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Haunted Forest

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // June 26, 2007
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted August 10, 2007 | E-mail the Author
Did you enjoy The Blair Witch Project? How about those countless black-haired ghosts popping up in films from the past, like Ringu?

Then go out, pick up either of those, and enjoy their previously accomplished atmospheric bliss instead of Haunted Forest's lackluster annoyance. Don't let the somewhat intriguing premise looming within its compelling description draw your attention, because you'll be let down once this promise starts to blow away with the forest breeze.

The Film:

Setup is a cinch: you've got a group of male friends venturing out into the woods to research a hidden Native American graveyard. Our key, focused researcher is Sean, who holds the key to the secrets within his grandfather's old sketch journal that claims this forest is bound to a curse rooted within one specific tree. Featuring a barrage of grotesque images and peculiarly cryptic writings, this little key serves as the sole reference regarding our creepy woods. With the knowledge that a previous photographer had recently disappeared in the area, the three guys - one stoner, one British stick, and the spiritually focused hero - still push forward to discover the secrets lying within.

Of course, these buried secrets are not something they really want to unearth. As they worm further into the trees, a sinister force starts to rustle, creep, and craw amongst them. When pale hands start to arise from the earth and barbed darts make their way into their skin, each of these poor souls starts to gather the sense that they're targets instead of guests. And, once they run into a subsequent group of forest adventurers searching for psychotropic flowers, each of them get lassoed into the creepy, deadly fun. It's all up to Sean and his grandfather's journal to save the day and lift this curse.

Glancing at the premise for Haunted Forest is enough to perk your intrigue for a new and original concept. Using the old adage revolving around a haunted Native burial ground as a setup for some rambunctious, predictable horror fun sounds fairly appealing. Integrate some history and family turmoil in the mix, and I'm game. I was looking forward to the sweeping, screeching, terrifying Indian ghosts ready to leap out from the trees and give us moviegoer hell. And, much to my dismay, the acting was even better than expected with the opening.

My dismay, however, is within the overall execution that quickly turns Haunted Forest from promising to pungent. We see this story and serviceable acting flush down river with a disappointing script and a nonchalant, wavering narrative. It's truly frustrating to see moderately decent acting quickly ooze from a horror production purely due to the lazy build-up and lackluster molding to modern horror conventions. It's just not a lot of fun to watch. It feels a lot like a wider-negative, falsified knock-off of The Blair Witch Project without the naturalistic fear that gave that underappreciated forested thrill the panache it richly achieved. Haunted Forest just leaves a bitter and unpleasant taste in your mouth, much like chewing on a piece of bark from those not-so-creepy trees.

It does serve one exceedingly flimsy purpose, however. A few successful jumpy scenes featuring a stringy-haired ghost wishing to consume all those around her jump from the foundation of this flick. After all, if you're looking into Haunted Forest, you're more than likely looking for a few jolts, right? Haunted Forest isn't even close to successful in crafting a full, cohesive film with satisfactory tension, but you might get a spook here and there with some very generic scare tactics. These scares, however, are nowhere near justified with the rest of the film's lack of focus. It wavers, switching concentrated efforts while opting to glance towards weak elements. You're left trying to find something, anything, worthwhile amidst a few weak underlying plot eccentricities. Haunted Forest just doesn't make the vested effort worth your while to dig through these layers in search for these dingy, barely luminescent points.

The DVD:

Lions' Gate brings us Haunted Forest in a standard keepcase DVD with similar discart.

The Video:

Haunted Forest is a grainy, low-budget picture. The image reflects the quality of the film's constraints. It's not overly sharp and shares the same grain features I mentioned above. It's widescreen, anamorphic, and does replicate the digital points of the flick decently enough. Also, there aren't any noticeable digital flaws throughout. There's nothing impressive or terribly noteworthy that jumps from the picture. It's a very bland image.

The Audio:

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio reflects the same quality as the image. It's nothing stellar, but does exhibit some mild channel separation with a very small number of the special effects. There's a mild usage of the LFE levels, and the voices sounded crisp enough. A Dolby 2.0 Stereo presentation is available, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

The Extras:

Nothing but a few Trailers and a Scene Selection.


Final Thoughts:

There's not a lot that Haunted Forest provides that isn't stronger across other pieces of cinema. It's a shame that the quality of the film didn't match the potentially stimulating premise. Instead, you'd be much happier looking past this diversion and going to the already reputable flicks that get the same job done. Skip It.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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