When Trees Attack: In Movies & Real Life

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My house. Let me show you it:

There are worse things than a tree to have in your house...mustard gas, for example, or Dane Cook, but a 90-foot pine is nothing to sneeze at. And yet, even as my wife and I were dealing with insurance adjusters and a certain satellite TV company that didn't believe one of their dishes could get blown off a roof, my friends were quick to note the similarities between our situation and that of the Freeling family from Poltergeist: namely, that both our houses were attacked by trees. This naturally got me thinking about other instances of coniferous assault in the movies.

5. From Hell it Came (1957)

Woof. I haven't seen acting this wooden since that Pia Zadora film festival. But seriously folks, what's not to love about a murdered Polynesian prince reincarnated as an evil stump named "Tabanga" that lurches around an island in the South Seas looking for bikini-clad women to terrorize? Those 50s-era monsters certainly had a thing for the ladies, and sometimes the feeling was mutual, as in this clip where the doomed girl gives Tabanga an assist by swimming further out into deadly quicksand.

4. The Navy vs. the Night Monsters (1966)

Equal parts The Thing and Gilligan's Island - look for Skipper, the Professor, and Ginger (the pneumatic Mamie Van Doren) - this movie was released a full two years after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, meaning the sinister plants obviously represent a literal extension of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

The Whomping Willow is really kind of lame, considering it can only whomp things that come within branch range. Forced to choose a stationary arboreal menaces, I'd have preferred the Kite-Eating Tree from Peanuts, but since nobody has ever shown the artistic genius necessary to bring it to life, you get this clip from Chamber of Secrets. With Greek subtitles, no less.

2. The Evil Dead (1981)

You know the scene I'm talking about. I'm not going to link it here (and it ain't hard to find), since tree rape is more the purview of Japanese animation sites, but will instead point you to this 1988 interview with director Sam Raimi, who agrees the scene was a tad...gratuitous.

1. Poltergeist (1982)

In hindsight, it's obvious that the dramatic kidnapping attempt on Robbie was merely a diversion to allow the unquiet spirits haunting the Freeling home to nab their true prize (Carol Anne). This isn't to downplay the ferocity of the tree's assault, but let's all be honest: the scariest part of this movie is still that fucking clown under the bed.

-- Pete Vonder Haar

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