it is back to the woods for Cody, where people are just hanging out and camping all around. A kid heads off to play in the woods, and we slip back into sickly green treevision.
As the kid gets branched by the carnivourous conifers, buckets of blood are literally thrown around. And the movies tries to redo that classic shot of Roy Schieder where the camera zooms in on his face, but seems to zoom out of the background...and does a terrible hatchet job of the whole thing. So badly handled.
Now that there's been some actual deaths, Mayor McDouchebag is more on board with Cody's ideas as they go into a town meeting, and are offering a 200 dollar reward for the tree. They didn't even up the reward price for the modern times, did they?
No one is too happy about the news that the campground is going to be closed down because of the attacks, but they get shut up quickly by the sound of, I shit you not, an axe on a chalkboard. An axe held by famed tree hunter, Squint. Oh, he's a lumberjack, and this is not okay.
Squint makes his offer to catch and kill the tree, and then heads off to a pancake eating contest. This movie is just...so silly. It is just amazing how a simple change or three to the Jaws script makes everything go off the rails. ANYways, Squint gets visited by a friend trying to also collect the reward, and that goes about as well as you'd expect.
That's when famous tree hugger and botanist Max Cooper shows up in the bar. Now, in a town dealing with killer trees, people preaching kindness aren't exactly welcome, so they toss him back out of the bar pretty quick.
Later, Squint's friend is scooping up some manure, because plants eat fertiliser, to try and lure the tree out of the woods. His plan works too well as the tree takes the bait, and the hunter? Fisherman? Lumberjack? Fucked if I know. But after its meal, the tree tries coming for him, but he manages to hide in the garage.
Max and Cody finally meet up, and go to check out the remains of the first victim. I am amused that Max scoffs at it being declared a possible lawnmower accident. Let's step outside of the reality of the movie for a moment, and revel in how this is trying to make us believe more in a killer tree than a lawnmower accident. Trees, ladies and gentlemen.
They head out on the streets and come across a commotion as someone has apparently found and killed the tree. And it's dangling upside down, like they caught a shark. I love how 'bite radius' becomes root radius, when Cooper debunks that this is the tree they're looking for.
And then the fiction of the movie breaks down even further. They should have just left it at root radius. I can even live with saying the size of the needles don't match the wounds. Heck, that's the most sensible thing being said! But the instant Max mentions the tree's digestive system? And that the victims are still in there? Yeah, I've checked out.
Max shows up at Cody's place over dinner, and treats us to a flashback where he saw a tree devour his kite when he was a kid. We also learn that Cody has some childhood damage, but not what just yet. And the movie's fiction continues to outright break, as Cody asks about how most people are attacked by trees in their own backyards. If this was a problem, we'd have burned the forests down and built a parking lot.
The pair decide to cut the tree open anyways, and oh, the hilarity. The best part is finding a film canister in the tree's digestive system (That concept will never be okay with me, seriously), labelled 'Witch Project". I love that the tree tried eating that damned movie... And wait, we're told trees love eating small animals like squirrels and chipmunks, so why are there any left?
And the final straw for me, at which point I give up all hope of logic: "Trees do most of their feeding at night". PHOTOSYNTHESIS DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY!
So, the pair jump into a car and drive around with Max's Tree Scientific Tracker 3000, scanning the forest for anything that moves. For Romero's sake. I've heard of not being able to see the forest for the trees, but COME ON. Trying to track a tree. In a forest. I... This... Asdfghjkl.
They come across a ruined car, and Max gets out to investigate. While he records his findings, Cody sits in their car with the tree tracker and waits. Once nothing bad happens, they go back to Mayor McDouchebag to try and convince him to keep the beaches...campgrounds closed, but that's bad for business, so open up the tree buffet!
So the campgrounds open, and we get a lot of scenes of people camping, while the rangers and Max do their best to keep things under control. But nothing can stop the great white pine when it's hungry.
There's a bit of a panic and everyone scurries around, and I swear the tree they wave by looks like a stuffed animal. Fortunately, it's just some kids playing a prank with a 'cardboard' tree. But you're surrounded by trees...
Word goes up that the actual killer tree is in the field, and that just so happens to be where Cody sent his kid to pitch a tent, because it was safer. Ooops! Everyone rushes to try and save the day, but they don't get there before one random camper buys it in his tent.
In the aftermath, the mayor arrives, and Cody verbally beats him into submission so they can finally hire Squint to take care of things and wrap this movie up before anyone else gets hurt.
So they gather up Squint and their supplies, and head off into the woods. While Cody is packing, he's talking to his wife, and there is a line I wished they'd changed. He asks her not to use the AC because the electric bill is high, and money doesn't grow on trees. I so wish they'd swapped that line like they've swapped all the shark lines, and made it, "money doesn't grow on sharks." It's only fair, right?
As they drive through the forest, chumming the ground with shit, Bruce the Spruce eventually shows up. And we get the classic line rewritten for the umpteenth time, "We're going to need a bigger axe."
Squint takes his regular axe, ties it with a chain to a beer keg, and they give chase to the tree shark. Squint hurls the axe and buries it deep into the trunk, making the tree races off screaming, "Woohoo, free beer!" Or maybe that was just in my head.
