Title: The Forest
Year Of Release: 1982
Running Time: 85 minutes
DVD Released By: Code Red
Directed By: Don Jones
Writing Credits: Evan Jones
Starring: Dean Russell, Gary Kent, Tomi Barrett
1. If you go into the woods today you might not get out alive!
2. Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting.
Terror in the Forest
Review Date: 4.23.07 (updated 1.1.10)
Shadow's Title: "The Borefest"
Buy This Film From Amazon
Steve – This is our lead protagonist, who admits that his marriage is in trouble. In order to help save it, as well as get a chance to get away from the hectic pace of city life, Steve hits upon the grand idea of going on a camping trip and claims to know the perfect spot to pitch his tent.
Sharon – This is Steve’s wife. I’ve seen people with lobotomies with more brains that this woman. Anyone who doesn’t have the common sense to shut the hell up when just a few feet away from an insane killer is no one that I would want to hang with, let alone marry.
Charlie – He either works with Steve or they just share a commute. He is always losing his cool at the drop of a hat and gives one the impression that if he had a baseball bat in his hand, there would be a string of bodies with crushed skulls strewn about him.
Teddi – Charlie’s wife. She is by far the most attractive woman in the film. Teddi firmly believes in the equality of the sexes, so when the boys announce their camping trip, she “reveals” that she and Sharon were also planning a similar trip around the same time...without their husbands.
John – Even though he looks like a big rig driver that just pulled into a truckstop for a plate of greasy biscuits and gravy, this guy is the movie’s killer. After he found his wife in bed with another man, he went nuts, killed them both, then took his two kids with him to live in a cave.
Mother – She was married to John, but he was not able to satisfy her, so she got into the habit of inviting repairmen over to the house under the pretense of working on various projects, only to bed them while her two kids were locked in the nearby closet! Now a ghost that haunts the woods.
John Jr. – These kids had it bad, locked in the closet by their mother and forced to hear her having sex with a whole string of men. If that ain’t enough to necessitate years of therapy, then anything they might have caught a glimpse of while peeking through the keyhole would do the trick.
Jennifer – The other half of the Ghost Kid duo. I was extremely tempted to just refer to them as Thing 1 and Thing 2, but they were not quite annoying enough to warrant such treatment. Close, but quite. She and brother decide life is too sad...so they spontaneously drop dead.
Plot Hold your cursor over an image for
a pop-up caption
We open things with a shot of a wide field in the heart of a forest. In the distance, two figures can be seen traversing this large empty space devoid of trees. Some funky music begins and soon enough the title appears on screen, accompanied by the truly oddball musical theme. This music would seem more at home in a 70’s romantic comedy and not a film in which people are going to be butchered. Then again, some may argue that 70’s romantic comedies did more than enough to drive people to kill or end up institutionalized, so it may very well be fitting after all. This melody continues to play as we get a series of shots showing those two figures hiking through the trees. We can see that the pair is made up of a man and a woman (probably married) and they are outfitted with some rather hefty-looking backpacks. They must plan on staying a while.
As the credits end, we get what is clearly a POV shot of someone watching as these two dorks go stumbling through the woods. Gee, you think it might be someone bad? The woman pauses and looks off in one direction, something having caught her eye. Instantly we get another POV Stalker-Cam shot that ducks behind some rocks. Apparently whoever is watching them is in no hurry to be seen. The woman walks on to catch up with her hubby (or whoever that guy is). We get more Stalker-Cam and it is at this moment that I realize that whoever is tailing these two either has the ability to move through the forest with the unnatural stealth and speed that would put an Indian to shame, or they have somehow acquired the power to teleport from one location to another in very much the same manner as the X-men’s Nightcrawler. There is just no other way to explain how in the space of a few seconds, this mystery person goes from a hill overlooking the hikers from the left, to hiding in bushes ahead of them on the right.
Somehow their stalker gets on their left side again and once again the woman turns her head to look at something. For an instant we see what she sees: a flash of red vanishing from view behind an old fallen tree. She just keeps walking while the rest of us scream, “idiot!” at the screen, for we all plainly saw someone while she was too blind to notice. This stalking sequence continues on for a bit, with the stalker magically jumping from place to place, always viewing the two hikers from a new angle. At one point we even see him run across the path behind the two, but few details can be discerned as to what he/she may look like.
Positively freaked out, the woman stops the man and informs him that they are being followed. He just chalks it up to her imagination. She wonders if it may be a bear or some other type of animal, but he tells her that any native wildlife would be more afraid of them than vice versa. Then she asks if she can take the lead rather than bring up the rear. He agrees and they begin hiking again.
They continue on, but now the guy is beginning to sense that they are not alone and begins to fall behind. He stops to look around a bit and then realizes his wife is out of sight. He hurries on, but now he is being watched by Stalker-Cam. He practically stumbles into the stalker and a quick flash shows us that the other person is wielding a rather nasty looking knife – the kind that would make Mick Dundee cringe. The hiker begs for mercy but in an instant the knife is hilt-deep in his guts and he is making sounds usually heard by weightlifters when they are trying to raise five hundred pounds over their heads without blowing their intestines out of their asses. Oddly enough, when he is initially stabbed, his shirt is already torn and bloody around the wound.
Up ahead, the woman is oblivious to the fact that her husband is not right behind her. At least, not until she hears his last gurgling grunts in the distance. She calls out, “Jack” a few times and when she receives no answer, she walks back to look for him. She quickly locates him, laying on his back, clutching the knife in his gut and with his eyes wide open in the finality of death. No doubt figuring that whoever stabbed her husband to death may not be very far off, she launches herself into a rather lame run and begins hauling ass through the trees, the Killer-Cam right behind her. However, since we have established that the killer has teleportation abilities, this means that we are not surprised when he appears on the trail ahead of her, especially since he has retrieved the knife that was last seen protruding from Jack’s guts. Of course, all we see of him is an arm and a knife that he stabs into a nearby tree. She also sees him and takes off in a new direction. To make a long story short, she runs, he follows, she drops her backpack, he catches her by a tree and after slowly passing the knife in front of her face so her eyes can track it (which we see quite clearly), he slashes her throat, which we don’t see, but do hear. She keels over dead, blood pouring from her neck. The last we see of her is a bloody hand outstretched on the ground near some flowers.
Next we see more flowers, but a slow pan and focus shows us downtown Los Angeles in the background. Several shots of crowded freeways now follow, accompanied by the sound of a radio traffic report. Eventually we focus in on a small pick-up truck carrying Steve and Charlie. The latter is driving and is on the verge of losing his cool. The congested and slow-moving traffic has got his nerves frayed and he is about five minutes away from embarking upon a Michael Douglas Falling Down-style urban rampage. Steve suggests that they get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city life and go on a camping trip in order to unwind. After all, he knows of the perfect place to go, a place so secluded that no one else really knows about it.
