On June 4th, 2004, 52-year-old Marvin Heemeyer of Granby, Colorado drove a fortified bulldozer through his little town, destroying several businesses and cars in the process. He could have killed people as well, given that the bulldozer was armed with assault rifles. The only person who ended up dead was himself. But how did he go from mild-mannered, well-respected auto repair shop owner to fanatic revenge-seeker? Tread attempts to lift the curtain.
Two-fifths of the documentary play out as a call to arms against crony capitalism. In tapes he recorded himself, Heemeyer accuses the town council and other prominent businessmen in Granby of basically pricing him out of his prime real estate. His business is thriving, but he feels slighted when new, apparently unaffordable sewage standards are put in place and it appears to him as if another company is creating backdoor channels to kick him out. It’s a vivid portrait his words paint, and along with the pastiche of silent re-enactments in the film, it’s easy to believe him.
But 99% of his claims seem pretty exaggerated by the film’s conclusion.
For starters, only two of his friends are willing to go on camera and corroborate what he says in the tapes. And even then, one admits Marvin probably spent “too much time alone.” Secondly and more importantly, a lot of the town council is interviewed here and they consistently remind us that Marvin had many offers over the years for the land his business was on. As a wealthy snowmobile enthusiast, he had ample opportunity to retire early and quite comfortably. The townspeople also point out that the sewage rates were nowhere near the astronomical amount Marvin claimed.
Lastly, quite a lot of events where Marvin claimed to have been yelled or jeered at by his perceived enemies seem to have been make-believe. Of course, in this film it’s Marvin’s word against the town’s, but much of the evidence presented really does put his case on shaky ground.
Shaky or not, once Marvin purchased the bulldozer at an action, there was no stopping him from carrying out his final mission, something he believed God had pre-ordained him for. The final sequence is surreal and gripping, as the re-enactment of the event makes good use of the film’s modest budget and the video of the actual chaos is undeniably bizarre.
Like the police in the bulldozer chase, we realize over the course of the film that there is no catching up to or stopping Marvin’s delusion. It’s a uniquely American psychosis, where isolation, loneliness, misinterpretation and desperation can create a Molotov cocktail of ill intent towards one’s neighbors. If it can happen in quiet little Granby, it can happen anywhere.
1 hr, 29 min; Not Rated, contains violence and brief language
’Tread’ will be available on digital platforms on February 28, it is currently playing in limited release nationwide