Yes, this is their version of the shark dragging the buoys behind it, replaced with a beer keg. Of course, the problem here is, the tree isn't really going underwater, so the whole point of it becomes a bit muddied, since it just gets dragged behind it.
Night falls, and that means its time to redo the scars scene from Jaws. Squint shares his story of going down in Saigon, him and his men being attacked by swarms of trees. Classic line, "Trees are silent, like the night." And let me tell you, Old MacDonald Had a Farm is nowhere near as good a song as Show Me the Way to go Home.
They get up the next day and find the keg waiting outside the cabin. Squint has Cody rehook the chain to the truck, and they go driving off, dragging the tree out of the forest and beginning to fight with it.
But the truck can't take the strain and gives out. The tree continues to fight it until the chain is broken and they set it free. Cody sees they're in a bad way in a dead truck so calls in some rescue. But Squint is determined to catch this thing, and catch it himself, so he tears out and destroys the radio, destroying their only means of rescue. Um, they're not in the ocean, they could just walk out of the forest? On the road?
Fortunately, Max has an injector he can use to dose the tree with some heavy duty rotting bacteria or something, so long as he can get close enough in an anti-tree cage and get it right in the roots. Yeah, I'm just going along with it by this point and nodding, folks.
So they build the cage, Max gets suited up, and waits in the forest for the tree. He doesn't have long to wait though, and he is soon being circled by the great white pine.
They do voice some concerns that the cage is no match for the pine, and when they build that flimsy little cage, well even I begin to question its efficacy. And their concerns bear out when the tree attacks and beats the cage around, while the two back at the truck try and reel it back in before their friend is eaten.
When the cage is smashed, Max ducks for cover, and the guys reel back the pieces they can. When they're shocked to see the mangled cage, the tree jumps up and grabs Squint.
He gets dragged off the truck and spruced to death, and Cody jumps back into the cab to try and get the truck started. The tree dances around the truck trying to get in. It's hilarious how you know there's some guy out of shot waving this tree around, and hopefully trying to make it look threatening.
The tree starts trying to force its way through the open window, and Cody spies the small container of gasoline, starts throwing it all over the thing, and making it run off. He grabs a box of matches and takes several tries before he gets one lit, and thrown through the air at the soaked tree, making it burst into flames. Well, at least when it dies, it smells nice.
With the bad tree dead, and all the hard work done, Max stumbles out of the woods so they can walk out of the forest, and we can move on. Hooray, the movie is over!
As the credits finish, with some nice bloopers at least, they threaten us with Trees 2: The Root of All Evil. Fortunately, that's just a joke...wait, what? Real? Next review?! Fuck me...
Video: Fortunately, the murk-o-vision from the start of the movie was just them trying to fake day for night, very badly. The rest of the movie doesn't look great, but it at least goes up slightly in quality from there.
Audio: Passable, at least. Nothing special, barely stereo, but everything is easy enough to hear.
Sound Bite: "This was no lawnmower accident! No wood chipper! And it certainly wasn't Bigfoot!!" All three of those, more likely than an actual killer tree.
1 - Almost five minutes in, Nancy kicks off the kill count when the trees come for her.
2 - Little kid with his ball gets eaten by the trees.
3 - Heather found dead from a tree attack.
4 - Random camper wrapped up like a tent burrito.
5 - Squint dragged out to his piny doom.
Best Corpse: They all kinda suck. But at least the guy wrapped up in his tent was entertaining.
Blood Type - F: They don't really show squat. Or squint.
Sex Appeal: You know what you lose when you move a movie from the beaches to the forest? Bathing suits. Strike three.
Movie Reivew: This movie... This movie sure is special, huh? Jaws is such a classic of cinema. It changed the entire landscape. I could never review it for Trisk. The sequels, on the other hand... But I digress. Do you know what Trees gives me? It gives me a movie that is so laughably made, and since they just did a find/replace on the Jaws script, I DO get to poke fun at Jaws, without ACTUALLY reviewing Jaws. But you will notice, almost none of my comments reflect the actual story of the movie, but rather how this mess goes so horribly wrong because just changing sharks to trees and nothing else does not make a lick of sense. The acting is cheesy and over the top, the directing is standard. Just...yeah. The movie is Jaws, unashamedly. And it's supposed to be a comedy, supposed to be parody, but when ALL you are doing is changing a few words in the original's script, that is NOT parody. IT IS THE SAME MOVIE. But dumber. And that sums up Trees. Dumb. I do not have the words to describe how frustrating this movie is, and believe me, I am trying! One out of five great white pines.
Entertainment Value: This is a tough category. This movie must truly be seen to be believed. I mean...it's Jaws! With trees! There's actually an idea there, and it works as a description, even if its a silly one. But then that is LITERALLY what the movie is, not merely a comparrison like describing a movie as "Die Hard in a shopping mall". The fact this thing exists is just...mind boggling. And on that count it SHOULD get a four, becuase holy shit is it entertaining to see how terribly wrong everything goes from just a simple word change, and the entire plot and logic leaves the station. But...it's Jaws. You should go watch Jaws. Jaws is much better. And this is Jaws. But with a few different words. VERY few. So on the one hand, you must see this, and stare. But on the other hand, you should avoid it like the plague. That drops us squarely in the middle, I think. Three out of five kegs of beer. And I feel like I'm being generous. But this movie...it exists??