Charlie is unsure about the whole idea and Steve jokingly tells him that he should ask his jailer if he can go, which is no doubt a reference to Charlie’s wife, Teddi. Then Steve admits that he and his own wife, Sharon have not been getting along too well lately. In fact, things are so bad that the big D word has been discussed more than once. Charlie now invites Steven and Sharon over to his place that night, suggesting that they cook up some steaks and relax a wee bit. Steve likes the sound of that and the two continue to creep along through the heavy traffic as the sun begins to set on the horizon.
We now jump to later that evening where the four of them are gathered at Charlie’s place. Steaks can be seen on the grill as the two wives react to their husbands’ idea of going camping…without them. The two guys do not believe that their other halves can handle “roughing it” in the woods without a Winnebago, while the ladies believe that they could adapt to the situation much easier than their husbands. There is quite a bit of good natured trash talk, with Sharon reminding Steve of how he once got them lost twice in the same day and then Steve returning the favor by reminding her about how she almost drowned at one point. He then gets up to check on the steaks while Teddi asks when the two boys are planning on making their trip. Charlie reveals that the following week was the agreed upon time. The ladies smile and say that next week was the same time they were planning on making a camping trip of their own. Yeah right. You know broads. They just cannot stand to let their men get too far away and enjoy themselves.
Steve suggests they all go together, but Teddi says that she doesn’t want to go with her husband because he is a male chauvinist. Charlie just grins and says that he is proud of it. Steve then tries to warn them that it could be very dangerous for the ladies to go by themselves, but Teddi just thinks it’s a trick by the guys to keep them away, citing how the men always bring up the topic of bears, wolves or rapists lurking in the woods, waiting to prey upon hapless females. Steve tries to joke with his wife about potential rapists, but gets an elbow in the ribs for his troubles. Then Charlie says that it is “out of the question.” I am assuming he is referring to the prospect of the ladies embarking upon a camping trip by themselves. Teddi just gives him a look that basically says, “you are so full of shit and there is no way in hell I am going to let you tell me what to do and what not to do, you colossal prick.” At least, that’s what her expression said to me.
A week goes by and Teddi and Sharon embark on their trip, the men staying behind and following in a few days. Sharon floats the idea of Steve coming up to the campsite tonight rather than in a few days, as it would be like old times, when they were happy. Steve, wanting to save his rocky marriage, agrees and says that he and Charlie will be up later than evening. As their car vanishes down the street, Steve and Charlie hurriedly make plans to follow in just a few minutes rather than a few hours. We see the car with the women enter the freeway, hearing their inane babble as they head through town. Then we see Charlie picking up Steve in his little Mazda pick-up truck. Soon they are in hot pursuit of the ladies.
As the ladies head down the freeway, Sharon asks Teddi if she has ever been backpacking. The latter admits that she hasn’t, but figures that it’s easy since she read a book on it. Oh yeah? Is that all it takes? You know, I once read a book on surgical procedures. I guess that means that I am now qualified to remove an appendix. Just hand me a few steak knives and some sewing thread and I’ll be ready to go.
Back with Steve and Charlie, they are heading down the freeway when they notice that the truck is beginning to overheat. Charlie exits the freeway at the next opportunity in order to find a source of water. They pull into a service station where the toothless mechanic on duty examines their truck and confirms that the radiator is f*cked up. Charlie wants to know how much it is going to cost to fix while Steve is worried about how much time it will take. “Not too long, not too much,” Mr. Toothless replies.
in the woods, the ladies have reached the place where they will be parking
their car and then continuing on foot. They get out of the car and Teddi
remarks on how beautiful it is, while Sharon notes how there are no
other cars present and wonders aloud why there are no other hikers in
In the forest, we see the women hiking through the trees, already looking thoroughly exhausted. Several more shots follow of them hiking, climbing and crossing a stream. A quick cut away shows the men’s truck finally exiting the freeway, then it’s back to the ladies in the woods. They are stopping to rest at the edge of a stream and evidently having walked a considerable distance, Teddi asks Sharon if she is sure they are heading the right way. Sharon says that she is “pretty sure.” Oh great. More of that overwhelming certainty. Teddi asks how much farther they have to go and when Sharon informs her that they have at least a couple hours of hiking ahead of them, she wonders whose dumb idea this whole trip was. Sharon playfully reminds Teddi that it was her idea.
Now we’re treated to several shots of the guys’ truck steadily making its way onward, then it’s back to the women in the woods. They’ve reached the edge of another stream and are stopping. I’m not sure if they are just resting or this is the long sought after camping spot. Whatever the case may be, the sound of thunder can now be heard, heralding the eventual approach of rain. Teddi whines at the prospect of getting wet, so Sharon asks her what “the book” would say to do. “Put up a tent,” is the reply. They quickly unpack and unfold their tent, looking somewhat unsure on how to proceed.
Elsewhere, Steve and Charlie have finally arrived at the spot where the women parked their car. Steve isn’t thrilled by the fact that the sun is almost down nor the fact that it looks like rain is on the way. The two of them quickly don their backpacks and get to stepping. They’ve barely gone a few feet before a Forest Ranger rolls up in his truck. Her asks them if they are “going back there” (presumably into the deep woods) and notes how late it is. He warns them to be careful, as over the years numerous people have never come back from that area. In fact, they are still missing to this day, their bodies having never been found and their ultimate fates unknown (CLUE!).
We are now subjected to a montage that shows Steve and Charlie stumbling through the woods in very much the same manner their wives did earlier. They cross streams, climb over boulders, hike through tall trees and so on. This entire sequence unfolds to a funky little tune called The Darkside of the Forest. Ok, funky may be the wrong adjective to describe it. Shitty might work better. Really shitty works even better. Anyway, all too soon Steve and Charlie are bickering something fierce, the latter sure that they are going in circles and have passed the same area several times, and the former proclaiming that he is doing his best and that it was not his truck that overheated on them, thus causing their late arrival. Onward they stumble through the darkening trees.
The next thing we know, it’s dark and the moon can be seen in the sky. Sharon and Teddi are sitting before a fire they’ve made and are enjoying some freshly brewed coffee. They’ve even managed to get a tent half-ass erected. A POV shot makes it obvious that someone is watching the two women from the trees. The roving viewpoint also makes it clear that these two broads are freakin’ blind, as whoever it is that is watching them has nothing between themselves and the ladies, and should be in plain sight. Unless….
We suddenly hear the voices of children and out of nowhere a young boy and girl literally fade into existence. No wonder the women didn’t see them coming. They’re freakin’ ghosts! The two kids are talking about “last time” and how one of the two nearby women reminds them of someone else. A quick cutaway to Sharon and Teddi shows them cowering at the animal sounds they hear in the dark, then it’s back to the kids, who are arguing about whether they should stay or go. Their voices have a really odd quality, like they are over modulated. We see the ladies again and this time all sorts of growls and howling can be heard in the distance. It’s like a freakin’ circus all of a sudden. Teddi now admits that she would prefer it if the men were there. The growls seem to intensify a wee bit and suddenly the two women notice a third woman standing nearby. Not far away in the trees, the two voyeuristic kids note that their mother has now arrived. The boy advises his sister to be quiet, for if she hears them, they will be beaten.
