Beware the Ides of March
March is a time for many things. We celebrate the arrival of spring and, after a considerably weird winter season, many of us greatly look forward to its arrival. There’s also the arrival of that dreaded Daylight Saving Time. You know, the one where we lose an hour of sleep? Yeah. That one. And who could ever forget the glorified drinking fest that is St. Patrick’s Day? However, Hulu’s latest addition to INTO THE DARK reminds us that March is also the time for women, with Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day coming to the forefront. And, with the #MeToo movement large and in charge in the horror film, TREEHOUSE, the audience quickly learns why we beware the Ides of March.
Jimmi Simpson (Westworld) portrays Peter Rake, a celebrity chef loosely fashioned after Gordon Ramsey, but less aggressively in your face. Within the first thirty minutes of TREEHOUSE, we discover that Peter has screwed up and is involved in a controversy with the internet over sexual assault allegations once more. He has been advised to stay out of the public eye for the weekend, so he drives up the coast to his family’s home until it’s safe to come out. At first, he thinks he’s going to be spending the weekend with his sister Gwen (portrayed by Amanda Walsh), but she gets called away in the final hour to take care of some work related business.
Now Peter is left alone with the groundskeeper Agnes (played with great no-nonsense aplomb) by Nancy Linehan Charles). Everything changes though when a bachelorette party moves in right across the way from Peter and Peter invites the ladies inside for dinner. Then all hell breaks loose and Peter learns that when there is a debt to be paid, it must be settled. The question is, “How will it be settled?”
So, I will say that I had to watch this twice in order to really appreciate what was being delivered onscreen. Prior to viewing TREEHOUSE, I hadn’t realized that the film was focusing on the Ides of March, so I kept trying to figure out what the holiday was. Given Blumhouse’s track record of using more obvious holidays in previous installments of the series, I will admit to being quite confused when trying to piece together what this might have to do with a holiday. Then, when I had the opportunity to see the film for a second time and saw the poster out front with ‘Beware the Ides of March’ on it, I had a very big ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment. Everything made sense at that point, which leads me to my approach to my second viewing.
There is a lot of subtlety in the writing that you’ll miss upon the initial viewing but, after seeing the events play out onscreen the first time around, there’s a lot of enjoyment in being able to spot the foreshadowing interwoven throughout prior to the big reveal. A lot of this foreshadowing does get lost though due to how much director and writer James Roday’s style of humor influences the dialogue. While I particularly enjoy the style of humor, I do think that the wittiness and quickness of the humor may not as well received by some viewers. Anyone who didn’t like “Psych” would probably not love the humor used.
While I did appreciate the humor and how it was used to kind of lighten up a film that tackles such dark subjects, I felt that there were moments writing-wise in TREEHOUSE that didn’t feel authentic to the natural flow of the story. There is one moment in particular that stands out to me. While the bachelorette party is discussing motherhood, Mary McCormack’s character gives a beautifully phrased soliquoy about motherhood and how women are typically classified as just a mom post-birth rather than the human beings they are. Whether because of the flow of that scene at that point or what, that particular delivered moment felt out of place in a way that I’m not quite sure how to describe.
Now, for those horror fans that are specifically looking for homages, TREEHOUSE delivers. As is revealed later on in the film, there is something wicked coming Peter’s way and it may have to do with witchcraft. Thanks in part to production designer Charlie Campbell and cinematographer Amanda Treyz, we are immersed in almost a Suspiria style film. Red stage lighting is used at various points around totems dripping with blood and worshipping women who have Peter right where they need him. What makes me think specifically of Suspiria in terms of inspiration is how some of the scenes are edited together and how certain shots have been styled to invoke that ’70s feeling. Either way, keep your peepers open to catch these moments.
Out of all of the INTO THE DARK installments, TREEHOUSE feels the most politically and socially relevant in our time. Anyone who watches this film cannot deny that what is discussed throughout the course of the film, especially when Peter has to face the consequences of his actions, is something that needs to be discussed. How do we keep these repeat offenders from committing further heinous acts? While we can’t technically rely on the solutions presented in the film (i.e. witchcraft, Black Phillip, creepy paintings that really make one question whether or not to pursue an art major), we can’t deny that TREEHOUSE forces us to discuss these very topics. And that’s what films should do. Make us discuss.
INTO THE DARK‘s TREEHOUSE is now available to watch on Hulu!