You better watch out. Better not cry, sucker. Because this month we’re taking a look at seven examples of cinematic revenge — the bloodier, the better.

Part 7: Treevenge

Shannon: Jason Eisner’s Treevenge is a harrowing portrait of the realities of the Christmas tree industry. From the idyllic snow-covered forests where trees are brutally abducted, to the mechanized horrors of the distribution centers, to the final “decoration” rituals where hobbled trees are humiliated for amusement, Eisner’s camera never turns away. It never spares us from the horror. Visceral and sappy (in the literal sense), Treevenge grabs the audience by the collar and screams in its face, “This is what you are doing! These are the atrocities you are party to, through inaction if nothing else!”

Some might argue that Eisner’s depiction is sensationalistic. Perhaps? And? Treevenge is certainly in the mondo tradition, highlighting the worst its subject has to offer. If it seems to leer at times, so be it. That’s infinitely preferable to a film that is flocked and tinseled into something unrecognizable. Better a heightened truth than no truth at all.

The most controversial aspect of Treevenge will no doubt be the climax, in which the trees revolt and exact vengeance on their human captors. Some might deride this blood-soaked sequence as an irresponsible bit of provocation, but I disagree. It’s less a call for violence than it is a warning. Unless we right these wrongs, unless we pay penance for our sins, the consequences may be beyond our control.

All of that said, Treevenge is without a doubt the least faithful adaptation of Day of the Triffids I’ve ever seen.

Shannon’s Rating:

Out of a Possible 5 Stars

Travis: Picasso said that taste was the enemy of creativity. In the case of Treevenge, I think that rings very true. What I like about director Jason Eisener is that he really follows through on his ideas; and often ends up taking them far past the viewer’s expectations. It might sound like I’m politely implying that he’s tasteless, but I think it takes good taste to know when not to use it.

Eisener shows his refinement in his use of cinematic language. He knows when to use a nice tight close-up, like when the dimwitted daddy tightens those bolts on the tree stand. He knows when to use those outstandingly goofy tree POV shots. And he knows that the use of the camcorder really sells that moment when the tree grabs the little girl. And he really sells the brutality (and comedy) of the moment when her bloodied dead face smacks the floor. It’s hilarious, it’s grotesque, and just like the rest of the short it really shows that Eisener knows what he’s doing. He knows just how far he’s going to show us something we’ve never quite seen before. Treevenge may be in poor taste, but it sure is fucking creative.

Travis’ Rating:

Out of a Possible 5 Stars

Hawkins: What I love about Treevenge is the way every human character seems either totally insane or completely reprehensible. There’s no way to not hate the smug vileness of the Macmichael family, and every single one of the tree industry characters is filled with hyper-violent mania. That’s what makes the victimized trees and saplings so amazing, let alone the fact that the film almost seems to owe a great debt to the Muppets in how they’re presented. The trees practically sound like a cross between Beaker and the jawas from Star Wars and I love it. The way horrible characters are mauled at the end of the film feel at times Troma inspired and Fulciesque and if it weren’t for such a great buildup involving despicable wastes of skin, the end wouldn’t be nearly as rewarding and entertaining.

Hawkins’ Rating:

Out of a Possible 5 Stars

Ryan: I”ve been obsessed with Jason Eisener ever since the fake Hobo With a Shotgun trailer and I’ve been impatiently waiting for his sophomore feature film with bated breath.  Eisener has not just a love, but a real understanding about what makes exploitation cinema so joyous to behold and it elevates his genre pastiches above those of others.  More than any other director who has paid homage to the Grindhouse and Drive-In films of yesteryear, Jason Eisener is laughing with us.

With that said, the 70s influence is minimal.  Sure there’s that very 70s title card, the Cannibal Holocaust theme playing over the opening and closing credits, there’s homages to shots from Zombie and City of the Living Dead and much of the violence (particularly that perpetrated against children) feels out of something like Deadly Eyes.  But Treevenge has a lot more in common with the often psychotic propaganda campaigns of Animal Rights group PETA than with old drive-in standards.

The wide-eyed manic nature of the family, the creepy guy smearing Vaseline on the hole in a tree stump, and the lunatic lumber jacks with their over-the-top hatred of trees feel more at home in something like Mario Kills Tanooki or Poke’mon Black and Blue (you can google those yourselves, I’m not willingly giving those pet killing assholes traffic.)  I would love to see this made into a feature length film.  Eisener has already proven he can sustain this level of lunacy for the length of an entire film and I delight at the thought of a hyper-violent parody of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes with Christmas Trees.

Ryan’s Rating:

Out of a Possible 5 Stars

Drew: I think Jason Eisener’s Hobo With A Shotgun is the best neo-grindhouse movie ever made. It’s not just the aesthetic he nails but also this alternate reality feeling that populates so much of trash cinema. What’s doubly impressive is that Eisener can maintain such an enormously over-the-top tone without sacrificing moments of genuine emotion.

And I could certainly go on and on about how that applies to his demented short Treevenge. But look, let’s just cut straight to the heart (or bark) of this thing: Christmas trees murder people, and one of them crushes a baby’s head. This is why the art of moviemaking was invented. If you don’t derive joy out of seeing a bunch of pine trees get bloody revenge for countless years of abuse at the hands of giddy humans, then I don’t think this is the movie website for you. I could watch that baby’s head get Yulefucked for the rest of time. Treevenge should preempt every televised broadcast of A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Christmas Story. It’s more wonderful than It’s A Wonderful Life and more miraculous than Miracle on 34th Street. It never fails to put me in the holiday spirit. And I’ve never put up a Christmas tree since seeing this for fear that one day, Jason Eisener’s short film will become misconstrued as a historical document.

Drew’s Rating:

Out of a Possible 5 Stars

On behalf of the entire CHUD crew, have a Merry Christmas/Fesitve Kwanzaa/Joyous Yule/Decent Solstice/Happy Festivus/Satisfactory Whatever-You-Celebrate!

Previous Installments of You Better Watch Out!

Part 6: The Great Silence — Ryan Covey
Part 5: Rolling Thunder — Drew Dietsch
Part 4: Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 — Andrew Hawkins
Part 3: The Bride Wore Black — Drew Dietsch
Part 2: Orca — Shannon Hubbell
Part 1: Lady Snowblood — Travis Newton