Speaking of Mommy, she ain’t lookin’ all that grand. Her complexion is more pale than even the most extreme Goth teen and she has a small trickle of blood running down the center of her forehead. She looks at Sharon and Teddi and asks them if they have seen her children. She also has that over modulated, echo-y quality to her voice. Teddi just shakes her head no, rather than offer up any vocal response. Then mommy tells them to send her kids home to be punished if they should happen to see them. After that she just vanishes into thin air, fading away like a cheap visual effect. Oh, wait…it is a cheap visual effect. When she is completely gone, there is a Bobcat-like growl.
Needless to say, Sharon and Teddi are thoroughly spooked. “Who the hell was that?” asks Sharon. Teddi replies that she doesn’t know but she is going to get “the hell out of” there. She jumps up, runs in a few circles and then frantically wants to know what they are going to do. She then digs into her stuff and pulls out a large knife, brandishing it in front of her as if she were afraid the closest tree was about to lunge out after her. The two women, huddled close together, make a visual inspection of their surroundings, but nothing seems to be out of order, so they begin to relax somewhat.
Back with Dumb and Dumber AKA Steve and Charlie, the former is beginning to think that they are lost. Charlie begins giving him a rash of shit over it, but in his own defense, Steve claims that things look different in the dark.
Now it’s time for more POV wackiness, with the camera making its way along a cave wall somewhere until something comes into view. What is that something? Well, you ain’t gonna believe this, but there in the middle of a small cavern is some moron sitting in a rocking chair before a fire. He’s wearing ripped pants, a greasy T-shirt that probably has stains going back about ten meals (and once you realize just what it is he’s been eating, that adds a whole new dimension of gross), a thin sweat jacket and a dirty baseball cap. With his thin beard and mustache added to the overall presentation, he looks like your average big rig truck driver that’s been out on the road a week too long…and I should know. I was a long haul big rig driver. He seems pretty comfy in his rocker and he acts like it’s the most natural thing in the world to kick back in a rocking chair in a cave somewhere in the depths of the forest. The only other item that can be seen in the cave is a tall candelabra.
Mr. Trucker now looks up to see who has approached him and when he discovers who it is, he asks, “where have you been?” We see that he is speaking with those two Ghost Kids, who claim they have been “out.” He mentions that their mother was looking for them (his manner implies that he is the other half of their immediate biological heritage). The girl reveals that they saw her, in addition to “two pretty ladies.” Upon hearing that the forest has visitors, Mr. Trucker’s ears perk right up. He gets up, retrieves a large hunting knife from a nearby ledge and heads out into the night. It seems Mr. Trucker here is our mysterious killer. The two Ghost Kids just fade away after daddy leaves.
Some mixed shots – some with some obvious day for night photography – now reveal Daddy stomping through the woods, none too quietly. Then we see Sharon and Teddi asleep on the ground. They didn’t even bother to get into a sleeping bag or climb into a tent. Idiots. We see a small hand wielding a bloody pocketknife and when a drop of blood falls on Sharon’s forehead, she awakens to see the two ghost kids standing over her. They warn her that she and Teddi need to hide as “Daddy is coming.” Evidently, late night warnings from dead kids tend to scare the crap out of some folks and Sharon screams and jumps to her feet, frightening Teddi out of sleep in the process. Sharon explains what she saw and deduces that the two kids she encountered must be the same ones for whom that other woman was looking.
Teddi, ever the keen observer, notes that there is no one nearby and puts forth the theory that they were just dreaming. Sharon doesn’t agree and is positive that two kids were just in their camp. She repeats their warning that “Daddy is coming” over and over, and begins to work herself up into a full blown panic. Teddi tries to calm her but Sharon insists on hiding and runs off into the darkness. Teddi calls out to her and as she does so, we see Daddy walking through the woods. Where he is at appears to be quite bright for the dead of night, but at the ladies’ camp it’s pretty damn dark. Just chalk it up to poor continuity. Either that or this is one big-ass forest and Daddy is about two time zones away.
While Sharon has hauled ass through the woods and found herself a hiding place under an outcropping of large rocks, Daddy has found the camp, where Teddi sits all by herself with her back to the fire. He is able to sneak pretty close to her before she notices. Then she jumps up and confronts this smelly newcomer. She sees the knife in his hands and being of quick mental faculties, deduces that he is not here to help cook dinner. She pleads with him not to hurt her and asks why he would do so. He says that he doesn’t wish to harm her, but he is starving to death and has not had anything to eat in days.
We cut away to Sharon, who has left her hiding place and is making her way back to camp, perhaps thinking that she overreacted earlier.
Back with Teddi and the killer, he is promising to “make it quick” but she is screaming for him to stay away from her. Somehow, I don’t think his assurances of making it quick are a reference to a roll in the hay. He advances toward her and she lunges with her knife, cutting him. “What did you do that for?” he asks incredulously. Let’s see…my guess is that she is trying to save her life, you dipshit! Did you just expect everyone to surrender without a fight?
Now we just see their shadows against the nearby rock face. He grabs her by the arm to pull her closer and raises his own knife with the other hand. Then he quickly brings it down and stabs her. When we see her directly again, she has blood on her head and shoulder. I’m not too sure where it is exactly he stabbed her. Then we see shadows again and another stab. Now she falls backward to the ground. She turns herself over in an attempt at getting up, but while she is on all fours, he stabs her in the back. She falls again. Then he stabs her in the back again. She begins crawling away and muttering, “help me.”
Right about now is when Sharon arrives back in camp – just in time to see the killer come up behind the crawling Teddi, pull back her head by the hair, lower his knife below her throat and dispatch her with one quick stroke. Not that we get to see much of it. Aside from seeing him jerk his arm, all we get is a quick slicing sound. We do see Teddi’s body flop to the ground, though there is a serious lack of blood on hand for someone who just had their jugular slit wide open. Sharon watches as the killer turns over Teddi’s body (again, very little blood to be seen) and then she runs off back into the woods. Hearing her, the killer leaves Teddi and goes to investigate.
A lame and rather unexciting chase through the forest now ensues. Seriously, there were more thrills when Jinks the cat was chasing Pixie and Dixie. The day for night photography is really bad here, especially when the clear blue sky can be spotted in several shots, or the glow of sunshine can be discerned reflecting off various things. Eventually Sharon comes to a small cliff overlooking a large stream. She hesitates only briefly then jumps in. She is swept downstream, over some small falls and into a larger river. I am instantly reminded of a similar escape in the film Grizzly, when some moron hunter pulled a similar trick to escape the title Ursine. His prey having escaped, the killer turns and leaves. He returns to Teddi’s body, gathers it up and heads off back to his cave. Downstream, Sharon pulls herself from the water and exhausted, rests on the rocky shore when it finally begins to rain.
