Four friends (Siblings Brad and Lisa and friends Vanessa and Will) head out on a road trip to a family reunion in Eastern Canada. They stop along the way to camp for the night at a beach side campground, but they have no idea they have been followed the entire time by a mysterious gang called the Nylon Heads.
After a fun night of drinking too much, the group settles down and goes to sleep. The girls are soon awoken by strange noises outside their tent. In a scene straight out of Blair Witch, the girls are terrified, crying, and clinging to each other as someone shakes their tent from the outside. They muster up enough courage to make a run for it.
The Nylon Heads eventually show themselves and proceed to torture and kill the campers one by one. I was left wondering who are these Nylon Heads and why did they follow and attack this group of people? Unfortunately the film never answers that question. Much like in the higher budget film, The Strangers, the reasons behind the violence is never fully explained. It seemed as if this was intentionally done by the writer to create a mystery surrounding these characters.
The best scenes in If a Tree Falls were the ones in which the violence seemed real. The scene where Brad is being slapped and tortured seemed very real and uncomfortable to watch as well as a shot where Will is being held over a fire that genuinely made me flinch. If anything I think the film could have gone even further with the violence by pushing the limits with more disturbing scenes like those evoked by older exploitation films.
I enjoyed all the Grindhouse references like the 70s style credits and the gritty and scratched look of opening scenes (as if they were old and well used film reels). The 70s style score and soundtrack added to the exploitation feel and was a nice touch. The cinematography was very well done with beautiful shots through the trees in the woods and an interesting 70s psychedelic look to it. The acting is some the best I have ever seen in such a small budget film, which helps the audience to feel more sympathy for the character’s plight.
If a Tree Falls is meant to be a homage to the exploitation/ Grindhouse genre of the 70s. Films like I Spit on Your Grave, Last House on the Left, The House on the Edge of the Park, Deliverance, and Thriller, a Cruel Picture are all examples of some of the best the exploitation genre had to offer in the past. The violence and cruelty was over the top in all of those films and yet they are memorable because the characters were very well developed and interesting. Also all of those films had a reason for the violence at the end which usually included some sort of revenge. Personally, I would have loved an ending like that in If a Tree Falls as well. If there was some sort of revenge ending by the character that survives it would have been a much more satisfying ending for me.
If a Tree Falls is a film that brings you to the edge but doesn’t quite toss you over. Considering this film had a budget that was in the hundreds not thousands, I think it was very well done and worth a watch for any exploitation fan.