The Forest 1982 Review
The Forest 1982
aka Terror in the Forest
Directed by: Don Jones
Starring: Gary Kent, Dean Russell, Tomi Barrett
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
Another of the numerous backwoods Friday the 13th inspired slasher flicks, The Forest was for sure aware of what audience it was looking to target. With that said though, it is no typical slasher by the numbers. In fact, some peeps doubt whether it is actually a slasher flick at all, due to it being somewhat authentic with its storytelling. There’s no teens here, no T&A, no have sex and die, no masks and no campfire tales. Its lack of convention makes it somewhat of an outsider amongst the titles that it has become classified alongside, but it has enough of the things that are needed to give it the privilege of a review by myself and a place amongst its brethren on the a SLASH above hall of fame
It was the work of Don Jones, another exploitation director who had seen a potential profit burger in the slasher boom during the early eighties. Jones was a pretty good boxer before he caught the movie bug and his career certainly started well with two sleazy pieces in as many years that are now considered by some to be cult classics. When he pencilled the script for this project, he struggled initially to find investors and therefore had to mortgage his house for the $43,000 needed to get it made. Unfortunately, although that minimal funding covered the production, it didn’t leave him with enough to finish the film and that’s where the problems really began.
An outside contact was recommended to Jones as a good editor to patch together his footage, but he realigned the script to make the entire story in to a kind of flashback sequence. When a would be investor watched the net result, he was astounded at how poor it was and The Forest remained without distribution. Jones is still furious about what happened. Not only because it left him back at square one, but also because he lost his mortgaged house during the wait. Eventually, after a third and final cut, a deal was finally secured and the movie was set for release. There was still a tiny problem though. Don Jones has never seen a cent of the payment.
A pair of married couples head off to the forest for a camping weekend. On their way, they pass through an area where we saw two backpackers were slaughtered by an unseen menace in the opening sequence. Before long they begin to discover that things aren’t what they seem in the woodland and they have to pit their wits against a vicious cannibalistic killer…
As I have alluded to earlier, The Forest plays like it was made by someone who wanted to shoot a slasher flick, but hadn’t spent too much time researching the category’s trappings. It’s either that or Jones went all out to bring something new to the grouping, which he later hinted was truly the case. Whereas the most common methodology for these features is to have a killer that remains clouded in mystery, or at least off screen for the majority of the runtime, Jones’ effort introduces its antagonist very early and gives him a share of the screen time. It is this authenticity that allows for a couple of very interesting scenes. One of them sees two of the campers – that are unaware as of yet that there is any danger – sit down with the nut job to chat and shelter from a rain storm. It is not that it is a great piece of cinematic delivery by any means, but it’s an intriguing set up. Even more so as it includes one of the guys eating a piece of his wife’s corpse that’s been cooking over a camp fire. He has absolutely no idea of what he is munching on of course, but it’s made quite haunting because he gets a sudden chill, as if deep down inside or perhaps spiritually, he knows what he has just done. These kind of moments show great creativity from the script.
Alongside the backwoods loon of the title, we also get another unexpected addition that’s alien to the template. There are three ghosts that pop up and are key to the movement of the story and despite them not being a real threat to the campers, they do add something else that’s rather unique. One of them is the maniac’s cheating wife, whilst the other two are his children. The killer’s motive also makes sense and adds pathos to his situation. He hunts humans for food, although the movie never explains why he doesn’t go for deer or another wild animal. Perhaps he lacked the physicality to catch such prey or maybe human skin tastes better? It’s not really important though, because I guess what we needed was a reason for a massacre, which in effect we have. The closing sequence is also fairly unusual and moments such as these do deserve recognition.
Sequoia National Park proves to be the perfect location and the shots of the water, rocks and skyscraper-in-height trees are truly remarkable. The peculiar soundtrack is a bizarre blend of bubble-gum pop and various other styles that result in a mind-boggling combination. It seems to have been recorded especially for the feature and you can make fun at some of the lyrics, including wonderful lines such as: ‘In the chaos, the demons shout (what?)’. Oh and how could I forget, the opening orchestra piece sounds like something that you’d find in Lassie, not a ‘horror’ flick.
The acting, of course, is really weak and amateurish with little emphasis on setting any kind of suspense through the actions of the players. The photography is also quite bland, with only the odd moment or two of invention and energy. I enjoyed the inadvertently funny scene during a flashback, where the jilted husband makes quick work of his adulterous wife and then heads out to take care of her lover. We see a brief fight and then a chase sequence, which isn’t really fair because said hubby has an inexplicable ability to teleport right in front of his intended victim every time he turns to run somewhere new. He even manages to materialise a new weapon from out of nowhere! There’s very little in terms of gore on offer but the first three murders all boast different qualities. The opening two are fleetingly photographed with good movement and use of backgrounds, whilst the next slaughter some twenty or so minutes later looks really quite realistic and is astoundingly brutal. With that said though, it’s quite obvious as to why The Forest never quite made the notorious list of video nasties and it boasts no real special effects that are worth mentioning.
Jones’ entry is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination and offers zilch in terms of suspense, scares or tension. I did however have a lot more fun than perhaps I thought that I was going to whilst watching and had no idea what was going to happen next. Nothing can be taken away from an admittedly very unique story, a soundtrack that is totally loco and a knife clenching cannibal in a baseball cap. And I haven’t even mentioned the three ghosts! If that doesn’t sound inviting to you dear reader, then I am afraid that you are checking the wrong website. Oh yes…
Final Girl: √√