Returning now to Steve and Charlie, the former is using a compass to illustrate to the latter that they are indeed heading in the right direction. Um…question: if this jackass had a compass this whole damn time, then why was he admitting to being lost the last time we saw them? Did he just now remember that he packed it? What else may he have in there that might aid them at a time like this? Walkie-Talkies? A couple of umbrellas? Some Twinkies? Anyway, the rain begins to come down and the two hurriedly press on. Steve then spots a cave and suggests staying there until morning. I have to say, that cave entrance is a little hard to spot. It just looked like a pile of rocks to me, with one large rock creating more of shadow than the others.
Once inside, they notice that there seems to be light emanating from somewhere further inside. Steve wants to check it out, but Charlie is unsure. Steve says that it is probably just a couple of campers caught in the rain like them. With his voice heavy with sarcasm, Charlie tells him to lead the way, as he’s done such a stellar job of doing so up to this point. I want to know why Steve thinks it may be other campers since they saw no other cars back at the parking area other than the one in which their wives arrived. Did these hypothetical campers hike in from a hundred miles away, or did they parachute in from a plane as part of some Xtreme Camping sport? Steve has made such a big deal about how secluded this entire area is, why would he assume that the light was being created by other campers?
They take a few steps and come across the chamber where Daddy the Killer was kicking back earlier. His rocking chair is there, only now it is empty. The fire is still burning, but now there is a sizable chunk of meat cooking on a spit. The two guys notice this and Charlie notes that it smells funny and wonders what it is. The irony of that remark should not be lost on anyone at this point.
An eerie voice now breaks the silence, telling the two guys that they should not be there and if Daddy were to find them, he will get angry. Steve and Charlie turn around to see the two Ghost Kids. The two men explain that they just wanted to come in out of the rain and ask where their father is. “Standing behind you,” is the reply. They turn to see Mr. Trucker-Killer-Daddy.
He greets them and says that he was just fixing himself something to eat and asks if they would care to join him. Steve declines at first, but Charlie is willing. Steve then asks about the two kids and when Daddy asks, “what two kids?” Steve turns around to see that the Ghost Kids have vanished. Daddy doesn’t know where they have gone and when Charlie asks him if they are his kids, he says yes, “they were mine.” Were? That does not bode well.
The three of them now head over to the fire where Daddy takes a seat in his rocker while the other two grab a spot on the ground nearby. Daddy slices off a piece of the roasting meat and begins chowing down. Charlie now asks him if he lives here and he answers in the affirmative. When asked if he lives alone, he answers with another yes. When Steve inquires about the children, Daddy says that they just come by to visit, as they stay with their mother. Then they ask him if he has lived there long, to which he says yes. At least, longer than he had intended, he adds.
Daddy now gestures to the meat on the spit and tells them that if they have a knife (to cut the meat), they can join him. Steve declines again, saying that he isn’t hungry, but Charlie is game. He produces his own pocketknife and cuts off a small piece of meat before popping it in his mouth. He thinks it tastes pretty good and asks what it is. “A doe,” replies Daddy. Steven asks if they are out of season, but Daddy says that they are “always in season when you’re hungry.” Suddenly Charlie gets a weird look on his face, like someone just shoved five pounds of chipped ice down the front of his briefs. Steven asks him what’s wrong and he says that he just got a chill. Perhaps on some subconscious level, he realized what it was that he just ate. Yes, you and I know that it was a big piece of Roasted Teddi that was cooking over that fire and which he just sampled. Daddy just keeps on smacking away at his food while Charlie begins to look sick.
Somewhere out in the cold, wet and dark woods, Sharon is huddling under a ledge, trying to stay as warm and dry as possible. That’s it. That’s all we see. It’s like the movie just took a few seconds to remind us that she was still out there. Now it’s back to the guys.
Charlie now asks Daddy how he came to be living here. “That’s a long story,” he answers. Well, something tells me that we’re gonna hear it all. Daddy says that he would like to tell someone the tale and wonders if the other two would listen. “Sure,” says Charlie, as they don’t exactly have anything better to do. Daddy says it began a long time ago and then asks the other two if they are married. When Charlie answers yes for both of them, Daddy shows them a ring on his finger and announces that he used to be married. He had a wife and two kids and was quite the happy man. Then everything changed. It seems every time he came home, there was some other man there: salesmen, a repairmen and even delivery boys. He didn’t think too much about it at first. Then one day he got sick and came home early…
We see an old truck pulling up to a house in a rural area. We see Daddy get out wearing a white smock, which almost gives one the impression that he works in some type of lab. Parked in front of him in the driveway is another old truck, a sure sign that someone has dropped by the house for a visit. As Daddy heads toward the front door, the camera turns and closes in on a nearby window.
We jump to the room beyond that window where we see a man and woman in bed, in the throes of passion. Just passion mind you, not actual sex. It seems the good stuff has already happened. They hear a door close and the man looks up, a worried look on his face. The woman tells him to relax, as it is “only my husband.” Long about now Daddy walks into the room to find the two of them in bed together. The woman looks at him and says, “Hi honey. What are you doing home from work so early?” The guy next her has the good sense to look extremely embarrassed, while Daddy just stares daggers at both of them. She introduces her new lover as Carl, and says that he has come to fix the water heater. Carl looks at her and corrects her: he came to fix the refrigerator.
Daddy now asks where the kids are at and we hear a faint knocking sound. He rushes to a closet door, opens it and finds the two kids inside. They rush to embrace him and he enfolds them in his arms. “Why did you do this?” he asks his wife. She just says that they like to play in there. Yeah right!! Daddy tells the kids to run out into the yard and play, and they quickly exit. Carl then gets up and says he had better go and fix that refrigerator. He rises and we are subjected to the horrible site of him in his black undies.
Alone now with her husband, the wife just looks at him and asks him what he expected her to do, since, as she puts it, he is practically impotent. She remarks on how he didn’t figure things out before, with all the men that have come and gone by the house. They were not there on business, she reveals. No, they were her lovers and gave her something that she says he never could: pleasure.
We jump back to the present where Daddy is relating his story to Steve and Charlie. Having paused in the narrative, Daddy is now asked by Charlie what he did next. He says that he did what any man would do. When pressed further he says, “Nothing. I did nothing.” He then just leans back in his chair and starts rocking back and forth, a contemplative expression etched on his features. The camera slowly zooms in on him and…
Returning to Daddy confronting his unfaithful wife in the bedroom of their home, we watch as he slowly makes his way over to the bed, sits down and reaches out to caress his wife’s face. He gradually gets both hands around her throat and then he begins to choke the life out of her. She manages to screech out. “John…stop it. You’re hurting me,” before he takes her head and smashes it against the nightstand…well against the pointed corner of the nightstand. She is instantly quite still. He pushes her back over and we see that she is indeed dead, her eyes wide open and small trickle of blood running down her forehead. Hey! She now looks just like she did when she scared the crap outta Sharon and Teddi earlier in the film!
