Boys in the Trees | Review plus Win Tix

In 2013 for the first and only time a short film made my Top 20 films of the year. That short film was titled THE LAST TIME I SAW RICHARD, and it was directed by Nicholas Verso and starred a slightly younger younger Toby Wallace. My poorly written thoughts on the movie were: “#16 THE LAST TIME I SAW RICHARD – first time I have ever had a short film in my list – this has been doing festival rounds and I first saw it at SFF – it is truly amazing piece of dark horror – I have written to the guys who made it and suggested sending it to Guillermo Del Toro – he would fund a film for them immediately – it is that good. If he didn’t he be stupid 🙂” 

It was also my Number One short film after taking on the task of watching all 39 short films from the 2013 Sydney Film Festival. 

While I doubt they wrote to Guillermo, Verso continued to fine tune his story into an adjusted tale/ similar imagining and three years later he received standing ovations, as did his star, Toby Wallace, at the Venice Film Festival. That film is BOYS IN THE TREES and it is just as good as the short, even better.

BOYS IN THE TREES is releasing to Australian cinemas on October 20th thanks to Mushroom Pictures. It runs for 112mins and while not yet rated I am going to guess it will be rated M.


Boys in the Trees | Scary Clown in Orange Smoke image



I originally thought this was going to be a prequel to THE LAST TIME I SAW RICHARD but it ended up being a re-imagining and set following the date of THE LAST TIME SAW RICHARD but it could have worked well as a prequel with some tweaking. The ending let the prequel thing down sadly and the fact that Corey was called Jonah in RICHARD and that he was older won’t help either. But on to this one….

Do you remember when you were a younger child and you had best mates, you were inseparable and truly loved them. Do you remember commencing school and discovering you wanted to hang with different people? Then you drifted away from your older best friend until you were just ships that passed each other in the ocean of the school corridor?

Well that is Corey (Toby Wallace) and Jonah (Gulliver McGrath). Toby grew into a skater jock and his old friend Jonah stayed small and weird and Toby’s pack of skaters picked on the loners, the weak and anyone they could to make them feel stronger. It is nearing the end of school, it is Halloween, and Corey is looking back on his actions and is guilt ridden. He doesn’t truly fit in with his skater pack and is more of a leader than a follower. An incident occurs that leads to Jonah being bullied too much and Corey fractures from his pack for the night. A chance encounter sees Jonah ask Corey to walk him home. What follows is a night of fantasy and revisited childhood.


Boys in the Trees Toby Wallace and Mitzi Ruhlmann image



It’s bloody amazing. BOYS IN THE TREES is by no means perfect and the plot meanders about two thirds through before finding it’s pace again but the magic of this film far outweighs anything that lets it down. It is original, it is truly Australian, although Verso does bow to the night of Halloween in American fashion. It works and will no doubt offer a more universal appeal. I am unsure why the film is labelled as a horror movie, it is by no means a horror and is more of a melancholic gothic coming-of-age story with mystical elements. #genremouthful

It recaptures a nostalgic heart for me. I had my Corey and my Jonahs. People I just grew out of. I miss that magic that we had together as great childhood friends. That magic was fleeting and cannot be recaptured whereas BOYS IN THE TREES allows for the magic to be briefly recaptured. And for that I shed quite a few tears.


The man has talents, some may cringe but he is a bit Luhrmannesque in his work. If Baz went more dark gothic tales as opposed to musical this would have been him twenty years ago. Baz is a top five director of all time for me, his theatrics onscreen are unparalleled and Verso has that talent, it’s just darker. He also keeps a sexual ambiguity in his cast. While this a story of rekindling lost friendships, it definitely has gay undertones, or is that just the ambiguity created by society when a male loves another male? Corey and his skater pal, Jango are referred to as mum and dad by the other skaters and when it comes down to it Corey is filled with love for Jonah. Verso also manages to cover off on bullying, guilt, peer pressure and individuality versus pack mentality.

BOYS IN THE TREES is set in the late 90s and has a certain homage to the time and music, for this there may be some slight comparisons to STRANGER THINGS. It also embraces the journey genre, while not quite LORD OF THE RINGS, it has a need to get through the night, to get to the end of the journey.


Boys in the Trees Toby Wallace and Gulliver McGrath image



The two leads are brilliant. I have loved Toby Wallace ever since THE LAST TIME I SAW RICHARD. The camera loves him, as will the audience. He has grown into one gorgeous talent and his acting has grown with his looks. Seeing him with the long hair and the jacket with faux hairy shoulders kept me thinking he needs a role in GAME OF THRONES, in the snow, with a sword haha. Wallace has this natural ability onscreen and his smile is so genuine it lights the entire cinema. When he shows affection to Jonah it will melt your heart.

His line delivery and Australian “surfer” accent appears as though everything he says is a statement instead of dialogue. At first it was a bit jarring but it grows on you and it suited him and his character, it highlights gaining of confidence but not yet confident. The journey his character is on.

Gulliver McGrath is the complete opposite of Wallace. He is short, he has pale skin, he has dark hair but they both share a talent for acting. McGrath is doing huge things on the international stage. He has roles in HUGO, DARK SHADOWS and LINCOLN. Not bad for your CV. He embodies the much darker and brooding melancholic Jonah. A boy shrouded in depression and possible mental illness. A boy sadly bullied to the point of breaking, McGrath nails it all with a gothic darkness that borders on more evil than his bullies. But deep down all he wants is for Corey to remember the joy of their friendship as kids. One magical scene towards the end is so beautiful I had a little sob.


Boys in the Trees Toby Wallace and Justin Holborow image



BOYS IN THE TREES will be in my Top 10 Movies for 2016, I loved it and it was great to see an artistic Australian movie that requires a little thought to view. Mark my words, Toby will soon enter the international market and Verso will be getting a few film offers himself. Will it make money? I am unsure, I think it will garner quite a few positive reviews and the art-house audiences will enjoy it but sadly it isn’t listed on all the commercial chains’ websites. Do yourself a favour – check it out. Now enter the comp!


4 and a Half Pops



With special thanks to Madman Entertainment to win one of the three prize packs listed above you need to either like and share/ retweet this post on Facebook/Twitter/ Google+/ Pinterest/ LinkedIn/ Flipboard or Instagram (all the links to follow us are on the top right of homepage). Further to this you then need to leave a comment below stating the answer/s to the following question/s:

Who is your favourite Australian horror movie and why? Mine is a tough decision – I would have to go with three of them haha. THE BABADOOK, SAW and THE LOVED ONES. Worship them – as to why, they are twisted, clever and original on the world stage.


If you do not have social media then you can still enter, leave your entry below in the comments and then email me at telling me you don’t have social media (you still need to enter on the website).

This is a game of skill and selected purely on the thoughts of the judges. 

The prizes will be drawn on or before October 17th so you can get your pass before release. Good luck! Oh, and minor housekeeping – huge apologies for overseas readers, this  is only available to Australian residents.


 owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.


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