Lionsgate // 2007 // 81 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Denise Louis (Retired) // August 24th, 2007
Amongst a string of Japanese horror remakes comes an original Japanese horror rip-off.
Pretending to be something you're not is no easy feat. Haunted Forest pretends to have a captivating story, ignoring all character development to jump straight into the plot. It pretends to have good special effects, using animation in outlandish ways that it thinks are believable. Most of all Haunted Forest pretends to be a good movie, and fails miserably.
There's a haunted forest somewhere in the world. Three friends -- Sean (Sevy Di Cione, Branches) Josh (Adam Green, Black Velvet), and Flip (Edoardo Beghi) -- travel to said forest to find a mythical tree that Chris' grandfather wrote about before his death. They hope to find the secret burial ground located beneath it, along with the man who may have recently descended to it. Instead they find Jennifer (Jennifer Luree, Common Practice) and a whole host of Japanese horror clichés as they try desperately to leave before Satinka (Kiralee Hayashi, Feeding Grounds), the forest's ghost, takes them all out.
Before I begin, I have one quick question: Why does Lionsgate keep releasing bad direct-to-DVD horror movies? You'd figure there wouldn't be enough people buying to be worth the trouble. I must be wrong though as I review Haunted Forest on DVD.
It is certainly something when special effects produce green flashes on a screen. That something isn't good. And it's just one example of how Haunted Forest was mishandled from start to finish. The special effects glitches actually surprised me at first. You'd figure with an (apparently) low budget they'd be kept to a minimum anyway. Instead there's a relative overload, the side-effect being that most aren't polished enough to look believable. Ironically the most effective shot in the film is one without cgi -- why the filmmakers didn't stick to these simpler tricks is beyond me.
As for the horror itself, I think the charge says it all. American audiences will know it as The Grudge. Japanese audiences will know it as, well, Japanese horror. You've got your pale, fast-moving ghost with distorted limbs. You've get the hands popping up out of nowhere. You've even got that more funny than scary open-mouthed stare. It's all been done before, and better. And unfortunately for this film, the same can be said of the characters.
Now I don't go into these movies expecting to be wowed by character development. At the very least though, I expect to be moderately interested in them as people. You know that obligatory "getting to know you" scene towards the beginning of most horror movies? Well it's missing here and the characters never recover from its absence. You're stuck trying to get to know a total of six people as they're dying. Mix this with some bad writing and it means you get these basic outlines of people, never really distinguishing them from their stereotypes. I don't know who decided it would be a good idea to have most of them remain nameless for half of the film either but it only adds to the inanity.
Lastly the story, which seems fairly original in its own right, has a very unoriginal execution. It gets garbled and is thrown out in spurts, mostly by the hunter of exposition introduced half way through the film. What you're left with works only on a basic level, under scrutiny it falls apart. Top it off with an uninspired twist ending and you've got a DVD that will collect dust on my shelf for years to come.
* The amateur look of the film helps create a sense of realism.
* The artwork is done well and is integrated nicely into the movie and DVD menus (except for the unreadable scene selection menu which has white letters on a white smoke background).
* And, despite dialogue that is barely audible at times, the 5.1 is used well enough here. If only it could have made up for every other part of this tripe.
Acting, special effects, plot...there is nothing good to be said about any of them. Although, Kiralee Hayashi deserves something for attempting to portray a different ethnicity none of the acting here stands out, not even at the bad horror movie level. The special effects are lackluster and worse, used in ways that make them more unconvincing. It's easier to believe that a swarm of flies is, say, coming out of a tree then completely blotting out the sun for several minutes. Of course all of this isn't helped by the dry storytelling and plot. Maybe with a better script, acting and special effects this film could have risen to the level of redundancy attained by most other horror films. As it stands, it's a substandard, barely comprehensible snoozefest, not worth the price of packaging.
Guilty. The court recommends walking out on this film, even if it's playing in your living room.
Review content copyright © 2007 Denise Louis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 ES (English)
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Official Site