Daddy...er…I mean John, now leaves the bedroom and walks out to the kitchen. He grabs a large knife and heads outside. I have a feeling that momentarily, poor old Carl is gonna have a much bigger problem on his hands besides fixing some old refrigerator. Sure enough, John comes up behind Carl as the latter is working on the appliance in question (why there is a refrigerator outside is beyond me), but Carl hears him and looks up in time to see the other man brandishing a knife. Carl begins throwing things at John and soon the two are engaged in a full on fight, punching and kicking at each other. This lasts all of about five seconds, until Carl manages to knock John to the ground. Then he decides it is time to get the hell out of dodge and runs like hell.
He makes it about ten feet before John displays the teleportation abilities he has demonstrated on other occasions in this film and appears on the path in front of him, this time holding a large metal saw of all things (the type used to cut logs or big pieces of wood). This thing is about four feet long and about as easy to wield as a hand weapon as a sofa. What…does he expect Carl to just lie still while he slowly saws him in half, or is planning on cutting him with the rusted edges and hoping to inflict him with a terminal case of lockjaw? Whatever his plans may be, Carl responds by grabbing a large piece of wood that resembles a fallen tree branch and hitting John over the shoulders and head with it. John goes down and Carl runs off in a new direction.
This time Carl manages to get about twenty steps through the bushes and junk that clutter the property before John once again magically appears on the path in front of him. Now he is wielding a pitchfork!! Carl picks up the back half of an old bicycle and uses it to disarm John. Then he runs off in another direction. Naturally, John is waiting for him just a few feet away, only this time he has no weapon. However, there just happens to be an old table saw between the two of them. Amazingly, the blade on that thing looks to be in pretty good condition for something that has no doubt spent some time outdoors as junk. John just grabs Carl with is bare hands and pushes him down against the round blade. With the two kids watching from a short ways off, John continues to push down until the blade has impaled Carl to the point where he keels over dead.
The next thing we see, John is putting the finishing touches on a shallow grave, the two kids standing a few feet away. Then he hugs them and tells them that it is time that they all leave this horrible place. The trio slowly walk off into the woods.
We’re now back in the cave. John is still rocking back and forth in his chair, while Steve and Charlie have laid out their sleeping bags and crawled inside of them for the night. They’re debating whether John’s story was true or not. Steve says that if it is true, he doesn’t believe that the man did nothing about his cheating wife as he claims. Charlie asks Steve what he means and the latter points to the fact that the man lives out here alone as proof that something bad happened. He then shrugs it off and suggests that they get some sleep. Charlie is uncomfortable with the idea of sleeping so close to someone who may be a murderer, so Steve suggests they sleep in shifts. Since Charlie isn’t tired, Steve rolls over and shuts his eyes.
Pow. It’s now morning and we see both Steve and Charlie snoozing away in their sleeping bags. John steps up and startles Steve awake with a “good morning.” Then he adds, “I thought you might like to be leaving.” Steve says yes and thanks him for the camping equivalent of a wake-up call. John trudges off and Steve turns to wake up Charlie, berating him for not staying awake. The two quickly assemble their gear and are back out on the trail, John watching them as they leave.
Eventually, Steve and Charlie happen upon the camp set up by their wives, only Sharon and Teddi are nowhere to be seen. The two of them wonder where their other halves may be and Charlie announces that he does not like the situation, especially after having encountered those two kids and the old guy in the cave. They decide to split up and search for the women.
Somewhere out in the woods, Sharon is waking up under the big rock that she has used for shelter. I’m really surprised that the women didn’t die from hypothermia. After all, she had taken a spill in the cold river water and had no real way to dry out. Wearing those wet clothes during the chill of night with no fire or other source of warmth should have contributed greatly to a severe case of being dead. Instead, she looks like she just woke up from a nap. She crawls out – now all dry of course – and begins making her way through the woods.
Meanwhile, Steve and Charlie engage in their search for the missing women. We get several shots of each as they race over the large boulders that line the sides of the river. Then we see them meet up and discuss their failure to locate their wives. Steve suggests going back to the campsite to see if they are there. Steve also suggests asking the old man in the cave about the women.
So they head back to camp and begin looking things over. There are no clues as to the whereabouts of the women, until Steve finds some wet dirt that seems a bit sticky. You and I both know that this is blood, but these two Sherlocks don’t take the time to examine it closely enough to make that determination for themselves. Charlie wants to talk to the old man, so off they trot back to the cave. When they arrive, there is no sign of John, despite the fire still burning with a sizable hunk of meat on a spit. Whether this is an all new piece of roasted Teddi or the same one is not made clear. Steve doesn’t like the way things feel and the two decide to get out of the immediate area.
We now jump to Sharon walking aimlessly through the forest. She really isn’t paying much attention to where she is going, as she practically runs right into the two Ghost Kids. They’ve come to warn her that Daddy has gone hunting again and she must hide. They add that Daddy will soon be here, as he knows where she is. No sooner have they said that than Daddy/John can be seen walking out of some trees further up the hillside. The Ghost Kids tell Sharon where to hide and off she scrambles.
Now comes another cat-and-mouse chase through the woods where the level of excitement and thrills are only equaled by your average stay in the Doctor’s office while awaiting a prostate exam. After numerous shots of both John and Sharon stumbling through the forest, she manages to give him the slip.
Back at the campsite, Steve believes that it is time they alert the authorities. Charlie is unsure, thinking that such a move might be jumping the gun a bit. After all, the ladies could be outing walking or hiking somewhere. An argument now ensues as to what to do. Charlie doesn’t want to undertake the six hour hike back to the cars, especially given the fact that it will be dark before they could get there, thus increasing their chances of getting lost again. Steve doesn’t want to just sit around and do nothing just in case there really is something wrong. Finally they decide that one will stay at camp while the other heads back to the cars to retrieve help. Considering that Steve is the only one who knows the correct path back to their vehicles, it obvious that he will be the one to go, despite his reservations about splitting up.
We cut to a scene showing John perched on a rock, tearing meat from a bone with his teeth. He is munching away happily, while a short distance away Sharon huddles under her rock, trying to push herself further under it and not attract him.
At camp, Steve has geared up and is ready to leave. He and Charlie say their good-byes and then Steve is off. Then we see a shot of Sharon slowly creeping down to a stream’s edge in order to get a drink of water. The last we saw, she was hiding from John. Where is he? How did she get away from him? Did he finish his meat and then wander off? Who knows. We then see Steve barreling through the forest in a mad rush to get back to the cars. While crossing a stream, he slips on some wood and falls off a large boulder, twisting his leg pretty bad when he lands. He lets out a cry of pain that sounds more like he just sat on a tack than broke a bone. Somewhere along the stream’s bank, Sharon hears him, but cannot tell from which direction it came. She finishes up her drink and gets to stepping.
