Trees 2: The Root of All Evil (2004)
TREES 2: THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL
WRITERS: Michael V. Pleckaitis
DIRECTOR: Michael V. Pleckaitis
STARRING: Kevin McCauley as Ranger Mark Cody
Philip Gardiner as Max Cooper
Mary Ann Nilan as Helen Cody
Brandi Lynn Coppock as Agent Bentley
Ron Palillo as Dougie Styles
Lorne Lakin as Deputy Dusty
Trish Dunn as Darla Styles
Raymond Michaud as Mayor Jim Swindell
Brian Reid as Agent Royce
Peter Randazzo as Squint
QUICK CUT: Just when you thought it was safe to watch a bad movie, Trees barfs up a sequel about Ranger Cody still being tormented by living, killer trees as a large group of them rampage through Hazelville, Vermont.
Ranger Cody - Somehow, the newly confident Cody has backslid to his earlier characterisation of being terrified of trees. But otherwise, he's the same person from before.
Max Cooper - The botanist is back, and this time he's still the more proactive of the cast as he tries to get to the root of the problem with the resurgence of the killer trees in Hazelville.
Agent Bentley - One of two National Forestry Service that comes to Hazelville to investigate the mysterious deaths. She's the more Mulder of the pair, and willing to believe in killer trees.
Agent Royce - The more Scully of the two agents, although he may know more than he's letting on.
Dougie Styles - A rich man who comes from Hazelville, and once had a thing for Cody's wife. He's now returned to the town, making large donations, and is set on rekindling his lost relationship.
THE GUTS: They did it, they really made a sequel of the Not Jaws movie, Trees. On the upside, at least this one turns out to be a more original movie. On the downside, well...killer trees.
We kick off 20 miles out of Hazelville, Vermont, with a group of people breaking into a tree farm to cut down and steal a bunch of Christmas trees. Everything goes smoothly until one of them stops to take a whiz, and the tree he was using moves. He doesn't really think anything of it, and no one notices all the trees with green glowing eyes as they drive off.
As the truck pulls out of the farm, one of the trees rolls off the back, and keeps rolling along its way into the night, making good its escape. This is already something of a step up, as we're giving the trees a little personality, and I like adding the eyes, for some resaon.
We jump elsewhere to a campfire, where a group of hunters are singing O Christmas Tree. I guess 'Show Me the Way to go Home" is still too hard to license. They're busy singing and don't notice the tree coming after them. A tree we actually get to see, with eyes and wooden, spidery legs! This is so many huge steps up!
They naturally get attacked and killed, but fortunately they had a camera set to go off endlessly in case of such things, capturing it all on film. I bet that film is even better than the first movie.
We jump over to our good friend Mark Cody and his family, arriving late for an important event for his wife. His son is older, naturally. The men of the Cody family were busy picking up a Christmas tree for their house, and Helen is angry that it's an artificial. But that's just how Mark likes it. So would I, what with trees in Hazelville tending to kill and eat people...
The event is to commemorate the opening of the new ski resort in Hazelville, and it looks like Horschack made good after Mr. Kotter helped him graduate, because he's the main financier of the project! Dunno why they're calling him Dougie though...
Turns out Dougie knew Cody's wife in high school, and seems to remember her quite well, and in great detail. Man, the blood is really in the water now, with the way Mark glares at him.
Later, Mark is dancing with his wife, interrogating her on Dougie, and clearly jealous. She tries to calm him down, and it goes well, until he sees the spirit of Squint in the reception hall's Christmas tree, making him misstep and ruin his wife's dress, and the evening.
As the Codys arrive home, two agents from the National Forestry Service arrive to question Mark about his report regarding the first movie. Yeah, I have some questions about that too. His wife flips out, since it's the middle of the night, and she doesn't want them supporting his tree phobia. Um, the guy was literally attacked by killer trees. A friend died. Have some compassion! It's not like he's making it up!
...Wait. What if he is? What if Mark was a little crazy, and the first movie was his psychotic break with reality, blurring what really happened with his favourite movie, Jaws? By Argento, it all makes sense now.
Meanwhile, Max shows up, giving a presentation to some people about killer trees. They try and brush most of the incidents away with coverup stories, which Max blames on the NFS, and even says that they're in league with the genetically modified killer trees. It's Jack Frost meets the X-Files, all of a sudden.
