‘You’re one of us – or you’re nobody’.
Review of The Boys In The Trees – A film Written/Directed by Nicholas Verso.
From the moment you step into the world that Australian Writer/Director Nicholas Verso has imagined in his first feature film Boys In The Trees you know that you are in for an unsettling ride.
As a child of the Australian 90’s myself Boys In The Trees, staged in 1997, would appear to be made for me.
Deliberately obvious cultural references and colloquialisms, like the line ‘You don’t know who Kurt Cobain is’, blend with more subtle stagings such as a blow up dinosaur that was the hallmark of every male adolescents bedroom in the Australian 1990’s during Boys In The Trees.
These trigger memories that plant me firmly in a time where I was afforded one of the most affluent upbringings in the Western world during a period of peak economic growth in a thriving country, and also the time when I felt most ill-at-ease with my burgeoning self.
Further adding to my sense of cohesion with the Boys In The Trees script, a clown-masked Jango, played by the piercing Justin Holborow, appears in the opening scenes and brings up the moment in my youth when I was first exposed to the movie ‘It’ and the sinister undertones of adults masking themselves to trick and treat children took on the level of fear it will have for the rest of my life.
‘This is more than a drain, it’s a passageway. It could lead us anywhere.’ Jonah – Boys In The Trees.
A film such as this, with deep roots in both the teen and horror genres, would not be complete without a leading man, and the arresting Toby Wallace as Corey is an inspired casting choice. One part River Phoenix, one part Johnny Whitworth, and a whole lot himself. I find myself again seaming with my teen self and forgiving all matter of unforgivable sins committed by this iconic ‘hot guy’ that my adult self would find utterly unable to dismiss.
Dynamite Australian talent Mitzi Ruhlmann plays Corey’s love interest and sage, Romany, and even she delivers me nostalgia in the form of the girl gang I always longed to be a part of – the group of beautiful misfits who made high school their bitch in Andrew Fleming‘s teen masterpiece The Craft.
‘As his dreams turned to darklings, the sparkle faded from his eyes.’ Jonah – Boys In The Trees.
While the film could wrap you up in the tight blanket of days when life felt, on the surface, much more manageable, the true horror of this film elevates it from a trip down memory lane to a fall down the rabbit hole.
Nicholas Verso established his place as a magnificent Writer/Director with the 2014 – an award winning short titled The Last Time I Saw Richard.
The flavour of this talented young director is hauntingly beautiful and, like its short film predecessor, Boys In The Trees delivers moments so pure and ‘watching-through-my-fingers’ horrifying during scenes of such entrancing cinematic wizardry that you are kept completely engaged through the full course of the nearly two hours of the film.
Profound cultural references steeped in obviously extensive research pay homage to everything from the traditional landowners of Australia to the rich tapestry of Mexico’s Day Of The Dead. Again, as children of the 90’s, these beautifully presented characters and scenes evoke a strong reaction in a generation of Australians who are yearning for the richness of experiencing other cultures and an undefinable need to rectify the atrocities of our colonial past.
This film is about second chances on both the literal and metaphorical level and the suggestive brilliance of this narrative thread had me gripped in a battle with both my younger and older self for the duration of the movie. Saying sorry is a very difficult thing to do, especially when the act was utterly unforgivable.
The younger audience will be suitably enraptured with the film’s extensive special effects in a movie that offers all of the production value of large-scale, cinematic blockbusters.
Those who came of age in the 90s may find themselves, like I did, wanting to give their younger selves both a good shake and a heartfelt hug after the resurfacing memories of betrayals and brotherhood resulting from our teenage lives after seeing Boys In The Trees.
More mature viewers may just find themselves following the characters through a maze of such achingly poignant design that memories, though long forgotten, will rise as if from the dead, posing questions about how accurately they judge their younger selves.
This film is a journey that must be taken. You will be unsettled, you will be challenged, and you will be entertained.
Boys In The Trees hits Australian cinemas on 20 October, 2016.
Boys In The Trees
Writer/Producer: Nicholas Verso
Starring: Toby Wallace, Mitzi Ruhlmann, Gulliver McGrath, Justin Holborow.
Production: Mushroom Pictures
Post Production: Best FX Adelaide
Producers: Jon Adgemis – Executive producer, Sandy Cameron – Co-producer, Kate Croser – Co-producer, Michael Gudinski – Executive producer, Bethany Jones – Co-producer, Ian Kirk – Executive producer, Kevin Maloney – Executive producer, Marie Maroun – Associate producer, John Molloy – Producer, Mick Molloy – Executive producer, Mark Morrissey – Executive producer.