The Forest (1982) Movie Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

The Forest (1982) Movie Review

Horrorific content by Jessica Gomez on January 27th, 2021 | Movie Review | Survival, Wilderness, Cannibalism

Two couples seeking solitude go camping and unknowingly cross into a hermit’s hunting ground.

The Forest was directed by Don Jones (known for Schoolgirls in Chains and The Love Butcher) and stars Dean Russell, Gary Kent (from Sinthia: The Devil's Doll), John Batis, Ann Wilkinson and Jeanette Kelly.

Daddy's Gone A Hunting

The Forest Review

It’s clear looking through the list of his film titles and their descriptions, the likes of which include Schoolgirls in Chains, that Don Jones is a fan of exacting revenge on duplicitous women. He was, at the very least, working through some personal issues with the women’s sexual revolution through his films. Though The Forest does somewhat follow the “final girl” formula, the common theme is that women need men, even when they think they don’t.

The opening scene comes in fast and furious with a couple being chased by a killer through the woods. But you’re given a quick glance at the very average-looking killer, giving away any chance to conjure an evil image in your head. The editing is choppy and the cinematography very low-budget, but it started with somewhat of a bang because it borrows briefly from the Black Christmas angle of seeing from the killer’s point of view.

Cut to an unintentionally hysterical exchange of overacting from friends Charlie and Steve, who are sitting in LA traffic. They’re dying to get out of the city, and ultimately decide to go camping, without their stupid wives dragging them down. When they tell the wives, the women reveal over a very awkward conversation that they’ve also decided to go camping. They end up going the same weekend but driving separately for reasons unknown, except that they needed to somehow separate for the story’s sake. The men’s truck breaks down and takes hours to be serviced, so the women end up sleeping in the woods alone, where we see that they’re being watched.

Then things take a weird turn. An apparition of a strange woman angrily looking for her children appears, and I have to give it to Jeanette Kelly - this was her one and only acting role, and she’s the only creepy part of the movie - unless you count the ghosts of two children who are hanging around, trying to save the women from becoming the next victims of their father, who lives in the woods, while trying to evade their evil mother. Over time and some completely unrealistic circumstances - such as the men happening upon a cannibalistic hermit in the woods and just kickin’ it with him in a cave - we come to learn that the hermit’s wife was cheating on him with every man in town, and that his kids have died. (In a later scene, the girl ghost plainly says, “we killed ourselves,” and I had to laugh out loud at the absolute insanity of the way it played out.)

Most of the actors, while hilariously giving it their all, had very short-lived careers in film, save for Gary Kent, who was the inspiration for Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. (John Batis randomly appeared in an episode of the Freddy Krueger-based television series Freddy’s Nightmares.) The ghostly effects used for the children, both from the look and the sound editing, were distracting and broke up scenes that could have been suspenseful with proper music and editing. There were a few half-fleshed out red herrings and some clumsily-cut scenes intended to draw up suspense, but they only served to perpetuate the ridiculous nature of the film. A particular scene comes to mind where the hermit, in a memory from his pre-cannibal days, faces off with one of the men his wife is sleeping with, where he suddenly becomes supernaturally able to appear out of nowhere and throws a host of random items from his junkyard at him. And there’s one main problem with the cannibal-out-of-necessity storyline...he lives in the woods, surrounded by animals.

I can get behind a far-fetched premise, but this was out of the realm of possibility on any planet. The Forest didn’t know itself what it was - plot points veered at different times toward a ghost movie, a cannibal movie, a slasher, and a love story loosely inspired by Friday the 13th. It was as if Jones threw every idea he had at a wall to see what stuck, and unfortunately, it all fell into a jumbled mess. It was, if nothing else, ambitious.

Worth Watching?

If you’re into B movies, it’s definitely worth a watch. If you’re looking to be entertained, it’s worth a watch. If you’re looking for a scary movie...keep looking.

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