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Boys in the Trees
by Nicholas Verso

I love coming of age stories. Maybe it's my constant state of arrested development; emotionally I'm still about sixteen. Maybe it's that there are several quality examples that have really spoken to me. As a horror fanatic, I've been delighted with the all-too-few films that I've seen that have merged these worlds. Films like Found and I Am Not a Serial Killer represent what I love about both genres and it's a treat, a truly special thing, when the two worlds collide. Australian film Boys in the Trees is a movie that is part of this rare, but wonderful, merging. And you know what? I loved every goddamn second of it.

Taking place primarily on Halloween in the late 90's, (complete with an awesome era-appropriate soundtrack) Boys in the Trees centers around two former friends. Corey (Toby Wallace) hangs out with a less than friendly group. Lead by resident jerk Jango (Justin Holborow), he finds himself questioning his values as his group of friends terrorize others and display a firm commitment to having no future aspirations. There's more to Corey, however, something noticed by local girl Romany (Mitzi Ruhlmann) who catches his interest. She can tell he doesn't quite fit in with his new crew and deep down he knows it too.

A former friend from years passed named Jonah (Gulliver McGrath) is a bit of a pariah in the area, primarily with the delinquent types Corey spends his time with now. Corey tries to convince himself that he is just like his new friends and though he clearly struggles with it, allows himself to partake in tormenting Jonah as well. On Halloween, the two former friends cross paths and a series of events leads Jonah and Corey to take a journey together. A journey of uncertainty and darkness that goes to the root of what tore them apart to begin with.

The trip the two young men take together centers around a game they used called Cocytus. It involves traveling to various areas around town and the spooky tales that they associate with them. This isn't an anthology film mind you, but the little snippets of the stories the boys delve into is a wonderful touch, polishing the flow of the film. The two boys visit a pipe drain in which Jonah claims a young girl once disappeared in. They walk by a house Corey was especially afraid of when they were kids and truthfully still is. This house, Jonah explains, contains a most unfortunate man.

I want to explain every single part and why I love each aspect, but to do so would be a massive disservice to the movie. It's something everyone should experience for themselves. I will, however, in the most general way I can allow myself, go over some of what I mean without spoiling anything.

I love how the characters felt like their own, the dynamic between the two ex-friends works so well. Jonah is a fascinating, in-control character despite the beaten down way about him. And Corey, while far more decent than the kids he's hanging with now, needs a natural amount of time to develop into the person he truly is. Jango has convinced Corey that they aren't cruel but simply top of the food chain and Corey buys into it. For a while his friends turned him into a cold uncaring person as well. However, through his journey with Jonah, you see more glimpses of who he really is; a softer character.

A lot of horror movies are halved if you think about it. There's usually the start in which the characters are living as they were up until this point and then something horror-based comes into play and from that point the film switches gears into a full-fledged horror movie. There's nothing wrong with this at all. It's the standard for horror flicks, so around 80% of my favorites follow such a flow. However, it's refreshing when a film does its own thing in this regard and Boys in the Trees absolutely paves its own road. In this case, the film is a more consistent, fluid experience that never fully lets you know the dimensions or where the walls around you and the characters are until you're supposed to know.

None of the characters are one dimensional whatsoever and the all-around fantastic cast aides this beautifully. The character of Romany fits in nicely and provides a valuable element to the film rather than just being a love interest for Corey and nothing more. Even Jango has genuine dimensions to him. If anyone would be forgivable for having a simple one-note personality it would be the cruel local bully type, but it's not that simple and I appreciated that. There were moments in which you catch glimpses of his inner frustration and possible self-hatred. It's not an excuse, it just accurately shows how life and people are anything but simple. I appreciated these extra touches of humanity to each character and it kept everything emotionally honest.

I can't say much more because in the end I just want everyone to know how much I responded to this film and let you make your own decision. I absolutely loved every part of it, there's nothing I can complain about, even in a nit-picky way. I fear that I'm overselling the project and I don't expect every viewer to feel the same intense connection with it as I do, but I was so impressed and honestly it's one of the best films I've reviewed thus far. Hell, it's one of the best films I've seen in quite some time. Every once in a while, I find a movie that really links up with something almost subconscious in me that I can't fully explain; whether it be the melancholy undertones or the looming spirit that is felt in every frame. They just work for me. Its consistency is so on-point and I truly felt that the writer/director had a deep understanding of just how he wanted everything to be.

Agree or disagree, it doesn't really matter when you get right down to it. I'm so glad I found this film and I can say with certainty that this will be a film that I will be regularly viewing and recommending from this point on. Everyone is different and feels connected to different things and the main thing I can say is that Boys in the Trees reached me. I haven't felt so affected by a project in quite some time, and as a lifelong movie lover, that's a really special and personal thing.

P.J. Griffin, HMS

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