But since the NFS provides most of the funding for the Botanical Institute, they don't want to accept Max's proposal until he massages his view of the facts. He heads over to a colleague's office to rant out his pain. For some reason, his friend dives into a flashback where he worked for the NFS, and created a weaponised acorn, called the 'seed of destruction'. Fearing it would be used for evil and plot points, he took it and ran away.
He used the powers of the acorn to escape, and make sure the NFS would never bother him again. He then hands the acorn over to Max.
Max leaves town and heads to his old friends in Hazelville for the holidays. Max and Cody head to the mountain to find Helen, where she's meeting up with Dougie. This should end well.
Dougie tries to pawn his daughter off on Cody so he can spend time with the guy's wife. But an emergency comes up in the form of an abandoned campsite, so Cody passes the buck on to creepy Dusty, and goes to investigate.
That little subplot veers off into comedic territory as we see Darla is blind. And Dusty does not notice. Hilarity and the obvious jokes ensue, and I move on to stuff with killer trees.
Cody arrives at the campsite from the start of the movie, and finds the camera. It's funny how his fear of trees is worse now than in the first movie, when the first movie's whole point was him confronting that fear and moving on as shown at the end, but oh well. The less I remember of the first movie, the better.
After another stupid attempt at humour where Cody unplugs the chairlift, and walks away not knowing what the cord was for, we move ahead to later that night and watch as a random skiier gets attacked by another tree. Oh wait no, that was the senator we saw earlier for five seconds. Yeah, that was poorly set up.
Naturally, that's when the NFS shows up. I am amused at the National Forestry Service being used as an FBI type investigative body. It is hilarious to see in action. Oh, and here comes the coverup!
Mulder and Scully try to shoo away Cody and Max, who have a good idea what really happened, but the NFS are more interested in the coverup of 'windsheer' to explain away the senator's death.
Cody shoos Max off the scene and tells him to keep his wife and kid company while he looks into the deaths piling up at the mountain. The ranger arrives home just in time for everyone, and Dougie, to head off to the tree lighting ceremony in town. Nice timing.
At the ceremony, agent Bentley comes over to try and make a truce with Max. She seems cute...I mean, more interested in getting to the truth than her partner, and she's the daughter of a famous botanical explorer. So she has a lot of points in her favour with Max.
While everyone goes to sleep, a tree delivered to a Miss Tennenbaum, seriously, comes to life. She investigates the sounds of breaking Christmas bulbs, and once she gets close enough, the tree attacks and adds her to the pile of bodies stacked up like cord wood.
The next day, Cody and Max arrive to investigate, and Max gets some shit for being a tree hugger. Um, if he's such a lover of trees, shouldn't his opinion of this being a killer tree, and calling for it to be stopped, carry some deal of weight? It's like if PETA actually said an animal was dangerous and needed to be put down. There's something to that.
Max heads out to where they killed Bruce the Spruce, Cody sees Squint's ghost again, and the mayor shows up. Cody tries to convince him, again, of killer trees, but still that doesn't work. And then he tells Cody to go do something about the chairlift that has not been working for SEVERAL DAYS. Several days!!
At the scene of Bruce the Spruce's burnination, Max finds the ashen corpse of the tree, so at least there's no treegenerations going on here. The NFS agents show up, and yelling ensues. Nearby, Max finds the tree farm that was broken into earlier, and figures Bruce must have spread his seedlings.
Max storms into the NFS protected farm, and finds a nametag from one of the tree poachers. Just in time for the male NFS agent to lose it and kill the officer sent along with Max to keep him safe. Good job, there!
Before Royce can finish off his partner and Max to preserve the secret of the preserve, the dead remains of the stolen trees spring to life and start grabbing them. This is fine by Royce, as he's perfectly willing to sacrifice everyone and everything including himself so the defense department can use killer trees. Still, makes more sense than the entire first movie, at least.
For some random reason, Bentley doesn't get grabbed by any roots. These trees must not be related to the rape tree in the original Evil Dead. She uses this advantage to save Max before he too gets killed.
I hate these comedic interludes they keep throwing in, but at least the next one with Darla the blind girl has her searching for her cane and finding a dead body. Although how the deputy ranger standing next to her missed the giant red smear on the white snow is beyond me.
They naturally call in a medical examiner, and she's reluctant to say a tree killed the person. As any sane person would, really. But Cody keeps pushing it... I like that somehow, in this universe, trees are extra sentient, and even some carnivorous trees are known about. But they seem to balk at REALLY carnivorous trees.
Cody gets a call that the hunters' film has been developed, picks it up, then heads to his son's Christmas pagent. Because that's the best place to show those off, I guess. But rather than look at photos, he watches his wife get way too friendly with Horschack up front.
