Ten films in which plants fight back
It's rumoured that ecological disaster is at the centre of M. Night Shyamalan's new film 'The Happening'. Time Out offers its guide to films about fearsome foliage
The Evil Dead (1981)Sam Raimi’s low-budget kids-‘n’-zombies-in-a-log-cabin horror thunderbolt is his first (and arguably best) film, but it landed in some hot censorship water around the time of its release due to a proliferation of extreme imagery. With the subsequent Video Recordings Act of 1984 and some morally virtuous sloganeering from Mary Whitehouse, the film was eventually banned in Britain. The key offending scene is referred to quite viscerally as ‘The Tree Rape’, and it’s that timeworn classic of girl wanders out in the woods, gets tangled up in a tree possessed by Kandarian demons, gets all of her clothes torn off, then, well, you know the rest. Imaginative horror set piece or pure misogyny? The jury is still out. Read Time Out's review of 'The Evil Dead'
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)All the cinematic incarnations of Jack Finney’s classic reds-under-the-beds sci-fi suspense novel utilise the basic concept of intergalactic plantlife affecting human behaviour, but it’s Philip Kaufman’s remake that really has audiences reaching for the smackin’ trowel, as those viney pods transform into veiny pod people before your very eyes. The sheer umbrageous viscosity of the alien capsules flips the stomach, reaching some sort of apogee in a scene where walrus-faced health inspector Donald Sutherland smacks a newborn and still semi-formed bodysnatcher in the face with a spade, leaking gory verdurous fluid all over the back patio. Extreme gardening!Read Time Out's review of 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'
Macbeth (1971)Roman Polanski ups the claret quota when he gets his hands on the the Bard’s (Joseph Fiennes) snobbish tale of tartan gangsterism, but root and branch betrayal remain central. Vile social climber Macbeth, having murdered his way to the throne, sets about behaving like the parvenu he is, shanking his critics and Frenchifying the castle willy-nilly. All the while, he relies on a prophecy that only the march of Burnham Wood can end his reign, for who, gadzooks sirrah, would believe trees could walk? But Macbeth has reckoned without perfidious vegetation and his nemesis, MacDuff, uproots the forest and sneaks forward an army disguised as trees in a hideous prefiguring of Abbott & Costello And The Curse Of Charlie Dimmock. Burnham Wood marches, Macbeth gets his, and murdered Banquo’s son (Keith Chegwin) is avenged.Read Time Out's review of 'The Tragedy of Macbeth'
The Fountain (2006)Darren Aronofsky’s befuddling potboiler about the search for the Tree of Life proved intensely problematic for the director, his protagonist and the smattering of unfortunates who paid to see it. Split into three acts and taking place in different time periods, it follows Hugh Jackman’s search for the Elixir of Youth – first as a conquistador in the jungles of South America, then as a modern day oncologist and finally as a slap-headed Zen Master floating around the cosmos in a massive goldfish bowl. The tree itself is a tricky customer, consuming the Spanish swashbuckler, concealing its secrets till it’s just too late to save the scientist’s wife and dying on the astronaut. Trees 3, Man 0.Read Time Out's review of ''The Fountain'
BatmanYou’d need more than a Hawaiian island’s worth of ironic detachment not to find fault with this extended toy advert from Joel ‘D.C. Cab’ Schumacher in which slick-haired Jazz age reject George Clooney dons the cape and codpiece to do battle against Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr Freeze and Uma Thurman’s shot at all-time-worst comic book villain, Poison Ivy: the deadliest plantlover the world has ever seen. With camp special effects that look like the result of a short-notice diorama competition at the local special school, the scene where Thurman enters via a paper mache Venus Fly Trap was perhaps the point at which financial backers began to mentally asset strip their own multinationals in order to make it past Labour Day. Read Time Out's review of 'Batman & Robin'
The Thing from Another World (1951)‘Please doctor, I've got to ask this. It sounds like, well, just as though you're describing some form of… super carrot.’ Yes, it’s lumbering sexless anthropomorphic veggies from outer space in Howard Hawks's surprisingly chilling early sci-fi shocker. Most interesting, like John Carpenter’s superior remake, as a study of men under pressure, this snowbound bloodcurdler builds up an impressive head of tension in the early stages before wasting it slightly by revealing the heretofore shadowed monster to be a giant angry root vegetable who looks a bit like Frankenstein’s monster after struggling backwards through a hedge. Sees well in the dark, though.Read Time Out's review of 'The Thing from Another World'
The Wooden Walls of England (1941)This nifty little bit of British wartime propaganda saw the twisted, vindictive nature of our arboreal brothers harnessed to defeat an even darker foe in the form of Mr Hitler and his encroaching Nazi swine. With the Armed Forces stretched to breaking point protecting Blighty’s major cities during the Blitz, Jerry identifies a weak spot in the sea defences of the sleepy Dorset coast. Cue a crackpot team of chain-smoking eggheads bursting into the War Rooms with a deranged plan to rouse the trees of England from their slumber and send them off to war. The trees, of course, triumph, but an ambiguous final shot in which they turn to march on London suggests that once awoken, they may now have designs of their own…Read Time Out's review of 'The Wooden Walls of England'
Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)Like the spitty egg in Alien, the breadfruit trees brought aboard HMS Bounty by Trevor Howard’s pungent Captain Bligh cause no end of bother. With the ship becalmed in the South Seas, water is in short supply but the trees, bound for a periwigged chumdrel at Kew, must live at all costs. Thirst and endless rounds of the Sailor’s Hornpipe take their toll. Even an extraordinarily painful keel-hauling cannot provide light relief. At last, the trees inspire not only the titular revolt, but also Marlon Brando’s re-imagining of Fletcher Christian as a sexually confused class-traitor, centuries of suspect inter-generational friendships on the island of Pitcairn and worst of all the deafening silence that followed from the great director Lewis Milestone who never made another film. On the upside, at least we can get breadfruit whenever we want it.Read Time Out's review of 'Mutiny on the Bounty'
The Guardian (1990)It’s an old, old story. You’re a young married couple, upwardly mobile and celebrating the birth of your first offspring. But how to take care of the little tyke when you both have so much work to do? Easy. Hire a nanny! But there are certain rules and guidelines to follow when selecting your ideal candidate. In William Friedkin’s much-trumpeted return to horror almost two decades after ‘The Exorcist’, the Sheridan family manage to follow most of these to the letter. Bright and winning smile? Check. Bubbly personality? Check. Resume and references? Check. Not the reincarnation of some ancient druidic priestess intent on sacrificing the sprog to the local tree God? Uh-oh… Yes, it's tree-worshippin’ time in the suburbs again, as Jenny Seagrove’s winsome Camilla draws plans to abduct Sheridan Jr. and feed him to LA’s very own gnarly (in both senses) animatronic ent overlord. Read Time Out's review of 'The Guardian'
When trees almost (but don’t quite) attack:
Margot at the Wedding (2007)Noah Baumbach’s Rohmer-esque yarn of emotionally vacuous East-coast literati centres around a family reunion at a creaky old house in upstate New York where sisters Jennifer Jason Leigh and Nicole Kidman bicker and moan while their eccentric kids run amok. At the centre of the drama stands a metaphorically-charged tree whose roots have crept onto the neighbouring plot of land and so it must be cut down at once. When Jack Black enters the picture with a chainsaw and goggles, you know there’s going to be trouble. But, the promise of extreme tree-crushing violence quickly dissipates when it eventually falls, as no one is harmed. Damn. Read Time Out's review of 'Margot at the Wedding'
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