Tread (Paul Solet, 2020, USA)

              Tread is a simmering, pot-boiler examination of male rage. Director Paul Solet’s excellent documentary tells the true story of Marvin Heemeyer, a welder who – in 2004 – equipped a bulldozer with 30 tens of concrete and steel and destroyed large parts of a Colorado town. While the story didn’t receive much news coverage at the time, mainly due to Ronald Reagan passing away the day after, it has since creeped into true crime lore as a particularly bizarre and American incidence of rage. Thankfully nobody was killed the incident aside from the perpetrator, but the act caused extensive damage to the town.

               Solet creates the build-up to this event using a combination of interview footage with the main participants, as well as reenactments. Solet also makes extensive use of an audio recording Heemeyer left before his rampage, which outlines his motivations and grievances in clear detail. There is a great contrast made between Heemeyer’s perceived injustices, and the testimony of the various people he targeted. Heemeyer was clearly mentally ill, but the film manages to capture the kind of feuds that build in small towns. Especially small towns where an outsider sets up shop and starts stepping on the toes of the people who have been there longer.

               The film culminates with a recreation of the “Killdozer” rampage which conveys the drama and absurdity of the situation. It is truly remarkable that Heemeyer was able to work on this project in a garage he rented, without anyone noticing something was a bit off. The finale also blends helicopter footage that was taken as the rampage was going on. Solet ultimately leaves some ambiguity about whether Marvin’s enemies actually pushed him over the edge, and this makes the documentary more compelling overall. Tread is a thrilling, amusing, and bizarre exploration of small-town rage – truth is stranger than fiction.


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