He stares at the tree on stage, and starts to have a bad flashback. Eventually he can't take anymore, pounces on top of it, and punches the ever lovin' crap out of the tree. Of course, it's not real, but an artificial tree. Which most people would have noticed the instant they touched it, but fine. He wasn't in his right mind.
After his breakdown, he tries showing his wife and Dougie the photos, and the images make the Bigfoot photographs seem like credible evidence. Of course, he's sitting there pointing out branches, and needles, saying it's clearly a tree! Well, yes. If you're in the woods, and taking photos, odds are good you will PHOTOGRAPH TREES! I know this guy is right, and even *I* think his explanations are bullshit!
While Cody hits the bar to drown away his sorrows, Dougie takes over his role as patriarch and takes Cody's family to the mall. Matt goes to see the surliest Santa ever, and his unruly, rude elves. I think they're the treejackers from the start of the movie, but whatever. One of the elves starts jingling some bells, riling up what appears to be a killer tree behind them all.
The tree attacks, and Doug grabs Matt. Not to save him, but to either use him as a human shield, or offer the kid up as a sacrifice so he can get away. Take your pick, which is worse! Yeah, that sours the whole seduction thing he had going with the kid's mom.
While Dougie valiantly runs away, back in the bar Cody sees the news report of the mall attack. He sees his wife, and gets ready to head out, but not before the bar itself is infested with dutch elm. The tree approaches, and Billy the bartender manages to get off a few shots at the thing before he too is slashed and splintered.
Cody hides behind a fake tree, and the deadly one walks right on by, with an hilarious ominous version of Carol of the Bells playing. While he's doing that, Dougie heads to pick up his daughter, and they somehow have a shouted conversation with him in the car, and her in the house, as she tries smacking a tree around with her cane.
Deputy Dusty watches this, watches Dougie drive away without his daughter, and rushes in to save the day! Cue the character previously being characterised as a bitch softening up to her knight in shining armour! Not that Darla would notice the shining, being blind and all.
Fortunately, this is where comeuppance comes into play, as Dougie drives off, but soon encounters the march of the ents. They pounce all over his car, and do him in. Good. So much he deserved that for. Although I'm not sure why his vents in the car start spewing noxious gas.
Cody hurries to the local high school where all the injured bodies are being gathered, to find his wife and son. And hey, it's the typical scene of, "Holy shit, you were right!" Yeah, because there wasn't a whole other movie already establishing that.
And that's when the movie gets around to remembering it has other plots and characters running around, jumping back to Max and Agent Bentley. They come across Dougie's car, but no sign of the coward. But they do find plenty of trees coming at them, and they too run away. But with good reason.
But the trees are either smart, or lucky. The duo come upon a burning truck across the road. Now, the trees either put it there, or they accidentally made it catch on fire when they attacked it, making a convenient blockade. Max tries to find a flare to keep the trees at bay.
They run for shelter at a nearby theatre, and they see a shuffling Christmas tree. Bentley draws on it and fires, shooting the theatre owner who was just trying to get his decorations set up. Oops. They carry him off to the bathroom to try and clean the wound, but find a tree in the stalls, who finishes him off.
Movie plot B runs into movie plot C when they find Dusty and Darla hiding in the corner somewhere. Those two also ducked into the theatre while trying to make it to the school gym. So, these two plots resolve together, and are heading in the right direction to bring everyone together as the conclusion looms on the horizon.
But we still have the prequel to "Frozen" going on with the dumbasses on the chairlift. And the movie is conveniently forgetting about how THE ENTIRE LINE ought to be full of people, trapped for DAYS, and no one doing shit or noticing. Right.
At the school, the four arrive, and run into ANOTHER tree. I won't fault this movie in not keeping the tension going. Dusty rushes to get Darla to the safety of the gymnasium, and the other two draw the tree's attention. They find the pool, and take a dive. You know, at this point, I am not ready to presume the trees can't swim.
They get up near the edge, and grab the tree, pulling it into the pool and dragging it down. So, apparently, trees CAN'T swim. Nor does wood float. And they need to breathe as well. Three fun facts about killer trees! Know more things.
But the tree isn't down yet, it still has it's branches, and grabs Max, keeping him from resurfacing. This gives Bentley the perfect excuse to strip off her shirt and show us her floatation devices as she goes back for him.
Max isn't looking too good, but all it takes is a little bit of air to bring him back from the brink. With the effort she used, I think he was just faking to get a kiss from Bentley.
