“The Birch” (2016): Supernatural Vengeance Lurks in the Forest



The masterminds behind UK-based production company Bloody Cuts present a superlative achievement with their latest effort, the folk-horror creature feature The Birch. The otherworldly atmosphere in this short film is palpable and a sense of dread drips in each frame.

Shaun  (Aaron Ward) is viciously bullied by fellow student Kris  (Charlie Venables). Shaun’s ailing grandmother (Corrina Marlowe in a touching performance) tells him about someone – “she” – in the nearby woods who protected her when she needed it. She assures him  that “she” will protect him, too. Armed with an occult book and an amulet, Shaun  heads to the woods for protection, with Kris  following in close pursuit. What transpires after that  leads to a bloody, thrilling climax.

Writers/directors/editors/producers Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton fashioned their screenplay from a story by producer Cliff Wallace, who also designed the film’s creature. Flawlessly paced and presented, The Birch is one of the most impressive pieces of horror cinema this year, no matter the length. It reminds me of British horror films of decades past but with an original tone, using updated savagery and cinematic techniques. Franklin and Melton use beautifully framed shots captured gorgeously by cinematographer Jonny Franklin.

Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton build two frightful worlds – one natural, one supernatural – quickly and efficiently, aided greatly by earnest, believable performances from the cast. Aaron Ward  gives a top-quality turn  as the tormented Shaun  and Charlie Venables  plays his bully character with a frightening, realistic quality. The sound department and composer Patrick Jonsson lend an eerie aural vibe to the goings-on. Cliff Wallace’s special effects makeup is astonishing, and is something you will likely want to rewatch many times.    

The Birch is the latest entry into the Bloody Cuts oeuvre. It continues the collectives’ tradition since 2011 of creating anthology-style short horror films. Bloody Cuts has teamed up with Crypt TV to present this terrific short online. You can watch it for free at bloodycuts.co.uk/blog/the-birch-a-new-horror-from-bloody-cuts-and-crypt-tv/.

The Birch: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Birch Poster-v1-Screen

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.