We Like Shorts, Shorts is a new column in which we single out impressive short films which are easily accessible online. The full shorts will always be embedded in the articles for easy access.
Before his fairly amusing and almost unconscionably brutal debut theatrical feature Hobo With A Shotgun,1 Jason Eisener graced us with one of the silliest, goriest, exploitation-ridden shorts I’ve ever come across, and I’m not talking about his fake trailer for Hobo With A Shotgun. Treevenge is a z-movie short in the vein of The Birds or a more genocide-driven Planet of the Apes centring on a Christmas tree uprising which sees a slew of evergreen pines take revenge on a small Canadian town after a round of lumberjack and festive tree-enthusiast perpetrated atrocities against their species.
It’s a great example of what you can achieve with a few mates and a dumb idea on a limited budget. I don’t have a whole lot of details on the short’s background but by the looks of it, it came about because Eisener had access to a lumberyard around Halifax, Nova Scotia and the means to raise a bit of money to get something going after the success of his fake Hobo with a Shotgun trailer. It was shot during the pre-production stages of his feature-length Hobo with a Shotgun adaptation when Eisener and producer Rob Cotterill felt the need to take a bit of a break during the scripting process.
Treevenge situates itself well in the tradition of the tried and true exploitation trope of ‘oppressed people fight back against the oppressors’ cinema, paying tribute to the genre construction while subverting it to highlight the ridiculous nature of some of the more outlandish narratives it has spawned. More impressively, however, it pulls off a number of hilarious gore gags, packing more punch in its 16 minute runtime than many feature length films pull off over their entire duration.
It’s really interesting to see a few of Eisener’s signature moves at work here before the release of his more higher budget feature work and the short stands up as another pretty solid example of how film school has undeniably changed the face of b-movie filmmaking forever – there is so much technical talent and flair at work here elevating this above the bottom of the barrel trash that this could have been given its subject matter. The level of ingenuity in kills on show here is fantastic, and there is enough visceral gore for a feature length film – luckily, however, the creative team is fully aware that an outlandish concept like this would only work in a concise form, and don’t attempt to string this out into a tedious 90 minute outing. Clocking in at a little over 16 minutes, Treevenge is the perfect length to milk the gag for all it’s worth without falling into ‘ugh’ territory like Rodriguez’s own Machete Kills.
I will forever hold onto the joy I felt exposing Conor Bateman (4:3’s managing editor) to this treetastic monstrocity one afternoon, watching him wince in terror as a tree branch slowly poked out someone’s eye internally (in a tribute to Lucio Fulci’s “classic” Zombi 2) and hearing the ‘oh god’s and ‘jesus’s spilling from his mouth during the film’s final minutes. I have to warn you, this short is not for the faint of heart or easily offended but if you’re a fan of classic (ridiculous) exploitation, Jason Eisener’s Treevenge is a must watch!