Treehouse (2014) provides us with an underlying religious message about how living a righteous life brings about strength and salvation. I am not here to suggest anything about the writer or director’s affiliation, only to pull forth a narrative that seems too obvious to ignore. Throughout the 98 minute film, there are frequent references to Biblical passage woven in with similar, more subtle language and situations.
The film uses themes of brotherly love and an omnipotent father to elicit the evolution from boy to manhood. One is able to jump to this less obvious conclusion by following the overt signs…literally.
First of all, there is an observable emphasis on Elizabeth’s love for her brother as well as the relationship between Killian and Crawford (Fredrick). At about 70 minutes into the film, Killian (Trautmann) and Elizabeth (Melanie) quote the passage 1 Corinthians 15:55. Shortly thereafter, they come across a placard displaying John 3:16 which is only to be followed by Killian’s grim discovery of his brother crucified in the back yard. To further the religious connections, as Elizabeth views Polaroid pictures of her little brother’s torture she calls out, “God, I need help”. Furthermore, upon vanquishing their opponents, Elizabeth elicits Hell as the rightful place for her adversary. Outside of the obvious, Killian’s father stands in as the omnipotent god-like “father” looking down upon him. As Killian assumes the void of left by his older brother, Elizabeth says “Your daddy’s lookin’ down on you – real proud, don’t let anyone tell you different”.
Brotherly love contributed to Killian’s metamorphosis. Only through following the gospels of John does Killian transform from a boy to a man. Visually we see the transformation as Killian moves from the bullied boy to the gun wielding man who protects his woman and his neighborhood. In 1 John 3:15-19 the Bible says that those who do not love their brother are murderers (Treehouse is a more literal representation of this) and the love of God does not exist in those who turn a deaf ear to their brother. The Bible argues that we know this because He laid down his life for his brethren and that we cannot show the duty to the Lord or our brother in thoughts or words but only through action. This rings true as we see Killian move from words to action. His stated concern for his brother and peers grows into action when he pulls the glass out of Elizabeth’s feet and stops hiding in the treehouse.
Early in Treehouse, Killian’s father makes the statement that, anyone can hide in trees.[i] To further the idea that this film is about the journey into manhood the cover of the film states “No Kids Allowed” and later upon seeking asylum in the treehouse, Crawford says “Wasn’t built for kids, that’s for sure”. While hiding in the trees, Killian is contrasted by the heroism and courage of his brother who goes off to find help. Killian’s subverted position is reiterated by Elizabeth calling him “Baby Bear”. As 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 suggests death loses its sting because Christ has already won victory over death. By turning his words into action and living each moment for Christ, Killian no longer fears death. Now a courageous and selfless man on the righteous path, Killian believes, he will not perish, and will live an everlasting life…or at least survive the end of this movie.
[i] Killian’s father is suggested to have PTSD after wartime service. He recalls an encounter with a sniper who shot him and accuses that snipers are cowards for hiding in trees as opposed to the men who face their enemies.