This is an English movie, even if one variation of the artwork clearly shows an American-style house and a white picket fence. It's actually set in North West London, and was written and directed by Paul Andrew Williams (another of his horror outings was darkly comic The Cottage).
Cherry Tree Lane reminded me of both Funny Games and Eden Lake, and though it's neither as cerebral as the former nor as devastating as the latter, it still manages to be pretty riveting and successfully create tension with "only" a mostly one-room setting and a lot of dialogue.
It never truly reaches heights of being scary (or at least, it didn't for me) but home invasion is always going to be unsettling... and here the invaders are not dramatic, masked, silent ghouls of unknown motive; they are loud kids with bad attitudes, little empathy, and when it comes to leader Rian (Jumayn Hunter, who actually starred in Eden Lake also) a real streak of cruelty.
The plot couldn't get much simpler; married couple Christine and Mike (Rachael Blake and Tom Butcher) settle down for an evening in - if I had one complaint, it was that the setting up of their dislike for one another was done so painstakingly, we were led to believe something would happen later to explain this, but it doesn't - and while they're eating dinner, a group of teens ring the doorbell and push their way into the house, taking the pair hostage. They say they want to speak to Sebastian, Christine and Mike's son. He's due home within the hour and they're going to wait. They assault Mike to subdue him and tie both up with gaffer tape.
What follows is a slow, stressful climb in unease as time passes, tempers fray and cruelties heighten. Much is done with off-screen violence, using the classic "we'll just have you hear what's happening and imagining far worse than we could ever show/afford to show" to great effect. Screaming and thumping reverberate through the house on a couple of occasions, and it makes up the nastier moments of the film as both the audience and other characters grimace and think about what's happening.
Even though this is a white middle-class couple up against working class kids, it never particularly feels like A Statement On Class. Honestly it feels more straightforward than that. It feels real in the sense that you can imagine Sebastian (whom we wait the entire runtime to see and barely catch a real glimpse of, a touch that I liked) is a mouthy little shit who acts like he's a big deal and got caught saying the wrong thing about the wrong person. I have known people like this - I think we all have.
As nasty as Cherry Tree Lane gets, it never feels over the top. There are also some stand-out singular moments and shot compositions; watching one of the gang browse the DVD shelf in slow motion, tossing them aside, and the appearance of Christine in the foreground towards the end.
This one was a bit of a grower, but ultimately it left me feeling satisfied that I'd checked it out. I've been feeling pretty uninspired by horror movies of late... or locked into a perpetual scroll of streaming services through fear of wasting time on something shitty. There's so much shit out there! This piqued my interest - the clincher being it runs less than 90mins - and I'm glad it did. Oh, and anyone remember UNKLE? They did the music!
Cherry Tree Lane is currently streaming on Tubi! Honestly, Tubi is making me re-evaluate some life choices. It's free, their catalogue is MASSIVE and even if you have to wade through some crap, they have gems hidden in there too.
I'd recommend giving this a spin if you want a short, sharp, English take on home invasion.*
*I feel I ought to say, however, CW: sexual assault. It's handled without exploitation, or lingering on the abuse like many movies tend to, but heads up that it happens here.