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Forest (Special Edition), The
The Forest, directed by Don Jones in 1982, starts off with a lot of traffic jam footage before introducing us to Steve (Dean Russell) and Charlie (John Batis), two dudes looking to ditch their better halves and enjoy some man time out in the woods. Okay. At any rate, they're stuck in the traffic we just watched for ten-minutes and, once they make it through, we get to see them hanging out with the aforementioned wives, Sharon (Tomi Barrett) and Teddi (Ann Wilkinson). They're enjoying what by all accounts appears to be a nice, lovely dinner. The girls figure if they guys are going to head out on a camping trip by themselves, then they're going to do the same thing, albeit at a different campsite and before you know it the guys are heading into one part of the forest while the girls are heading into another part, but not before a car breaks down meaning that the ladies arrive first.
We get some nice footage of people walking around near the giant redwood trees that California is known for and after settling down near a cave, a squirrely looking old guy named John (Gary Kent) kills one of the girls and makes a meal out of her. Ironically, the guys later meet up with said squirrely guy and unwittingly start chowing down, cannibal style. As they eat, John tells the camping guys about his two ghost kids (Becki Burke and Corky Pigeon, who showed up in a few episodes of Silver Spoons) who hang out in these woods. We learn that John was married once and when his wife cheated on him, he killed her. After that, Charlie and Steve spend the rest of the movie sort of just running around the woods while the ghost kids help out the remaining campers once John decides he's hungry again.
"Daddy's gone a-hunting!"
If lame gore, traffic jams, ghost kids and voiceovers are your thing, then this is the movie for you. The Forest is definitely lower tier trash, even by the often times very low standards of the slasher genre, and it really doesn't have a whole lot going for it aside from a few moments of unintentional humor. Gary Kent is watchable enough whenever he's given something to do but there's too much filler and padding here… the traffic jam for example, or all the far away wide shots of the woods that just seem to go on. As such, the film loses its pace. On top of that, there's no legitimate suspense and the kill scenes, always the highlight of any slasher film, are pretty tame.
That said, there's something watchable about this dopey flick. It isn't good, but it has just barely enough weirdness that fans of the stranger, and maybe less successful, side of horror moviedom will find enough to get them through to the end. The goofy ghost kids, who speak entirely with goofy reverb effects over their voices to make them extras ghostly, can be laughably bad at times and the movie does benefits from some nice scenery. Again, the pacing is a bit dicey and the story pretty predictable but if you throw back a few beers and know what you're in for before starting the film, with expectations set very, very low and viewed with the right friends, it can be a bit of fun.
Code Red gives The Forest an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen that is taken from a "2016 HD scan." The optical effects used on the opening titles look pretty rough but once we get through that the transfer is pretty decent. There's still a bit of print damage here and there that you can't ignore and some occasional color fading in spots but detail is pretty good and the transfer free of any noticeable noise reduction or edge enhancement issues.
The levels on the English language DTS-HD Mono track are a bit low but if you turn the volume up, the mix is fine. Dialogue is clean and clear and there aren't any issues with hiss or distortion (though the warbly ghost kids' dialogue is sometimes a bit muffled due to the reverb effects used on it). The score sounds good as do the effects. The track shows its age in that it's a little limited in range, but that's not a flaw, just an observation. No complaints here. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided.
Extras start off with an audio commentary by Producer/Director Don Jones and actor Gary Kent that is actually very interesting. Kent keeps Jones engaged here as they talk about where the ideas for some of the characters came from, what it was like on set, getting along with the other cast members and details on their careers and much more. A second commentary features Jones and Cinematographer Stuart Asbjornsen and it's a bit more technical, covering the locations, what it was like on set, budgetary issues, union issues, shooting without proper permits, and how they used ingenuity to get some shots down the way that they wanted them, even when the budget wouldn't necessarily allow for it. Both of these are worth checking out if you enjoyed the film.
Code Red also provides a making-of featurette made up of interviews with Jones, Asbjornsen and Kent. It covers a lot of the same ground as the commentary tracks do, but it's a more compact way to learn about the movie if commentaries aren't you thing. Rounding out the extras are a theatrical trailer for the feature, bonus trailers for a few other Code Red properties, menus and chapter selection options.
The Forest is far from the best slasher film ever made, but it has its own wacky, low budget charm and a few weird ideas that make it watchable if you've got an affinity for a specific kind of horror movie. It doesn't always work, but it is usually at least interesting to watch it try. Code Red has done a pretty nice job on the Blu-ray, the audio and video presentation isn't perfect but it's a big step up from the old DVD release and there are some good extras here that certainly add value to the disc. Recommended if you dig low budget slasher nonsense.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.