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The Killing Tree (2022) Review

Halloween is over for another year, so prepare for the onslaught of Christmas movies, starting with The Killing Tree. Originally shot under the much more memorable title of Demonic Christmas Tree, this is the story of serial killer Clayton Slayter (Marcus Massey, Bunny the Killer Thing, Kingdom of the Dinosaurs). He was executed for his crimes, which doesn’t sit well with his widow Magna (Gillian Broderick, Built to Kill, Dragon Fury 2) who plans to bring him back from the grave.

Much to her dismay, the spell places his soul in a Christmas tree. I’m not sure why it surprised her, the grimoire she’s using directs her to place a tree in the pentagram. He’s not happy about it either and starts his killing spree with her before setting out to get revenge on Faith (Sarah Alexandra Marks, Croc!, Van Helsing) who he holds responsible for his execution. How dare she testify against him after he killed her parents!

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Writer Craig McLearie (Hatched, Curse of Jack Frost) and director Rhys Frake-Waterfield (The Area 51 Incident, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey) wisely don’t take things very seriously and create a film that’s something of a cross between the killer snowman film Jack Frost and Treevenge as the killing tree lives up to its name and leaves a trail of bodies in its wake.

The film also branches out into slasher territory and gives us flashbacks from the year before when Clayton, who looks a lot like Ozzy Osbourne, and Magna committed the murders he was put to death for. This is a bit more realistic and serious, but the over-the-top dialogue the couple spout still places these scenes in the spoof category.

Unfortunately, they do get entirely too serious over dull and unimportant matters like the domestic issues Faith’s lesbian friends Tina (Lauren Staerck, Curse of Jack Frost, Mega Lightning) and Louisa (Ella Starbuck, Medusa’s Venom, Wishmaker) are having. It’s irrelevant to the story and out of place in what is supposed to be a dark comedy. Even worse, the scene seems to drag on forever.

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While I’m complaining, I’ll also mention that The Killing Tree is another film obviously made in England but set in the US. Well, they never actually say it’s set there, but the UK abolished the death penalty for murder in 1965, and under all circumstances in 1998 so it isn’t set there either.

Regardless of where it’s set, the reason people will be watching The Killing Tree is to see just that, an angry evergreen on a bloody rampage. And once the pissed-off pine crashes Faith’s party, they’ll get some fun ones. Its lights can slither out to strangle people, and it can throw its ornaments. It also has a pair of tentacle-like branches it can grab people with and rip them in half. It also has the power to go from a man in a suit size to a giant CGI one.

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Unfortunately, it’s not just the giant-size tree that’s CGI. Much of the film’s gore is computer generated as well, and not very good. Which is too bad because seeing the tree using star decorations as shuriken or the lights hanging someone rather than the other way around would have been a lot better with better effects. But it’s the final battle between Slayton and a tree possessed by Faith’s parents that is hurt the most by the cartoonish CGI.

A very uneven film, The Killing Tree has some good ideas and amusing deaths. Watching the tree stalking Faith while holding a knife in its branches like it was Michael Myers is quite funny. But, along with better effects, the script needed another pruning to root out all the sappy domestic drama grafted onto an otherwise comedic film.

Uncork’d Entertainment releases The Killing Tree on Digital platforms including Tubi today, November 1st. And if you want to exchange this for a film that’s a better fit, FilmTagger can suggest a few titles.

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