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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Forest Primeval
Forest Primeval
Tempe Entertainment // Unrated // February 19, 2008
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Bill Gibron | posted February 26, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Product:
When you see the names John and Mark Polonia on the credits of a film, you usually know what to expect - homemade horror delights peppered with a reverence for the '80s disposable direct to video mindset; production values hampered by budget but not imagination; topographical talent and acting; and just the right amount of camp cult schlock. So it may seem odd that, as they've aged (the boys have been in the outsider auteur biz for nearly two decades), the Polonias have both embraced and distanced themselves from their kitschy crap past. An example of their own internal homage was 2007's Splatter Beach. It was a gloriously goofy romp. Their latest effort, Forest Primeval, avoids said silliness, and instead tries to go the serious route. It doesn't quite work.

The Plot:
While hunting for Native American treasure, two friends stumble across an ancient curse. Seems local legend has it that Skull Mountain, a cavernous crack in the Earth, is home to a hideous demon that uses the woods as a means of wrecking its unholy vengeance. One by one, it picks off anyone who dares enter its domain. In the meantime, local housewife Cassandra is battling a series of horrifying visions. She seems to be connected to the horrific presence at the site, and every time it kills, she witnesses the crime. Naturally, she feels compelled to stop it once and for all - if she can.

The DVD:
If you want to see no-budget moviemakers on autopilot, John and Mark Polonia's Forest Primeval is a mighty good place to start. Avoiding the slapdash silliness of previous efforts (Feeders, Gorilla Warfare: Battles of the Apes, Peter Rottentail) and striving to combine the Evil Dead with a "something in the woods" storyline, the guys make a major misstep. No one expects this duo to deliver something somber and serious. What the typical Polonia lover longs for is groan inducing dialogue, shoestring special effects, clumsy camerawork, and just a wee nip of fever dream originality. After all, these are the filmmakers whose first movie, Splatter Farm, offered rape, sex with the elderly (implied, thankfully), feces fun, corpse grinding, and oral pleasure with a decapitated head. But somehow, when hooked up with Tempe as filmmakers for hire, their usual flair and finesse is undermined by a journeyman like junk couture.

Again, these are not the most talented indie icons out there. But when you compare this film to something like Splatter Beach or The House that Screamed, you can sense the stifled creativity. There is just too much Sam Raimi riffing here; POV shots of leafy trails and unseen pursuit; a possessed girl scribbling a demon image on a sketch pad; the sudden arrival of a trenchcoat wearing zombie. It's not the randomness that's perturbing. Most homemade horror films are a collection of ideas lacking a true cohesive narrative structure. But the Polonias almost always make this kind of material work, and yet Forest Primeval seems sloppy and unsure. The arrival of the aforementioned corpse at the 45 minute mark is not a sign of inspiration, but of overall length desperation. And the moments when a bald headed doc delivers expositional cues over the phone, you can see the brothers literally buying running time. Still, the acting is average and the use of found locations excellent in its pre-Spring lack of color.

But the real killer here is not the demonic force (the F/X are good - that is, until the Polonias go for some extended shots), but the lack of fun. When an outsider movie macabre can't quite manage its fear factors - financially or artistically - they need to inject some goofball schlock into the mix. Jokey dialogue won't help, nor will obvious attempts at humor. No, if a cheesy scare flick can't find a way to indirectly manufacture mirth, to make us laugh in spite of the all the slaughter going on, there's something wrong with the formula. No amount of mock macho stupidity or community college Method acting can cure a b-movie bucking for an "A". Like that butt-kissing teacher's pet in school, it quickly grows irritating and annoying. Had Tempe allowed the Polonias more time or independence in what they could create, Forest Primeval might have been a blast. Instead, it's an underachieving waste from some guys who have done a whole lot better.

The Video:
Colorful and bright, the 1.33:1 full screen image looks very good. There is some minimal grain, and a few continuity errors, but overall, Tempe's transfer is very good. There is, however, one caveat - and it also functions as a warning to all would be homemade movie makers. Just because a software package allows for numerous quasi-CGI post-production options doesn't mean you have to use them all. Just a few visual tweaks will do.

The Audio:
The sonic situation here is equally good. The Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 mix picks up the dialogue directly, and the ominous score comes across with eerie energy.

The Extras:
Tempe usually does a good job fleshing out otherwise minor movies, and the content they provide for Forest Primeval is indeed very good. The Polonias are present for a full length audio commentary, and as usual, they are a fount of detailed information. From when and where the film was shot, to how they came across their various props, the brothers deliver a tell-all depiction of their production. There is also a Behind the Scenes documentary which illustrates how they came to work with Tempe, as well as how a friend's move from one house to another provided most of the movie's F/X. Along with some company trailers, it's a nice collection of extras.

Final Thoughts:
As a longtime champion of the guys, this critic finds it very difficult to dismiss them. They have made some miserable films, but for the most part, their efforts have been dopey, defiant...and delightful. So where, exactly, did Forest Primeval go so very wrong? A lot of ancillary blame can be dished out, but in the end, it's their film, and they will have to live with the results - and the disapproval. Earning an uneasy Rent It, a few might find some value here. Others will wonder if, with nearly 30 movies under their belts, the boys haven't hit some kind of mid-life filmmaking crisis. The next few titles will tell the whole story, but as a preface, Forest Primeval doesn't bode very well for the future.

Want more Gibron Goodness? Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here

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