Steve is trying to pick himself up and doing a piss poor job of it. His leg is pretty bad off and he cannot even move it let alone put weight on it. As he gimps along, he is watched by the Ghost Kids, who talk about how sorry they feel for the guy. Steve manages to get his ass to the other side of the stream and examine his leg. We see a bone protruding from his ankle, so it’s obvious that he has broken it.
Now we jump back to Sharon walking through the woods again. The Ghost Kids appear and she asks them who they are. The boys gives his name as John Junior and the girl introduces herself as Jennifer. Junior adds that they were named after their parents. Gee, how original. Sharon asks where they come from and they tell her that they just hang out in the woods by themselves, though they sometimes visit their father. When she asks about their mother, they tell her that they don’t like her and that she was mean. “Was?” Sharon inquires, to which they add that their mom is dead. In fact, it was Daddy that killed her. Sharon now asks why their father killed their mother and they answer by saying that good old mom used to beat them and lock them in the closet. Even now, she is looking for them in order to punish them. Sharon finally puts two and two together and asks these two if they are dead as well. The answer is yes. She says that she is sorry for them but they tell her it is okay: being alive was really sad. She then inquires as to how they died and they admit that they killed themselves. Apparently living alone in a cave with their father was no picnic. They got sick and didn’t want to live anymore…so they died. Their father was very sad when they died and apparently went quite crazy. Uh…I think he went crazy long before that, as only a nutjob moves his kids into a cave in the middle of the forest. “Maybe next time things will be better,” they say.
We cut away to Steve, who is hobbling through the trees with a makeshift cane. He stops and begins blubbering like a crybaby over his predicament, calling his wife’s name a time or two. It really is a pathetic sight. I’m surprised he didn’t have snot dripping from his nose.
Back with Sharon and the Ghost Kids, the spectral duo tell her that there are two men looking for her and that one of them is hurt. She convinces them to take her to the camp, as she has gotten herself nice and lost, and doesn’t have clue in which direction it is. Meanwhile, Steve has finished his blubbering and once again begins his long trek out of the forest.
Suddenly it is night. A full moon hangs in the sky and wolves howl in the distance. We see John fingering his knife as he prepares to go hunting again and then we see Charlie at the campsite, sitting near a fire and looking off into the dark while playing with his own knife. Out of nowhere comes that sound of a Bobcat roaring and Charlie looks up to see the Ghost of good old Mommy.
Not far off, John Jr. and Jennifer are leading Sharon toward camp when they spot their dead mother. Not wanting a beating, they vanish rather abruptly, leaving Sharon to ask aloud how their mother can hurt them if they are already dead.
Mom asks Charlie if he has seen her children and he is too surprised by her sudden appearance to remember the kids he and Steve saw earlier in the cave (he is probably much more busy soiling his under garments) He mumbles a “no” and then she imparts the usual advice on sending her kids home to be punished if he should see them. Then she turns and vanishes. All the sounds of the forest – crickets, coyotes, the nearby stream – are beginning to freak Charlie out, and he sits there with a look on his face usually reserved for three-year kids who have just had the life scared out of them by a relative in an Easter Bunny costume.
Meanwhile, in some horrible (and I do mean horrible…at one point the sunlight is so damn obvious and there seems to be a green tint to everything) day-for-night shots, John has picked himself up from where he’s been sitting and begins stomping through the trees with all the stealth and subtlety of Godzilla. He eventually makes his way to the campsite, where the sounds of nature have spooked Charlie to the point that he is now standing and spinning in circles, looking for something to come at him from out of the dark.
When Charlie’s back is turned, John comes hurtling out of the darkness and makes a flying leap at him, his knife poised to stab. However, Charlie sees him in the nick if time and dodges out of the way. The two pick themselves up and face off, Charlie asking John if he’s crazy and the latter loudly admitting that yes he is and that he needs food with winter coming. The last comment sparks a memory with Charlie, who recalls John’s explanation of the meat he had cooking over his fire in the cave. Whether Charlie realizes that the “doe” John was eating was actually his dead wife, Teddi is not known for sure, but he leaps at the other man anyway. They collide and each of them manages to drop their knives. Charlie hits the ground and grabs a burning log from the fire. He gets up and lands a couple of good blows on John before the other man trips him and then takes off running. Charlie quickly gets up and pursues.
The two men run through the water downstream and if anyone in the production thought that these shots even remotely appeared like they took place at night, then they all needed corrective eyewear. Charlie catches John and down they go again. After struggling quite a bit, including trading punches, kicks and whatnot, they fall into a deep section of the stream and splash around like a drowning epileptic while John Jr. and Jennifer watch from shore. Eventually both men go under and after a short wait, the only one that comes back up for air is John. Charlie’s bandana can be seen floating downstream. John then quickly splashes his way out of the stream.
We return to Sharon walking through the forest and I suppose it is either much later or the sun comes up damn fast in these parts, as it is quite bright and the producers are no longer trying to make it seem like it is night. She stops for a breather when the ghosts of John Jr. and Jennifer appear again. This time they tell her that “Daddy just got another one.” She presses them for information and learns that whoever it was that Daddy just killed, it was at the campsite. She asks the ghost kids to take her there and they agree, telling her to follow them.
- It is at this point that the movie enters its final segment, so if
any of you really feel the need to watch this film and not know the
ending ahead of time, skip the rest of this section.
Realizing that both Teddi and Charlie are now dead, Sharon starts crying and snotting. The sounds draws the attention of John, who begins sneaking up on her while the Ghost Kids try and get her to not cry, explaining that being dead ain’t all that bad after all. For some reason they call her Heather during this short speech, which makes me think that while being dead might not be so bad, it certainly does nothing to help improve your memory. As Sharon is mumbling something about not wanting to die, John comes up from behind and grabs her. It really is rather stupid when you think of it. She wasn’t that far from where John was slicing up Charlie like a Christmas ham (about twenty-five to thirty yards), yet she turns her back on him and starts making loud noises. Of course he’s gonna hear her! What an idiot. She almost deserves to be added to the menu.
The Ghost Kids now plead with their father not to kill her, claiming that she is their friend and if he kills her, they will leave him and never return, causing him to be all alone in the forest. He tells them not to threaten their father like that and they inform him that because they are dead, he is not their father anymore! I never knew that being deceased negated any familial bonds or responsibilities. Not wanting to be alone, John pushes Sharon away and tell the kids, “I wish your mother was here,” before walking away.
Sharon now asks the Ghost Kids about the other man they mentioned earlier – the one that was hurt. No doubt she has put two and two together and realized this must be her husband, Steve. The kids tell her to follow and off again they go through the woods.
