The Killing Tree (aka Demonic Christmas Tree – thanks IMDB) is one of the daftest films I’ve seen in ages, and I’ve seen The VelociPastor and The Special. Make no mistake, this movie is dreadful, but it’s just the right kind of dreadful. Director Rhys Frake-Waterfield (Firenado, The Legend of Jack and Jill) and writer Craig McLearie (Curse of Jack Frost, Pterodactyl) have put together a movie that deserves to be on every horror fan’s festive watchlist next to Krampus, Rare Exports and Black Christmas. Get your friends round, crack open the eggnog, and just soak in the insanity.
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The Killing Tree is a simple, romantic tale of one woman (Magna – Gillian Broderick) and her love for her husband (Clayton Slayter – Marcus Massey) and their shared love of butchering innocent families in the run-up to Christmas, ostensibly to teach people something about the true meaning of the season by killing 12 different families in a single night. It doesn’t go entirely to plan, and Clayton ends up being arrested and executed. Which is interesting as I’m fairly sure we don’t execute people in the UK anymore.
That minor detail aside, Magna does what any of us would do in a situation like this – she resorts to black magic. She uses a Christmas tree as a stand-in for Clayton’s body, assuming that when he is returned to life the tree will be transformed. What happens instead is that Clayton’s spirit ends up inhabiting the tree (curse those spells and their ambiguous wording!) and he sets out on a rollicking rollercoaster of a revenge road trip, determined to rain down a righteous infliction of retribution on the one woman who escaped him.
As with VelociPastor, there’s one perfect moment in this film. A couple of them, in fact. That moment where a viewer might sit up and think “Okay movie. You had my interest, now you have my attention.” In VelociPastor it was the main character’s parents being killed by a missing VFX effect. In this it’s the moment where Clayton first awakes and looks at himself in the mirror. The comic timing is a thing of cinematic beauty. Okay, yes, the CGI is seriously shonky, and there is a moment where you can quite clearly see the character’s shoes under the Christmas tree outfit, but all that just adds to that charming low-budget feel.
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At an exceptionally brisk 72 minutes and change, there’s not a lot of time to waste in this story. If you’re hoping for a whole lot of backstory and character development, this isn’t that kind of movie. Most of the characters are just there to die in a variety of entertaining ways, after all. If, however, all you want for Christmas is to see lots of people being stabbed by branches and garrotted by Christmas lights, then Santa has come early!
The Killing Tree is out now on Digital and DVD in the USA from Uncork’d Entertainment.