I Hear the Trees Whispering is the new film from writer/director József Gallai (Spirits in the Dark, The Poltergeist Diaries). When you hear his name you probably think of found footage films, and for good reason. But this time he’s switched things up a bit. Much like Hardcore Henry, I Hear the Trees Whispering is shot from the point of view of it’s main character Will (Gábor Varga). Thankfully it’s not a shaky cam action film like Hardcore Henry was so you won’t need anti-seizure medication to get through it.
Instead it’s a mystery thriller with supernatural overtones. Will has taken a job as caretaker of part of a sprawling forested area known as Lily of the Valley. The position has, for some reason, sat unfilled for a year and a half. The isolation may have something to do with it, the nearest person to him, his boss June (Laura Saxon, Emergency: LA) is fifteen miles away. Supplies are delivered by truck once a week.
The next morning, after a title card informing us that “So Many Horror Movies Begin This Way” we join Bill as he takes a look around the area while June fills him in on his duties by phone. True to the card he soon hears a chainsaw. Investigating, he finds the saw, but not its owner. He does however find a bag with a human finger in it.
Gallai manages to create a definite sense of isolation through the first part of I Hear the Trees Whispering. For the first half hour the only humans we see in the forest are Will’s arm and a distant figure with a flashlight. Beyond that all we hear are voices, Will’s, Jane’s and assorted people on the radio. We do see some other people though, Will’s dreams are haunted by memories of his wife Sara (Beáta Boldog) and daughter Lily (Zsófia Gallai). According to what he tells Jane Sara died in a car accident for which he blames himself.
While the atmosphere and character development are well developed through all of this, not a lot actually happens. Will gets feelings of Deja vu at some ruins, he sees another figure in the distance. It’s all small, seemingly insignificant things that seem to be foreshadowing something much more important about to happen.
I Hear the Trees Whispering is more of a slow burning mindfuck than a typical jump scare horror movie. As it progresses rather than becoming clearer, things get more and more strange as details are revealed. It creates an unsettling feeling especially as the distant, and silent, stranger is the only person we see. Most of the time we just hear the two leads talking. We do see Dale (Larry Hankin, Breaking Bad, Wally Got Wasted), Lily’s grandfather, via a video message. And Bill Oberst Jr. (The Good Things Devils Do, Painkiller) provides the voice of Chuck, the last person to hold this job.
The film ends with an epilogue that brings in some new characters including Peter (Nyell, Dark Medicine) and Harald (Jon Vangdal Aamaas, Nest of Vampires, Nefarious). It’s an interesting wrap-up for I Hear the Trees Whispering’s plot, but I can also see it being a bit divisive as it’s somewhat out of tone with what has come before.
Wisely not stretching its plot any further than necessary, I Hear the Trees Whispering runs seventy seven minutes including credits. That’s just long enough to tell its story and wrap things up on a note I wasn’t expecting given the director’s previous films. Gallai tried something different here, and for the most part it works as long as you don’t mind the slow burn.
The soundtrack for I Hear the Trees Whispering will be available on streaming services such as Deezer and Spotify at the end of January. However there’s still no word on release plans for the film itself. You can check it’s Facebook page for announcements.