Friday, December 4, 2009

'Haunted Forest' is a good but flawed spook show

Haunted Forest (2007)
Starring: Sevy Di Cione, Adam Green, Jennifer Luree, Mark Hengst, Edoardo Beghi, and Kiralee Hayashi
Director: Mauro Borrelli
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A group of twenty-somethings are stalked by a madman and the vengeful spirit of an Indian maiden who haunts an isolated stretch of forest. Will Sean (Di Cione) be able to interpret the secrets contained in his grandfather's diary before it's too late for everyone?

"Haunted Forest" is a spooky little ghost movie that borrows its good bits from Japanese ghost movies of recent years but dragged down by an overcomplicated script and lapses in story logic.

The ghost that transforms people into trees would have been plenty scary without the uninteresting, crazed trapper that serves as her "Igor." (And why does a ghost that moves easily through the entire forest need someone to help her trap victims anyway? I suppose the filmmakers were trying to throw in a red herring in regards to whether the events were supernatural in origin or not, but it's so very clear early on that they are that the trapper is redundant.)

The film's strongest point is the cinematography. The film gets a lot of mileage out of what was probably a very tight budget thanks to creative camera-work. It also goes a long way to making a beautiful forest into a very scary place.

The film also succeeds to the point that it does thanks to some well-written, believable characters. It's nice to see that some horror writers can still write tales that are character-driven rather than relying on gore or special effects to generate horror and tension. In fact, this film also relies on a time-honored ghost movie rule as far as the gore goes--less is more. There is very little splatter in this film, but what is present is as a result very impactful.

If the script had been tighter, this would have been a top-notch film. It's still worth seeking out if you're a big fan of ghost movies, but it's not a "must-see."