They break into some lockers to get some dry clothes, and Bentley ends up in a cheerleader uniform. Oh, and plotwise, they realise the tree died so easy because of chlorine in the water, which acts as a defoliant.
Max takes one look at Cody's kid and determines he has uh...sap poisoning. Yes, sap poisoning. They rush him to another part of the gym to take care of that. They try to figure out what to do, because the lumberjacks are amassing, and they're all not gonna be okay if they go against the trees.
So, cut to the lumberjacks, and Fang still in his Santa costume. He addresses the crazy mob that wandered over from the Simpsons. They doubt he's really Fang, and yes. Yes, they decide to riff the classic speech from Braveheart when no one believes Gibson is William Wallace.
They hear a rumbling off in the distance, and watch as a stamptreede comes down the street towards them. They gather in the street to hold them back, armed and ready. I fear they're going to do the whole "Hold!" bit from Braveheart too, but nope. They just stupidly charge ahead! But the trees aren't any saps, and launch their needles into the crowd, taking down several before the mob gets any closer.
Elsewhere, a random blonde girl runs up to Mayor McDouchebag's house, and he surprisingly lets her in. She tries to convince him of the tree attacks, but he doesn't believe it until she shows him the news. And then his eyes start glowing green like the trees. Uhh. How does a movie like this actually manage to get MORE weird?
Back in the siege on main street, Fang gets taken out by the trees, giving a not very stirring at all death speech, and calls over his son. His son who gets killed because he ran over and got in the crossfire of needles. Thanks, dad!
The lumberjacks retreat all night so they don't die all day, and also make it to the gym. Petey declares, sigh, the trees are not human. Good to know. But that's when Bentley and Max reveal they killed a tree by smothering it with chlorine gas. Hooray, a plan!
So, they decide to lure them off to the NFS farm with sleigh bells, and kill them with chlorine spray to choke them by cutting off their CO2 supply. In order to sneak past the trees, Cody has the humans carrying various pine branches. Not the best camoflage, but...they are trees, so.
The best part of reviewing movies for this site is seeing things I never expected to see. Like a bunch of grown men in the back of a truck. Shaking jingle bells. And being chased by spider-like, CGI trees. I love days like this.
Everyone makes it to the farm, and stand around shaking their bells until the trees run into the place. Yeah, I can't believe these things either.
They start spraying the chlorinated water all over the trees, and I'd just like to wonder why they're not firing back needles like they did before? We've already seen the trees have superior long distance warfare capabilities. So what happened?
And uh, guys? Is this a good point to note that um, the chlorine gas you're spraying around, or that your mist is quickly becoming? Yeah, that's deadly to humans too? Guys? Eh, never mind.
Not to mention the whole point of going to the farm was to lure and gather all the trees together, and make sure they got them all at once. But how would they know? They couldn't exactly do a head count, they didn't know how many trees were killing people to begin with.
As if the deadly chlorine gas wasn't bad enough, Darla was somehow brought along, and her eyes start to burn. The concentrated chlorine has magically cleared up her cataracts! I...what? No. No no no.
While everyone is marvelling at the miracle of non-science, not a single one is paying attention to the trees, where something big and bad is rumbling around and crawling its way out of the kindling.
So, the giant tree, bug, thing grows and threatens everyone, but the plot point from the start of the movie is finally remembered, and Max pulls the acorn out of his football uniform's pocket. Good thing he remembered to swap everything over to his new clothes, huh?
He calls upon the power of Iron Fist, or Greyskull, or Captain Freaking Planet for all I care, but all he manages to do is make the giant thing barf sap all over him. The sap hardens, and Petey tries to take his wee axe to the creature, before he gets needled in the shoulder.
Cody grabs the bells and leads the thing deeper into the woods, getting Dusty to do his best to get everyone to safety. But he doesn't get very far when they get interupted by Lafeyette. No movie. No some more. You do not get to bring in a new character this damned late into things, just to make bad French stereotype jokes!
Oh, and he's there to take away Max. But whatever. No, movie!
Cody stumbles around in the dark until he finds the chairlift power cord he unplugged earlier, shedding some light on the mountain. At least it's turning into a plot point. Oh, and we get to see the chairlifters now frozen. So that was a totally stupid plot point.
The ranger grabs the cable, hops on the now running chairlift, and continues to lure the tree thing around, until the cord pops back out again. But someone comes up and plugs it back IN, turning things back on and...wouldn't it just pop back out again, since the problem was the length? Ugh.
