Movie Review: Dark Forest
Director: Roger Boyer
by Jason Koenigsberg
Cheap horror movies are a dime a dozen. They are easier to find than a needle in a stack of needles. Some stand out and are memorable, others earn a cult following, and some are just lost in the shuffle and forgotten films. Fortunately, if you get lost in Dark Forest it is not that bad to be wandering around in the dark aimlessly. The film is only 75 minutes so you are never stuck in the woods for too long and there is plenty of eye candy to keep your visual senses stimulated.
Dark Forest opens up with some overexposed colors and a pretty girl looking at a lake. The first shots have a dreamlike quality to them. The autumn colors on the leaves stand out and look like they need color correction but the choice fits because the first scene is possibly a dream that will be explained later. It looks like the female we see is being stalked by someone, possibly herself. Then the color and tone shift dramatically to a few other women waking up in a house and the film has a much more realistic look from this point on.
As the movie progresses the audience will find that Dark Forest is clearly a self-aware horror film. It does not go for easy laughs or tongue in cheek moments. It knows that it is not original but tries to keep the action tight and the characters moving with the story. This is another crazed killer, stalker ex-boyfriend film. The movie tries to make this guy out to be the boyfriend from hell and it kind of succeeds. He has no redeeming values and wants to kill his girlfriend for going away on a camping trip and also slaughter all of her friends that convinced her to leave him for the weekend and go away. Nothing original, but it knows what it is and tries to make getting there the fun part.
This movie is a Canadian import and the viewer will realize once they say ‘aboot‘. So once again, a cheap, fun guilty pleasure. Dark Forest is an easy movie to rip apart if you do not appreciate low brow horror. The music score was very heavy-handed and lays on the dread prematurely and very thick. The women are engaging and great to look at but the men in this film are, for lack of a better word, terrible. The male actors in this film have zero charisma and it is hard to fathom any of these beautiful women even remotely interested in them. Maybe there is a lack of decent men north of the US border, but these guys are pathetic, not just the one that is the homicidal maniac. Dark Forest took heavily and noticeably from Neil Marshall’s The Descent (2006) especially in the first act but went in the direction of being cheesy and intentionally campy instead of serious. This was a wise decision considering the budget and talent in front of the screen and it works to the film’s benefit.
Back to the men being particularly atrocious. The killer is not a very interesting one. He is not an intimidating or fun villain to watch, stalking the girls in the dark forest at night, wearing a white t-shirt! The best/worst part is, no one notices him! Once scene involving this was slightly inspired where they do not notice him because they are too busy on their phones.
For a cheap horror film, surprisingly the best scenes in Dark Forest involve the female protagonists and their interpersonal communication. The conversations between the girlfriends are engaging. They have a real natural chemistry on screen together. The abrupt ending is meant to spell more gloom and doom, but it feels like they ran out of money. However, the filmmakers were smart and had the final moments tie into the opening shots in an intriguing way. Dark Forest could have been a dime a dozen throwaway horror film but it ends up having enough worthwhile qualities that it warrants a recommendation.