Boys in the Trees is a true genre bender. With elements of drama, thriller, and horror, the story itself is told as a Halloween tale.
Boys in the Trees is an Australian movie and the story takes place on Halloween. Usually, we think of Halloween as a Fall holiday, but here it’s a Spring awakening event.
Ah yes, the joys of stories taking place “down-under”. Due to this, we also get a little quip about Halloween being an American invention.
For the record, it obviously isn’t. However, the way everyone celebrates Halloween these days is very American. Then again, Santa Claus (as we know him now) was largely made popular by Coca-Cola advertisement. So let’s just enjoy the holidays and not worry about these details.
In any case, Boys in the Trees isn’t really about Halloween. We do get a few supernatural elements because the story takes place on this evening.
More specifically, we encounter spirits – whether good or bad, you’ll have to watch the movie to know.
Boys in the Trees is actually a very simple coming-of-age story. A group of friends (primarily boys) are about to graduate High School.
Most of them are looking forward to what the future has to offer, while others are fearing it because they rule High School.
Refreshingly nuanced character portraits
The differences among the characters are obvious. And yes, we do have a super bully in this group of friends, which does result in very uncomfortable scenes.
However, I must commend the movie for not having too many black or white moments. Most things are simply realistic and very nuanced.
Sure, the bully is very much a hypermasculine asshole, but we also get to experience him caring for his friends. Not in a tearjerker way, but just enough for the audience to relate to him on a deeper level.
As always, these character-driven stories only work, when the actors portraying the characters are on point.
And this cast definitely knows how to make it work!
So much young talent
Especially the lead character, Corey, works really well for me. He’s played by Toby Wallace and has a face and presence that captivates completely.
He’s done several short films in the past and even portrayed INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence in a mini-series about the band. I don’t think I’ve seen him in anything before, but I would be very surprised if he doesn’t turn out to be a rising star.
Toby Wallace’s portrayal of Corey is perfectly complex and honest in a refreshing way. So much of what he’s feeling goes unsaid, but you can read everything on his face.
Another actor, I have to mention, is Gulliver McGrath who plays Jonah. Basically, Jonah is one of those kids who suddenly finds himself as an outsider. He has to endure both physical and emotional abuse but refuses to let his pain show.
If Gulliver McGrath looks familiar, it’s probably because he’s already been in some major movie productions.
Among others, he was in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Also, Gulliver McGrath was the young version of Ryan Reynold’s Jerry in The Voices.
There are no bad performances in Boys in the Trees. Still, those two deserve special mention – and they do get the most screen time as well.
Probably not for everyone
Even though I found Boys in the Trees to be a very entertaining and different Halloween tale, it’s probably not for everyone. The pace is relatively slow, which can be defended by the more intense moments, but you shouldn’t expect anything action packed.
It probably would’ve been to the advantage of the movie if it had been 15-20 minutes shorter. With a runtime of almost two hours, it does run longer than necessary.
Nicholas Verso wrote and directed the movie and personally, I really like his style. I don’t mind that he takes his time and uses a dream-like surreal setting, but the pace needs to be tightened.
This is only the second feature film from Nicholas Verso. In fact, since his feature film debut in 2003, he’s been working on short films and TV-shows, so he’s still finding his style.
If you want a different kind of Halloween movie that doubles as a coming-of-age story, the Boys in the Trees is a good option. And you will get both horror and drama with the important story being told.
Boys in the Trees is available on Netflix in the US, Canada, and many other countries now!
Director & Writer: Nicholas Verso
Cast: Toby Wallace, Gulliver McGrath, Mitzi Ruhlmann, Justin Holborow
On Halloween 1997, two estranged friends are getting ready to graduate High School in Australia. On this very night, they embark on a surreal journey through their memories, dreams and fears.