‘Haunted Forest’ review: Interesting but hardly scary

Ian Lorenos’ Haunted Forest is quite a curious creation.

Simple-minded horror

Its unimaginative title makes it seem like a simple-minded horror film, which it really is.

Sure, Lorenos attempts to inflect it with an atmosphere that makes the entire thing feel more mannered than just a ride full of cheap shocks and chills, but each and every bit of its plot points follow formula, making it more or less very predictable even from the get-go. (READ: 'Haunted Forest': A different type of horror film)

Essentially, the film follows Nica (Jane Oineza), a city girl who is spirited from Manila to join Aris (Raymart Santiago), her father and a police inspector, to the province to investigate mysterious deaths of women. She gets possessed by an evil presence from the forest, prompting her father to do anything to save her.

PROTECTING HIS CHILD. Aris (Raymart Santiago) vows to protect his daughter from danger

PROTECTING HIS CHILD.

Aris (Raymart Santiago) vows to protect his daughter from danger

Perhaps the story doesn’t really deserve the mood Lorenos has conjured out of the stylish visuals he and his cinematographer Rommel Sales have created. The film looks vivid and layered but the characters are impoverished in terms of personality and motivation. Haunted Forest is what happens when a studio insists on its formula of mixing teenage romance and domestic drama with the usual elements of low-rent horror while the filmmakers try to work their way around the demands.

It is almost as if Lorenos and his team are desperately trying to salvage their film from being gobbled up by conventionality but only ending up with a product that is neither as fun as it could have been had it tempered its seriousness nor compelling.

Father and daughter squabble

The film uses the squabbles between daughter and father as an emotional anchor for its supernatural elements.

HAUNTED. Nica is the target of elements wanting to control her

HAUNTED.

Nica is the target of elements wanting to control her

This sort of works except that it doesn’t really attempt to delve deeper into the strife between them, relying instead on grounding the indifference on a narrated event from the past that only echoes the film’s resistance to complicating the psychology of its more interesting characters. It’s quite unfortunate since the best parts of Haunted Forest are the times when the horror intertwines with the main characters’ domestic crisis and the one moral quandary that the film pushes forward for Aris hinges on his strained relationship with his daughter.

By opting for simplistic histories for its beleaguered characters and even its villain, the film betrays its ambitions for emotional heft and sublime scares, resulting in something that still feels utterly conventional even amidst all the sheen of needless sophistication.

 

Worth some attention

TEEN ROMANCE. Maris Racal, Jameson Blake, and Jon Lucas also star in the movie

TEEN ROMANCE.

Maris Racal, Jameson Blake, and Jon Lucas also star in the movie

Haunted Forest isn’t scary, which is a colossal failure since it is after all marketed as a horror film. However, there are things about it that make it an intriguing enough stumble to be worth some attention.  – Rappler.com

 

Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ Tirad Pass. Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.