I had to do something before I pulled myself into fishnets and eyeliner for the new year's evening's festivities, so I watched pseudo-slasher with a supernatural element, THE FOREST. Quick aside - the new year's plans did NOT amount to much being as how New Year's Eve is a great big fat amateur night, imo. It's just an excuse for regular dumbasses to get drunk and obnoxious. I don't need a holiday or even a specific reason to get drunk and/or obnoxious, because I'm always representing. So yeah, went and put in an appearance or two and then I'm reinserted myself into pajamas, almost two hours before midnite rolled around and then fell asleep to NEW YEAR'S EVIL on the vhs player. Word. I must be getting old. Anyway, back to the regularly scheduled review -
Two married couples - Steve and Sharon and Terri and Charles - decide over a playfully chauvinistic dinner one evening to take a camping trip to revitalize their marriages. Yes, I said it was a slasher of sorts and if you're as sick of slashers as I am of zombies, there's probably little I can say to sway your opinion of THE FOREST right off the bat. But there is a curious melding of horror flavors here which more than set this apart from its stalk and slash brethren and we'll get to them in a second. The girls set off first, out right defying their husbands (!), with the destination being an agreed upon campsite a few hours hike through the woods. Steve and Charles aren't far behind them, but some radiator trouble and a slow mechanic put them several hours behind the girls.
Night falls and the girls set up camp and are visited not by a hulking brute with a machete and coveralls but a pair of ghostly children who warn them in ethereal voices to beware their daddy. They disappear into the darkness and the children's ominous mommy shows up, telling the girls if they see her kids to send them home for a severe punishment. By the time she disappears, the women are more than a bit freaked out and and Sharon takes off to hide. Terri waits in the campsite, hopefully for the arrival of Steve and Charles, but is instead visited by John, the ghost kids' daddy who is very much alive with a taste for human flesh. When Terri asks John not to hurt her he responds, 'I don't want to hurt you, but I'm starving....' He quickly dispatches Terri with a hunting knife in a rather realistically gory way and then drags her body back to his cave for supper time.
A few beats later, Steve and Charlie arrive at John's lair, which is decorated with cane furniture and a candelabra. There's a nice looking roast cooking on a spit and John shows up outta nowhere and offers the men some dinner. Steve, Terri's husband, obliges, eats some of the meat, which John claims is deer meat, and then has a weird cold chill. John then regales them with the tale (told through an over the top flashback) of how he killed his cheating wife after he caught her in bed with the refrigerator repair guy. Oh yeah, and she had the kids locked in the closet as she fornicated.
So John had no fucking choice but to off her and leave their two children suicidal and move to a cave in the middle of the wilderness. Sounds reasonable, non? And now Steve and Charlie are at his cannibalistic mercy. Trust me, a compound fracture will be suffered and more blood will be spilled as the rest of this supernatural stalk and slash unfolds....
I mentioned how this is a curious melding of horror flavors and I wasn't joking. The setup at the beginning is your straightforward slasher set up, and almost reminded me a little bit of Jeff Lieberman's JUST BEFORE DAWN. It's efficient as far as staging and atmosphere goes, and as I mentioned, the gore is gratifyingly realistic. So if this was the sum of its parts, which it's not, this would be a great Friday the 13th riff. But add a dash of ghostly kids, a vindictive ghostly mama, and a crazy, almost sympathetic, murderous daddy, and you've got yourself something wholly unique. The ghost kids make it almost bittersweet and Gary Kent ( who plays the lunatic dad) brings a pathos to his character that makes the whole affair seem almost vindicated. BUT, he's a freakin' cannibal, and while we never see him in all out human flesh tearin' mode (i.e. chowing down on a liver or anything) we can't get too sentimental about his state of affairs.
So what of the themes, my fellow perverts? You know I'm an English teacher and I need to discuss the undercurrents. All good slashers aren't without them, and I'd safely put this on the list of basically unheard of, or at least unhailed, good slashers. There's definitely a theme of marital discord running through the whole deal, hence the beginning and the whole plot setup as we have it. Although, some of it does seem a little offensive (were you surprised?) in that the women are perpetually patronised. But then it falls back on its chauvinistic head when the girls find themselves in the woods alone and are praying for the men to arrive. I don't quite know what to make of it all...So I'll move on, because I've had some wine and also worked New Year's Day brunch, which trust me, is not fun...
Despite the frustrating aspects of woman's portrayal in this film (and many others, mind you), I'm also frustrated that we never learn the catalyst for John's cannibalism. Sure, he lives in a region teeming with wildlife, yet never resorted to hunting? How could he count on the occasional passerby to provide him with a food source? This is frustrating in and of it self, but with a cast of only four victims, my bloodlust is also hardly sated. Sorry, ya'll know I'm not a gorehound, but I love a high body count, especially if the kills are inventive. Here they're just kind ho hum.
Everyone is pretty darn believable, if not unintentionally amusing (think the placement of some cheesy 'feminist' rock songs, not that I even know what that means), in their prescribed roles. Suspense is dealt out in believable doses and, while there's plenty left wanting in the end, as far as unanswered questions are concerned, this is still a pretty enjoyable romp. It's neither classifiable as a slasher or a ghost tale or any other subgenre really, but still holds its on for this strange amalgamation alone. Worth checking out at only an hour an half, for reals.
Check it out..if you give it a chance you might even find yourself harkening back to Fulci's HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY. There are some similar elements, at least enough to warrant a pretty close comparison.
Happy New Year, pervs.