We see Steve continuing to gimp his way through the woods, then we see John walking along until he also spies Steve. He shifts into “Stalker mode” and begins circling around the limping hiker. Steve takes another spill while hobbling along and we see John closing in on him. Steve limps along some more, taking another few falls before John concludes that this victim isn’t gonna be able to outrun him. Abandoning any attempt at stealth, John just begins walking up to him in the open. He reaches him, stands before him and the two just look at each other for the longest time, no words passing between them. Finally, John reveals his knife and Steve uses the branch he’s been using as a cane to hit him a couple of times. John gets the branch away and when Steve tries to flee…he naturally falls right on his ass.
A quick scene shows Sharon and the two dead kids in the forest, then it’s back to the two men. Steve is on the ground, writhing around in pain while John is frantically searching for his knife, which got dropped in the tussle. Unable to find it, he procures for himself a long, thin branch and walks up to the fallen Steve, apparently intending on using his new makeshift weapon to impale the poor schmuck. He stabs at him, but Steve barely rolls out of the way in time.
Meanwhile, Sharon has located the missing knife and has picked it up. Holding it over her head with both hands, she comes charging at her husband’s attacker. John looks up to see Sharon coming at him, but in his mind he sees the image of his late wife brandishing a sword. Sharon barrels up and plants the knife firmly in him. Then she goes to Steve and the two embrace.
While the two of them are crying and hugging each other, Steve looks up and sees the Ghost Kids. Sharon thanks them for their help. They say that they must say good-bye now. They mention something about their Daddy and Steve realizes that the same man they warned him about earlier is the same guy Sharon just killed. He asks her about Charlie and Teddi, and her agonized crying tells him what became of them. They hug some more. The Ghost Kids mumble some more nonsense about their mom and then turn to go, vanishing as they walk away. Then Ghost Mom shows up looking for her kids. Sharon says that they are gone for good and as Ghost Mom turns to go, the horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible end music starts up. Steve and Sharon hug again, no doubt feeling that the experience has saved their marriage.
The ending song, The Edge of Forever, now begins, heralding an end to the pain. Ghost Mom appears for the camera once again, a sad, longing look in her eyes. Then we see the cave where John sits in his rocker and the two kids standing nearby. I guess he is a ghost now, too. Then all three of them fade away and vanish. We return to Ghost Mom, who just stands there looking sad. Then she walks away. What all this means is beyond me. Did the ghosts of John and his kids leave mom behind one more time? Have they moved on to some further afterlife while she is forced to forever wander the forest looking for them and making cougar sounds? Your guess is as good as mine.
The Forest was the brainchild of writer (under the name of Evan Jones) and director Don Jones. He had an idea about ghost children terrorizing campers in the woods, and faced with a lack of paying work elsewhere, he took out a second mortgage on his house, using the money to finish the script and shoot the film. Because of the independent nature of the project, Jones turned to a few of his friends when it came time to cast the movie. Due to the lack of association with the Screen Actors Guild, many of the actors went by different names in order to appear in the film. The movie was shot in Sequoia National Park over the course of two weeks in the fall of 1980, for less than forty thousand dollars. Jones had to put up a five thousand dollar bond in order to film in the park, but was refunded the entire amount when shooting was safely completed.
Shortly after the shoot was finished, Jones took a job with Roger Corman and was unable to cut the movie. He turned to a friend for help, but this friend also was unable to assemble the available footage and relied on his assistant to do the job, instead. Having not seen the cut provided by this friend’s assistant, Jones screened the film for a potential distributor and was horrified to find that the movie’s narrative was constructed in such a way that most of the story was told as a flashback. Angered, Jones was forced to re-cut the film himself. He finally found a distributor in the late Frank Evans, who bought the film and rather than releasing it straight to video as Jones had always intended, had the movie shown briefly in theaters. Ultimately, Evans would pass away without paying Jones the money he promised and the director lost his house to foreclosure. To this day Jones maintains that he has yet to make any money on this project.
Putting the film’s premise and era aside for one moment, and it becomes clear that this film really is not a slasher. Yes, people get killed, but they are not horny teenagers. People are not relentlessly stalked by a remorseless killer whose reason for killing is a total mystery. Here we have a murderer whose reasons are clearly laid out and understandable, even if no one will agree with them. Additionally, he only kills out of necessity and not because he’s deriving some type of pleasure from the act itself. There are no spring-loaded cats or other false scares. In fact, there really are not any sudden “Boo!” scares in the entire film. All in all, when one takes a close look, we see that it does not adhere to the conventions of the slasher genre and instead, forges its own path. Director Don Jones admits that his intention was to craft a more psychological horror film centered around some ghost children in the forest, and while the movie does eschew those aforementioned cliches of the slasher mold, it doesn’t always do so all that well.
The first thing anyone with half a brain is going to ask is this: why not just pack up and get the hell out of the forest? In the subgenre of slasher films, characters rarely, if ever, display much intelligence beyond that of a chimp. These people always do the most stupid, asinine and utterly brainless thing imaginable, which more often than not, leads to them meeting a very bad end that involves sharp objects. If they had exhibited any functioning gray matter, they would live longer. As the viewer, we just shake our heads, knowing that these mentally challenged dolts will no doubt opt for the worst course of action, safe in the knowledge that we would never allow ourselves to stay in such a situation.
So now we must ask, why don’t the four morons in this film follow suit? Do they have a logical reason for staying in such a dangerous situation? The answer, startling enough, is yes. First, the two women, Sharon and Teddi, arrive in the woods long before their husbands and ultimately have a deadly encounter with the area’s resident wacko killer. Delayed with car problems, Steve and Charlie finally arrive and promptly get lost. When they finally do make it to the campsite, they discover their wives are missing and thus must stick around to investigate. This splitting up of the main characters allows them all to be menaced by John the nutjob cannibal, but still provides a reason why they don’t all immediately bug off back to civilization. Well, that and the fact that all of them seem to get easily lost. Even Steve, the one who claimed to know the area better than the others ends up stumbling around in the woods like some fifth rate nature show presenter. This more believable reason for the characters to willingly remain in a dangerous area was a welcome change of pace.
It’s also refreshing to see a horror film that doesn’t feature a single teenager. In most other movies like this, the main characters would be annoying teens, hell bent on getting drunk, stoned and laid…and not necessarily in that order. I suppose on some deeper level, I now find that this aspect makes the story more terrifying. One would expect a group of braindead teens to get themselves in trouble by lacking the experience or wisdom to make the best decisions under the circumstances, whereas fully functioning adults are expected to extricate themselves from bad situations with little or no help. Seeing them at the mercy of the land as well as the psycho killer, reminds one that while it is a movie, given the right variables, one might find themselves in just such a situation.
