Produced and Directed by: Don Jones
Written by: Evan Jones
Reviewed by: Brett G.
There are low budget campy films, and then thereís The Forest. Clearly a product of the eighties slasher craze, this film shows what happens when a director (and I used this term loosely) decides to round up a group of people to essentially make a homemade slasher flick. In this case, our director is Don Jones, and someone apparently thought it was a good idea to allow this guy to get behind the camera. Bad move.
Our story begins with two unidentified hikers (perhaps a married couple) trekking through some not particularly frightening woods. However, we are soon made privy to the fact that someone else is out there with them, as Bryan makes use of some hand-held, POV shots. In the immortal words of Joe Bob Briggs, that can only mean one thing: thereís a camera out there! Anyway, the gal here knows something is out of sort while her husband thinks sheís just hearing things. To appease her, he allows her to lead the way. Iím not exactly sure how this is going to stop a maniac in the woods from killing her, but Iíll humor it. Of course, both of our hikers here are killed by an unseen killer. Since a flick of this type obviously wonít have much going for it, you would at least expect the death scenes to deliver; instead, itís tamely handled with some fake blood and weak stabbing noises.
We then cut to some stock footage of a jam-packed freeway. Once these interminable establishing shots end, we are treated with some looped in dialogue from a couple of characters in one of the cars. It turns out the voices belong to our main characters, Steve and Charlie. Their dialogue mostly consists of bitching and moaning about their life, especially their wives. This somehow leads Steve to suggest that the two go on a camping trip together (and alone, apparently). Before this, however, Charlie invites Steve over to grill some steaks (you know, like real men).
Steve accepts the offer (upon Charlieís condition that he buy the steaks or something), and we meet the two wives they were bitching about earlier, Teddi and Sharon. It just so happens that these two gals have been planning their own camping trip as well. In an irritating male chauvinist exchange between the four, the two guys decide that the ladies could never rough it on their own, so they all decide to take the camping trip together. However, despite showing this concern, these two guys allow their wives to leave ahead of them for no apparent reason. Along the way, Charlieís truck gives out which leads to a slightly creepy exchange between the two guys and a toothless mechanic. This, of course, means that our two helpless ladies are out there alone while the guys lag behind.
If you canít tell, all of this seemingly endless exposition only serves to set up our dilemma: these four get trapped in the woods with the psychopath we didnít see earlier in the film. Itís a standard slasher setup to be sure, and by this point itís easy to hold out hope that the film will deliver. However, all hope fades by the time weíre introduced to our villain: some old guy named John who wears tattered clothes and is eventually revealed to be the most ineffective slasher villain of all time. How this guy has ever managed to kill anyone is beyond me, but weíll get to that later.
Anyway, as is to be expected, our guy here starts to terrorize the two wives, but not before they meet his wife and kids who are now ghosts (as indicated by the awesome spooky echo effects applied to their voices). One of the gals bites it while the other escapes (thanks in no small part to Johnís decision to just sit there and wait for her to reveal her hiding spot). Eventually, Steve and Charlie meet up with John in his cave (which doubles as his home). Itís at this point where I give the film a bit of credit. It turns out that John is also a cannibal, and heís got to stock up on meat in the winter. As our two heroes enter, the remains of Charlieís wife are roasting over a fire, and John proceeds to eat it in front of the unwitting husband (and even offers him a bite). Bitchiní.
At this point, John also decides to tell our boys the sob story of how he ended up out in the wilderness. Turns out he was once a normal guy who made the mistake of finding his wife porking a refrigerator repairman in bed. If youíre hoping to at least get some decent skin shots here, donít get excited, as Jones apparently thinks his narrative is captivating enough without it. Accused of being impotent (despite the fact heís sired two kids already), John snaps and kills his wife. He also proceeds to eventually her repairman lover who inexplicably stays to actually fix said refrigerator. I say ďeventuallyĒ because these two guys engage in one the most unintentionally hilarious chase scenes Iíve ever seen. You see, John is nothing if not persistent. He gets his ass handed to him (with the frame of a broken bike at one point, no less), but always manages to stay ahead of his soon-to-be victim (think Jasonís newfound teleporting ability in Jason Takes Manhattan). The end of this exchange features the most anticlimactic death via a big razor blade that Iíve ever seen. Furthermore, as I said before, John has to be the most awkward, non-threatening slasher villain known to man. If not for Johnís inexplicable teleporting ability, Iíd wager that the refrigerator repairman would have kicked his ass and prevented the events of this film from ever happening. Alas, he did not, so the film treats us to another twenty minutes of terror.
Eventually, Charlie and Steve figure out that somethingís not quite right and decide to look for their wives. Luckily for all involved, the ghosts of Johnís kids decide to help them out. However, this gets hindered by the fact that the kids are trying to escape the ghost of their abusive, dead mom. It would seem that Bryan himself realized how ridiculous this sounds, as Sharon herself asks what she could possibly do since theyíre all dead. Unfortunately, this question is never answered, nor is it ever clarified exactly why the kids are trying to stop their cannibal dad (whom they apparently love so much, especially compared to their psycho mom).
Anyway, if you canít tell by now, The Forest is an incoherent mess of a flick. Like I said before, you would expect something like this to make up for its weaknesses by loading up on gore and nudity. However, I canít even praise the film for this. Thereís almost no redeeming value to the film, as the acting is terrible, the music is generic, and the direction is mediocre. I can somewhat praise the photography, as I have seen worse in these low budget slashers. Seeing as how a lot of the film takes place in the dark, I should at least note that the action is usually coherently shot and lit. Beyond this, you only have a half baked story about a cannibal man and his ghost kids that only registers on the unintentional comedy scale.
Even though the film doesnít deserve it, Code Red has seen it fit to give this obscure flick a decent DVD release. The anamorphic video transfer is of course mired with scratches, grain, and dirt, but I donít think The Forest needs to be seen any other way. Surprisingly, the black levels are generally rock solid, and close shots hold a fair amount of detail. It would seem that this transfer was made from a worn theatrical print, so itís generally very washed out looking, but Iíd wager that this is the best this film will ever look. As for the sound, we get the original mono soundtrack that varies wildly in quality. At some points, itís damn near incomprehensible. Still, I doubt youíll be captivated to the point where youíll be hanging on every characterís word, if you catch my drift. I will say this, if youíre brave enough to track this one down, you can at least take comfort that youíre going to get a decent presentation. Of course, the big question is whether or not you should track it down. While my review here has been less than kind, I do think that hardcore horror aficionados who canít get enough of cheesy 80s slashers like Donít Go in the Woods Alone and Doom Asylum should give it a look (just to say you did). However, donít say I didnít warn you. Rent it!
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