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Friday, 2 September 2016


I can put up with a lot of nonsense in horror films. I can suspend my disbelief to quite a substantial extent. But only if the filmmakers give me some compelling reason to do so, and having a flagrant disregard for narrative is most definitely not a reason. Say hello to LEMON TREE PASSAGE (2014).

And then quickly say goodbye to it, because it's confusing rubbish.

It starts promisingly enough, and is a fantastically lovely looking film throughout (which you'd expect, since this comes from two former ad men) but it's like finding out that pretty girl at the party has a habit of missing out entire sentences during conversation, and as such leaves you wondering quite what she's on about. EXACTLY.

Three American backpackers are chilling out on a beach in New South Wales, where they meet two friendly Australian lads. Soon they're swapping spooky stories around a campfire and this is where we're introduced to the tragic story of Lemon Tree Passage (which is a real place). Apparently, if motorists speed down it they see ghostly phenomena, in part due to a supposed accident in which a motorcyclist was killed by another vehicle.

Of course, they all decide to go speed down this road and, sure enough, they all (well, almost all of them) see a weird bright light behind them. "Okay," you think, "they've disturbed the motorcyclist's ghost and now it's going to get them." That's even what the official synopsis says. But hang on just a minute!

The film starts with this rubbish Youtube clip:


and then a kind of 'prologue' in which a skinhead is bothered by a ghost in his garage. Then we meet the main characters and it all flows quite naturally. Although, hang on, back at the nice Australian lads' house we find out they live with the skinhead from earlier. THAT'S WEIRD. And now what's this? The one tourist who claimed not to see the ghostly light is now having visions of, it appears, a car of teenagers? THAT'S WEIRD.

Deciding to properly document the spooky light, they go back to the road in question, where one of the Australians promptly disappears. Meanwhile, back at the house, Skinhead Housemate is being bothered by more ghostly visions. Wait, what. But he didn't go with them before, so why is he...? THAT'S WEIRD.

It doesn't take long from this point for the characters to stop acting even remotely like real people and purely as creatures who serve the plot. No explicit spoilers, in case you're mental and feel the need to find out for yourself, but you would think that, after finding your friends dead, the last thing you'd do is take the time to set up a campfire (a big no-no in Australia anyway) and sleep in the very same woods your friends were just MURDERED IN.

And if it's a ghost they've woken up, why is bothering Skinhead Housemate? Is it even the same spirit? And why was it bothering him before they drove down the road? And if it is capable of giving people scary visions to fuck with them and make them truly believe they're bleeding, etc, before abruptly reverting everything back to normal (which is actually a pretty cool idea) AND it can move objects like, you know, a ghost, why OH WHY does it then feel the need to make a really, really lame booby trap? THE GHOST MAKES A BOOBY TRAP.


I can't even.

Okay, so the person killed in this manner is shown to reference another death, except that death doesn't actually involve an actual booby trap set-up. I just...WHAT IS GOING ON.

The biggest sin LEMON TREE PASSAGE commits is that it purposefully withholds information from the audience. This does not generate tension, but instead is a slap in the face to that very same audience. Is it just one ghost? Why is it being, apparently, sympathetic to that one person but then acts vengeful towards others? Why is Skinhead Housemate now in the same woods? Why is the ghost telling him to find one of the characters when it, er, has clearly found them already? Why, after two people are shown running away, in the next scene is one of them now inexplicably tied to a tree? AND WHERE IS ALL THE ROPE COMING FROM?

Why is all this happening?

It's because the filmmakers hate you. They hate you, and think that pulling all these "tricks" and refusing to establish clear rules for the threat (or even the clear nature of it, as suddenly this ghost can possess people so OH WHAT I GIVE UP). I give up. All they had to do was include a few extra scenes to show exactly how Skinhead  scratch all that. No amount of extra scenes could stop the characters from acting like non-people, or adequately explain why the filmmakers are so hellbent on pretending to tell two completely different stories when the actual story would be a fully worthwhile idea if properly focused on.

But something that really bothered me is, the road just doesn't feel remote. There are plenty of places here (in Australia) where you could drive for a while and only see trees (typically when you're driving past/through a national park), but there are several points in the film where I got the impression they were remarkably close to civilisation (including an end shot that shows adjacent farm fields). I thought "Maybe that's just me. Maybe it is a surprisingly remote road." But it isn't. Look at this map. There are very few points where there's just trees/fields - ie. it really wouldn't take a person on foot too long to reach help.

LEMON TREE PASSAGE starts with a decent idea but then thoroughly pisses it away. Or rather, pisses in the face of the audience. It's riddled with confusing scene transitions, incoherent structure, far-too-coincidental clues (a bloody PHOTOCOPY OF A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE? Are you serious? Not only AN ARTICLE THAT EXPLICITLY STATES WHO THE GHOST IS but for some weird reason it's a PHOTOCOPY. Why has the ghost PHOTOCOPIED IT?) and oh yeah A GHOST THAT MAKES A BOOBY TRAP.

I give this film -657908 out of a possible 100968745.

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