It’s not often that Sweetie G and I disagree strongly about a movie, except of course for “World War Z” but we don’t have time to get in that here. Suffice to say, when we were asked to take a look at independent Canadian horror who could have guessed it would bear comparison to that Brad Pitt blockbuster?
When Emily’s friends plan a weekend camping trip, she’s forced to sneak out from under the nose of her abusive boyfriend Peter. Furious at being disobeyed, Peter sets out to punish his girlfriend…and anyone who gets in his way.
Our reactions to the film were very different. In fact, it was the strength of her reaction that prompted me to check out the movie myself – it sounded like it had ‘so bad it’s good’ potential. We both agree that it’s a micro-budget production but therein our agreement ends because while she found it to be the very embodiment of time she’d never get back. I thought it was pretty good fun, the kind of thing I could have seen me and my friends making with a VHS camcorder back in the day. It’s fondly modelled on the ‘video nasty’ slashers of the 1980s and it lovingly recreates them in all their now-problematic glory. “Dark Forest” steers clear of the trendy post-modern irony of Kevin Williamson in favour of replicating the objectification and gratification that were in fashion back then.
There’s not a great deal of depth to the characters but how much are you really expecting in a movie like this. The boys are guileless horn dogs and the girls a checklist of horror movie clichés but the killer’s knife doesn’t discriminate as it gleefully cuts a swathe through the game cast. Sure, it may not be totally clear who everyone is or why they all decided to go to the same woods at the same time, but once the slaying starts, it hardly matters. There’s a technical ambition in the filmmakers’ intent but their reach often outstretches their grasp. the lighting has a tendency to be intrusive and there’s a poorly executed Dolly Zoom which particularly displeased Sweetie G.
Script-wise, it’s okay but there’s a real tendency to constantly use characters names in dialogue, making much of the interactions feel a little unnatural, especially when it’s clearly been looped in studio after principal photography was completed.
On the plus side, there’s a knowingly gratuitous lake/ beach bikini scene which steps over the line from homage and into parody, but in a good way and Weronika Sokalska looks so uncannily like Kristen Bell, I kept thinking it was her. There’s an amusing foreshadowing of each death being preceded by a quest to find mobile phone reception with the signal strengthening just as the killer strikes. The idea of a killer who is also a mobile phone bases station has a certain novelty to it.
Whatever its technical or artistic merits, it’s clear that the cast and crew had a whale of a time making it and, if you’re in the right mood, that sense of fun is infectious. The practical gore effects are pretty good, especially the blood (although the vomit effect is disappointingly watery) and, really, how can you hate on a film which throws the term ‘cockshiner’ into its opening few minutes? “Dark Forest” is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime and after a few beers, will definitely keep you content while you eat your post-pub kebab (unless you’re Sweetie G, of course).
Craggus Score 4/10
Sweetie G Score 1/10