Boys In The Trees is a new Australian drama film, steeped in horror atmosphere. Set during Halloween in 1997, it is about one boy’s meeting with an old friend, but not everything is what it seems. As they play an old childhood game they enter a realm of memory and ghosts from the past. Toby Wallace and Mitzi Ruhlmann star in this coming of age film, we had a chat to them about the things that go bump in the night.
In many ways Wallace and Ruhlmann where ahead of the rest of us. Boys In The Trees has them afraid of a guy in a creepy clown costume, long before strange clown sightings were a world-wide phenomenon. “We went on The Project the other day, and they had some news coverage on the clown stuff. They asked us if it was some weird advertisement we had. We were like….”
Wallace pauses for effect.
Both actors fell in love with their characters from the script, working out how to bring them to the screen by taking their character’s end point and progressing backwards. “I really emotionally connected to the script. I thought it was an important story due to the way I reacted to it.” Wallace previously worked on a short film with director Nicholas Verso (When I Last Saw Richard) playing another character that appears in Boys. Unfortunately since the filming of the short, Wallace has grown a bit, so was cast for the lead role of Corey instead. “Corey is at a place of vulnerability. He’s torn between his ambitions, and friends that don’t have the same ambitions, and want to pull him down in a way. This night is the most important night in his life. He meets an old friend and confronts something that happened in his childhood, so he can get on with his life.”
For Ruhlmann, the script felt like a breathe of fresh air. “Most of the Australian scripts I read are dark and heavy – and this wasn’t! Romany (Ruhlmann’s character) is a normal teenage girl, frustrated with the discrepancies between where she is and where she wants to be.” At times that frustration is almost palpable as Romany watches the boys fight, and generally act like fools through the course of the night. “Just channeling that frustration teenage girls feel with boys their own age,” states Ruhlmann. “Just have to look at Toby and my face does the rest,” she laughs.
It did however mean a crash course on 90s culture, an age both of the actors were too young to really experience the first time around. Fortunately Nicholas is “the biggest 90s guy you’ve met in your entire life”, hence was able to prescribe a recommended viewing list filled with 80s and 90s horror. “He (Verso) gave us a lot of films to watch in preparation. Lost Boys, Empire Records, The Crow…” exclaimed Wallace. “The Craft, Heathers,” added Ruhlmann. “A lot of 90s research,” concluded Wallace.
The result has been well received, with that emotional impact carrying over from the script to the screen. “People have come to us and said they really related to it,” Wallace confided. “People have said we made them cry.”
“That’s the whole point.”