Monday, September 6, 2010

THE FOREST (1982) - if you find trees dramatically exhilarating, this is the movie for you

here is the video trailer for this anti-opus about two couples whose exciting quest down a hiking trail is interrupted by creepy jerks that pop out of nowhere

The film opens with a couple hiking through the forest, and we get the classic line: “the bears are more afraid of us than we are of them”. Really? Have you ever seen Grizzly Man? Let me ask you this: if you were a bear, would you be super afraid of some middle aged white guy? I rest my case. Of course, the couple gets sliced into rustic human fillet, rendering this bear business moot, and the scene is filmed in a loving appropriation of Friday the 13th (even using a similar shot of the knife before it dices away).

You might be thinking that this is headed exactly where every functional viewer thinks it is, but you’d be completely wrong. For starters, the victims are middle aged, instead of teenagers. Secondly, the score starts off as a classy combo of moog and sax; sort of elevator music for trees. I can say with certainty that no saxophones are found in the entirety of the first two Friday the 13th films. Also, the film keeps cutting to the woman’s extremely concerned reaction, as she actively searches for the source of the mysterious noises. Most Friday the 13th victims are only mildly curious about mysterious noises.

The innovations don’t stop there, folks. In fact, the rest of the film is mainly a ghost story of sorts, albeit with a stalking killer annoying a group of four adult campers. I know I’ve spoiled it already, but, circa 1982, this was a very clever trick to pull on an audience. It’s sort of like if Kiss came out, played Love Gun, and then pulled off their clothes and make up, to reveal Steely Dan underneath. Wait a second…that means a naked Steely Dan is standing there on stage. Holy Christ.

Not only is the opening solid, but the ghost element is strangely effective. It consists of a mother, daughter, and son triumvirate. The mother is the evil one, but the young siblings are cute as a button, despite having recently kicked the bucket. They keep popping up to talk to the campers in creepily straight forward fashion. They explain that their father killed their naughty mother, and that he is stalking the campers for food. The creepiest part is that they calmly explain that they both committed suicide because “life was too sad” (solid reason as any to off yourself, I guess). I didn’t even realize that 9-year-olds committed suicide. I guess you learn something new every day/week. They insist that death is indeed superior to life, that they can now freely wander around the forest and creep out everyone and everything (even the badgers). They no longer have to worry about food and disease and self esteem, or whatever it is that normal people are concerned about. Also, their voices are soaked in reverb with a pinch of tremolo, which I guess is all part of this mortal trade off.

A flashback humorously explains why daddy killed mommy. She’s lying in bed with another man when he comes home. She nonchalantly tells him that the naked man is a repairman, acting as if she’s done nothing wrong. She also locked the kids in the closet in the very same bedroom. Of course, the father kills her (who can blame him, I guess), and he gets his ass kicked by the repairman (who was actually a repairman after all). He then runs off to live in a cave in the middle of the forest, away from the suspicious ire of the local investigative baconheads. Lately, he resorts to hunting humans for meat, for reasons that are unclear. He doesn’t seem like he’s become a cannibal mongoloid or anything. He’s just an annoying middle aged slob who’s hungry, and decides to hunt humans instead of the usual animals he was previously living off of, just to be a jerk, I guess. Maybe cannibalism is indeed a natural progression of cabin fever. Either way, he is a most annoying “villain”, coming off as an nonthreatening greasy neighbor most of the time. Even the ghost kids, who claim allegiance to him in opposition to their mother, turn on him during his quest to eat the campers.

Well, apart from the cute dead kids and the opening scene, the movie is basically a boring piece of shit. The main characters are all lifeless and uninteresting, and much of the run time is devoted to them rattling on about whatever boring shit pops into their heads, along with shots of trees and even a bunch of traffic padding on the drive over. The supernatural plot is simple but still confusing, with three separate potential villains with vague motives. Also, the real villain is not used in any suspenseful way (again, apart from the opening).

On top of everything else, there is the brutal score, careening from the woodsy elevator stuff mentioned earlier to “suspenseful” music that sounds like an angry synth bird yelling at a crying robot. If that wasn’t enough, there are original songs composed for the film, including “The Dark Side of the Forest”. If the forest is really filled with this kind of horrific musak, I’ll be staying home, thank you. Besides, those bears are bad news.

Now don’t get lost
Or you’ll have to pay the cost
As many have died
In the dark side of the forest
-"Dark Side of the Forest", as sung by Forresty Croondoggle, who used the song as a springboard to a career as a sanitation worker for one of those forest preserve gift shops that sell tree-themed trinkets that no one will ever buy.

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