And who is the mystery man who plugged the cable back in? Squint! Yeah, I don't care that he's alive either.
Cody stares at the monster as he gets closer to it, shouts "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" and throws the wire at it, and in a giant flash of light and electricity, the thing burns because...uh... Because there's five minutes left? There's really no other reason for it. I guess there's a grounding issue with a live wire? But Cody was carrying it while running on the ground and...
Yeah, this is the new scientific theorem of five minutes left.
Honestly, it probably died because the movie's entire lack of sense at this point is killing it off. That's the best I got, really. I'm about ready to be done in by it, myself.
They give us a bare bones explanation for Squint's survival, saying he was sapped, not eaten, and that he doesn't really know what happened after that. And frankly, I don't think anyone cares.
Max is still sapped himself, so they hurry to crack him out of his amber. But by the time they get there, Lafeyette has already absconded with the botanist.
We finish out the movie at an NFS airbase, where we see Royce is still alive. OR IS HE? He's walking funny, a bit beaten around, and talking backwards. Lafeyette arrives showing off Max, and the tree-possessed man confirms the delivery.
Cody and Bentley watch as the plane leaves with Man-Thing and Sap-Boy, and...the movie ends. Yep, an ambiguous ending, leading up to a threatened Trees 3, Regeneration.
But that was eight years ago, so I guess they used up all their regenerations.
Video: Bleh. It's better than the first, but only barely. This looks cheaply filmed, and cheaply made, and cheaply converted to DVD. The video quality is a step up, but it still looks very homemade. And making it be widescreen in a 4:3 window doesn't help the quality any.
Audio: Standard stuff, but everything's pretty audible, and the dialogue is understandable. Which tends to be a bonus.
Sound Bite: "Mister Cooper, the video footage you showed us of the Hazelville incident, the car wreck? It looked like nothing more than some cheap footage from some low budget horror movie!" A response from a member of the botanical institute board to some scenes from the first film.
1, 2, *and* 3! - A trio of random hunters get treejacked outside, five minutes in. Nice.
4 - Senator Broward gets jumped by another pine while skiing.
5 - Miss Tenenbaum, killed by her own Christmas tree.
6 - Random cop shot by agent Royce.
7 - Royce killed by deadly roots moments later.
8 - Billy the bartender gets mauled trying to protect his place.
9 - Dougie finally gets what he deserves when the trees surround his car and fart in his windows.
10 - Theatre owner accidentally gunned down by Agent Bentley, and finished off by tree.
11 - A tree skewers Fang through the chest, proving he has a heart after all.
12 - Fang Junior, needled to death when he rushes to his father's side.
13 and 14 - The idiots on the chairlift. Although, there should be a hundred more, but the movie forgot all of them.
And untold numbers in the fight on main street.
Best Corpse: There were a number of fun deaths to be had here, and even though there's the weirdness of the gas in the car, I'll go with Dougie's death, because you were hoping for it all movie long. And it was fun to watch the trees surround the car.
Blood Type - D: There's some blood, and it's okay, but not much to write about. It could have used more, especially with all the dead bodies laying around. Most of the effects end up being CG, so that doesn't help.
Sex Appeal: Provided almost entirely by Agent Bentley, whom I think was a Playboy model at one point in her life.
Movie Review: Well...what can I say? It is a movie about killer trees, killing things for no other reason besides being killer trees. It's a movie about chaos. It's cheesy acting at its worst, it's bad effects, and it's got the dodgiest science for convenience sake and plot advancement. But, it's not just a rewrite of Jaws, so it has that. It has a story that goes from point a to b, and while it's dopey and silly, it at least has that. Three out of five cheerleader uniforms.
Entertainment Value: This sequel is leaves and boughs ahead of the original. Holy crap, is it ever. I actually was *enjoying* this movie, for the most part. The story was workable, and the deaths were fun, and having actual creatures we got to see, as silly as they were, was fun! But that last act, man. That bad science, that rushing to tie things up, and then NOT tying anything up for a threequel that has yet to come...kinda pisses me off. If they'd actually wrapped this movie up without so much open, or didn't have Darla magically cured of blindness, or...so many other things in those last 20 minutes... This would have been a classic of Trisk. Still, it is very watchable until then, very fun, and answered a lot of my concerns with the first movie. I roll my eyes a lot once the giant tree beast appears, and it gets real bad real fast, but if it's just those last few minutes that are utter garbage, that is a good ratio, I guess. Four out of five marching trees.