SEPTEMBER 2, 2009
Among the online journalists I completely respect is Mr Beaks from AICN, and today provided a perfect example why. After tweeting my plans to make The Forest my horror movie for the day, I appended a shoutout to the Pang Bros. film Re-Cycle, because it was a great film from the same directors. But since Beaks actually knows his shit, he pointed out my error; the film I had was not the Pang bros film (which is actually called Forest Of Death), but this forgotten 1982 slasher. And that’s why you gotta love Beaks - dude can recall 27 year old slasher movies, whereas many of his peers (sadly) don’t actually love movies enough to remember ones that came out last year.
As to WHY he remembered the damn thing, I have to assume that its due to how goddamn all over the place the movie is. The opening scene is straight up slasher, with black outfit and a killer whose face you can’t see, and then it’s a cannibal movie for a while. But then we learn about the cannibal’s backstory (before he turned into a cannibal), which paints him as a sort of tragic hero. And then it’s a full blown ghost movie for some goddamn reason.
And shockingly enough, none of these elements really work. The slasher stuff doesn’t work because we have no idea who the hell the characters are (and once you watch the rest of the movie, it makes no sense that they are attempting to hide the killer’s identity). The cannibal stuff is too light to really resonate (though it DOES culminate in a guy eating his own wife, thinking that it’s deer meat), and they never really explain why being cuckolded makes you want to eat people. And the ghost stuff is more baffling than compelling, as there are little ghost kids that are seemingly trying to prevent their dad from being killed by the ghost of their mom, but they also try to help our heroes, which of course would mean their dad would starve to death. So who knows what their deal is.
But there’s still some fleeting moments of oddball hilarity that make it KINDA worth a watch. Like the flashback scene that shows our eventual cannibal coming home and finding his wife fucking the refrigerator repairman. The wife doesn’t seem to care that she was caught (I swear PTA saw this movie before doing Boogie Nights, it’s exactly like any of the scenes with William H. Macy and his wife), and for some reason she has locked the kids in the closet while she nails the dude. So the guy sends the kids out, kills the wife, and then goes outside to take care of the repairman, who is hilariously enough fixing the refrigerator (he’s a man of principle, I guess). They then carry out the most awkward, inept fight in horror movie history, with our killer taking more of a beating than even Ghostface did in the first Scream.
And being an LA resident this week really made me appreciate the introduction to our heroes, as they bitch about the excessive heat as well as the air quality (if you’re reading this review at a time much later than the posting date - LA has mostly been on fire this week and the temps regularly around 100). They also bitch about the traffic but that’s common. There are also lines of dialogue and character actions that SEEM to make sense, but really don’t when you give them a moment’s thought. Like when they get to the park and notice that there seems to be no one around when it’s usually quite busy. So either A. everyone else has learned about the cannibal killer and decided to vacation elsewhere, or B. he has killed an excessive number of people and no one has noticed. Then their car breaks down, and the mechanic bills them 140 bucks for four hours’ work. But he does this with a shit-eating grin on his face... dude, you just spent four hours doing what seems like a quick job! You could have been relaxing or watching the game or something, but you were taking your sweet-ass time underneath a car on a hot summer day. Yeah, you showed em.
Oh and the hero cries for awhile after hurting his leg. Not like, as he tries to bandage it up or anything, like in Die Hard - he just sits there and weeps like a baby. Bold.
But for every moment like that, there’s four or five that simply find our characters wandering around the woods, yelling at each other (the two guys always seem to be about one harsh word away from coming to blows, or hate-fucking the shit out of each other), or the ghost kids providing information to the living for no reason. And Don Jones is a pretty lousy director: close-ups rarely match, it’s never clear how close/far the characters are from each other, and it shifts from day to night with little rhyme or reason. And the blocking! At one point the Final Girl is watching the cannibal, and yet when she is distracted by something about 10 degrees to the left of the guy, he somehow manages to get behind and sneak up on her. When a film has so few scare scenes, they can at least be competently executed.
But it must have its fans, or else Code Red wouldn’t have bothered to release a special edition DVD, featuring a nice anamorphic transfer, a photo gallery, 13 minutes of interviews and some trailers. It also has two commentary tracks (buried in setup), one with Jones and the DP, and the other with Gary Kent (the killer) who is joined by Jones again. I listened to the latter, and unfortunately it’s one of those tracks in which the participants don’t have any sort of sense of humor about anything in the movie (they’re a bit more candid on the interviews). Towards the end Jones loosens up a bit, but Kent never lets it get too out of hand before he starts bringing up real life serial killer David Carpenter, or asking boring questions like whether or not Jones prepared storyboards for establishing shots. But as it was like 95 in my apartment, it was quite useful in helping me fall asleep (I watched the rest of it later at work). So thanks, fellas!
I forgot to mention that the film has a theme song. And it is beautiful. Sounds like David Bowie doing a Labyrinth demo. If anyone has a copy of this thing, PLEASE send it to me for my 80s Slasher Themes compilation CD (I put the clip below in lieu of the trailer). Thank you.
What say you?