The Body Tree (2016) Review
The Body Tree (2016) Review 7/10
A group of young friends travel to the Siberian countryside for a sacred ritual to honour their murdered Russian friend, Ksenia. The ceremony goes horribly wrong though when instead or releasing a good spirit to help Ksenia move on in the afterlife, an evil spirit manifests instead. The friends learn that the only explanation is that one of them is actually Ksenia’s murderer.
The evil spirit possesses one of the friends and turns him into sociopath who starts to hunt and kills the others. The only way to stop the demon is to kill Ksenia’s murderer but nobody knows who that is. The group is trapped in a snowbound lodge far from civilization with no way to get help or escape. All they have is each other. As the night wears on, everyone becomes a suspect and loyalties among them are tested. The race is on to find Ksenia’s killer before the demon leaves nothing but an empty lodge and a trail of bodies.
The Body Tree grabs you from the start by treating the viewer to some gob-smacking scenic shots of the countryside that our protagonists are travelling through. It helps too that the excellent score, by Navid Hejazi, pumping away in the background, ensures that right mood is set-up, going on to complement the creepy happenings that follow.
Director Thomas Dunn (The Ungodly) has marked himself out as a name to watch. For all the film’s faults – an over-reliance on exposition and a muddled kick-off – The Body Tree maintains the tension and an eerie mood throughout. Dunn’s film takes the ‘cabin-in-the-woods’ scenario and gives it a twist that reminds of Carpenter’s The Thing – someone amongst them isn’t who they say they are – as well as an Agatha Christie whodunnit as you attempt to suss out who the killer is amongst them.
I probably would have jumped back in the vehicle and driven as fast as I could after seeing the weird lady-like doll that their hosts have sat at the end of their dinner table. The doll is wearing the same dress that their friend wore when she was murdered, with some of the victim’s hair used too. But not our characters, instead they look on warily and comment about how creepy it is but remain fixed in their plans to put their friend’s memory to rest. They unbelievably remain fixed after discovering that there are graves dug, one for each of them, and an eternment doll for each too – but I suppose if they didn’t there wouldn’t be a story to tell.
Typically the collective start to bicker as the body count mounts, fingers are pointed and accusations made. These sections may lose some viewers as there is a lot of talking but for me it added to the enjoyment, making this much more than a simple possession flick. I was also confident with my guess as to who the killer was but surprisingly I was wrong! The Body Tree moves along at a decent pace and the interest levels rarely flag. It does get a bit silly in places and the characters are not always properly defined but there’s enough good stuff here to recommend this as a fun watch.