Trees/The Root of All Evil
By: Devon B. on December 21, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Brain Damage Films (USA). All Regions, NTSC. Trees - 4:3, non-anamorphic; The Root of All Evil - 1.85:1 (Non-anamorphic). English DD 2.0. 188 minutes
The Movie
Director: Michael Pleckaitis
Starring: Kevin McCauley, Philip Gardiner, Peter Randazzo
Screenplay: Michael Pleckaitis/Jim Lawter, Michael Pleckaitis
Music: Tom Destefano
Tagline: Its bark is worse than its bite.
Country: USA
Year 2000/2004
Trees is Jaws with a killer tree instead of a shark, the stories so similar that there's even a little blurb about Jaws preceding Trees. While this might seem like an amusing idea, the concept isn't different enough from Blades (available as part of the Troma Triple B-Header) to justify its existence. Where Blades took Jaws' general plot and ran off with it, Trees took pretty much everything, deviating as little as necessary from the Jaws story, except to parody a famous scene from another Steven Spielberg blockbuster. Perhaps as a nod of recognition to Blades, Trees' alternate cause of death for the first victim is attributed to a lawnmower. The film gets quite dull not very far into it, because anyone who's seen Jaws knows EXACTLY what's going to happen.

Acting levels vary, even within our heroes Cody, Cooper, and Squint. The Roy Scheider stand in is quite good, but the Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss replacements look nothing like them. While the tree scenes (those not relying solely on tree POV, anyway) can be pretty amusing, the rest of the movie isn't that engaging. I suppose a big part of the problem is that it's unclear why all the other trees in the forest aren't deadly, or at least potentially deadly. The Trees world is a strange place where people evidently are more likely to flee at the cry of "Tree!" than "Bear!" but people still go camping in a FOREST. While the overall idea Jaws with a tree is ridiculous enough to be funny, it's not enough to carry a feature length movie. This would've been far funnier as a fake trailer in a different movie. There're a few amusing gags, I admit, but Jaws, or even Blades, would be a better way to spend your time.

But I didn't really care about Trees anyway; I bought this DVD for side two, The Root of All Evil. This is Trees 2, and since the first movie was Jaws, Root naturally borrows from Jaws 2. Thankfully, this time the filmmakers just used bits of Jaws 2, not the whole movie.

A new ski resort is being opened in the area of the great white pine attacks from the prequel. The resort is being financed by Cody's wife's ex-boyfriend (which I assume was inspired by the Hooper/Ellen subplot of the Jaws novel). Cody is a bit jealous, as it seems the two had a rather virile relationship, but is also having problems coping with what he went through in the first movie, and keeps seeing the ghost of Squint. Cooper is meanwhile trying to spread awareness about the dangerous carnivorous trees. The deadly trees seem to be linked to the National Forest Service, and when a group of killer Christmas trees begin attacking people in Cody's town, Cooper returns to try and help out.

Since the script has unique areas to explore this time, there are amusing moments that aren't just tree related. Unfortunately, there is still some carry over parody, which is little more than redoing a scene with trees replacing whatever was there before. This time it's Braveheart (admittedly this ends really well) and Jurassic Park, with Root abandoning the Jaws connection by the end in favour of Empire Strikes Back. There's also the long expected allusion to The Evil Dead, which is thankfully just a referential scene, not an outright parody.

The acting is at about the same level as the first, which makes sense 'cause a lot of the cast return. Performance quality still varies greatly, but nothing is too bad considering the budget. The film bogs down at about 40 minutes in and never fully recovers, so it really needed some tightening. Some of the jokes aren't great, but overall Root is far better than its predecessor.

But what really makes this movie worth seeing are the trees. Killer Christmas trees is such a good idea! The trees are cheap CG spider-like things with glowing green eyes, and every scene with the trees is utter hilarity. Herschel the Turkey head from Blood Freak may finally have some competition as the most ridiculous monster ever.

Both films seem like community affairs, with what looks like a whole small town involved. It also seems like heaps of fun was had making them, and the participation of so many people and locations really beefs up the production values. Both films are well shot and edited, especially when considering the budget, and Root will definitely make it into the player every Christmas.
Trees is presented at 1.33:1. The film has some grain, is a little blurry, and is left a bit dark from the film looking process. Root is letterboxed at about 1.85:1, but still a 4:3 transfer. The film has video grain and a bit of video haze, but is otherwise okay. Overall, they're both perfectly acceptable transfers for films of such low budget.
Both films have a two-channel English language track, and both films have some less than perfect ADR. Trees has the better sound mix, and the dialogue remains clear, which is the essential bit for me. Root suffers the general low budget issues like pops and background noise, but the real problem is that voices distort when raised.
Extra Features
Trailers for both films, with Root's trailer available on both sides of the disc.
The Verdict
Root's ending paves the way for a third instalment, which will evidently be called Regeneration. I'll be willing to check it out when it's made, but I'm actually more interested in seeing an entirely original idea from this team, as they have quite a bit of talent.
Movie Score
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