When you boil it down, this film plays upon both the fear of the unknown as well as the fear of being lost and isolated. Who hasn’t gone camping, hiking or even just taken a short walk through some trees near one’s house, and imagined what terrible things might be waiting just beyond sight in the darkness? Who hasn’t imagined being lost in some vast wilderness, with limited supplies, knowing that no help is forthcoming and it is up to one’s own self to stay alive? Given the entirely plausible set up (aside from the ghosts and logistics of a lone cannibal remaining alive in the woods) and one sees why this film has a slightly chilling undercurrent. The viewer can relate somewhat with the characters, if only because one can easily imagine themselves in their place. These people find themselves reacting more to what is unfolding around them, rather than proactively pushing the story along. They are basically at the mercy of everything around them and have little or no say in what befalls them. This lack of control is yet another factor that helps make the story a little more unnerving, even if it is not very overt and is perceived more on a subconscious level.
Two people are credited with the music for this movie: Richard Hieronymus and Alan Oldfield. I’m not sure which one deserves my scorn and harshly worded letters, but I’m going to play it safe and blame both of them. Despite there being a few moments here and there were the music takes on an ominous tone, most of what we are subjected to does not fit a movie in the horror genre at all. Take for example the opening theme. As the first few bars assault the senses, one may get the idea that they are about to sit through some forgotten 70’s comedy-drama or an early 80’s television program. The music is so light and airy during these moments, that I was beginning to have flashbacks to transitional scenes in shows like Dynasty, Hotel or Matt Houston. You know…the type of scenes that show characters walking down halls, driving cars or what not. Well, the opening music here would fit such a moment perfectly. Any creepier musical interludes that may pop up later are quickly overshadowed and lost to the cloying sweetness of this opening theme.
As if all that wasn’t bad enough, there’s more! The film also features four original songs, I’m Comin’ On Strong, The Dark Side of the Forest, You’re My Special Kind Love and The Edge of Forever, all with music by Richard Hieronymus. Of the four, only the second and last ones are easily recognizable during the film. In fact, they are kind of hard to miss. The other two might have only turned up as instrumental pieces or not had their vocal segments utilized. Going by the sound of the two songs that did feature singing, and this is probably a very good thing for one’s sanity. To say that these songs are goofy as hell and suck more than a nuclear powered vacuum is something of an understatement. For the time period they might have sounded ok, but now they just sound extremely dated and somewhat unappealing.
There is a very definite difference in style when comparing this movie to other films of the period. In addition to the noticeable absence of creepy music, the film also does not contain many other staples of the slasher genre. There are no false scares where people or animals (think spring-loaded cats) pop out of nowhere accompanied by a loud and sudden musical cue to scare the crap out of both the audience and one of the characters. The gore is surprisingly low key and much of the violence is implied rather than shown…though to be fair, the aftermath of said violence is often shown. While the movie has its fair share of kills, actual deaths in the main section of the narrative are low and the emphasis is more on the terror of the situation rather than the creativity and/or sarcastic wit of the murderer when he dispatches his victims. Regarding the killer himself, the film avoids making him a one dimensional and indestructible death machine, though at times he does seem to possess the annoying ability to teleport all over the place. Finally, the last third of the film is not taken up by an extended chase sequence where the killer pursues the lone survivor over half the state. The lack of all these elements really does make one question the idea of labeling this film a slasher.
As for the more technical aspects of the film, the heavy use of day for night photography doesn’t always look that great. The commentary makes it clear that many such shots were quite dark in the old VHS prints. In the DVD edition, several of them are now just a tad too bright and one can clearly see blue sky or sunlight, which plays havoc with continuity when the film jumps back and forth between scenes that were obviously filmed at different parts of the day but are supposed to be taking place in the dead of night. The cinematography is somewhat hit and miss as well. The film feature some of the most beautiful outdoor locations in the state of California, but does not always capture such gorgeous vistas that well on film. There are very few wide, sweeping shots of the landscape, but plenty where all that can be seen are trees extending up and out of frame. Then again, one could make a case that director Jones was going for a slight claustrophobic look and feel, trying to convey the idea that despite being in the great outdoors, the characters were trapped in a very different kind of prison.
I will say that the worst technical aspect to the film is the sound. Not the music – that was touched upon earlier, but the actual sound quality. All too often one has to really strain to make out what the characters are saying. Since a lot of scenes take place near running water and they were not later looped in the studio, the dialog is often difficult to make out clearly. This is especially true of any ghost in the film, such as John Jr. and Jennifer. All the ghosts have a echo-like quality to their voices which really makes it hard to understand them at times. I’ve had to listen to some sections of dialog up to thirty times in order to piece together what is being said. In some cases, I still don’t know what was said. Subtitles would have been really nice on this DVD release.
There is compelling evidence to agree with director Jones’ assertion that this is not a slasher. The truth of the matter is that this film tries to present a more psychological horror story, one that just happens to be set in the forest. With such detail given to the killer, the emphasis would seem more on the internal workings of the human mind and what depths they can fall to (and what can lead them there) than just the overt terror of a nutjob running after teenagers while waving cutlery around in the air. This differing approach is almost refreshing, since the 80’s were chock full of films that had no compunction following the cliches of the slasher genre. I say almost simply because this movie is still somewhat boring. Yes, it is slower paced, and that is not always a bad thing – indeed, I tend to view it as a good thing more often than not – but, at times it just bogs down too much. Aside from the opening sequence, it takes near thirty-five minutes before anything remotely interesting takes place, and even after that there is a serious lack of thrills.
In one of the commentaries, actor Gary Kent reveals that the film is a popular rental for teenage girl slumber parties. I think that about sums up the film’s status: somewhat scary for younger viewers, but the older folks are going to have a more difficult time maintaining interest, let alone be affected enough to work up a good case of the heebie jeebies. By today’s standards, this film almost plays like a TV movie of the week or an extended (and boring) episode of CSI or any other cop/criminal investigation show. That there are more horrifying images being transmitted on commercial television (excluding the news) has no doubt dulled the impact of this film. Check it out, but don’t expect much more than a mild diversion.
Annoying Kids - John Jr. and Jennifer really are not too annoying, but they’re still kids, which automatically qualifies them for this icon.
Cannibals - One cannibal, who is pretty white trash so dinner won’t be Chianti and Fava beans with someone’s liver. More like beer and grubs with someone’s arm.
Crazed Killers - One certifiable nutjob here, who hangs out in the forest and emerges to kill anyone who ventures near his domain. Far from scary-looking, though.
Extreme Violence - While there are numerous people who meet sticky and messy ends here (most involving oversized cutlery), none of the deaths are presented in detail.
Forest Hijinks - Well, with a name like The Forest, you can sure bet the film is not going to take place in a desert or on the ocean.
Ghosts - We have several ghosts that pop up from time to time, but none of them are all that scary or threatening. In fact, a couple are rather helpful on occasion.
Gross Stupidity - It is the instance where a person turns their back on the killer and begins talking aloud (and thus giving away their location) that demands this icon.
Underground Hijinks - There are a few scenes set in a cave. Nothing exciting happens there, though. Then again, nothing exciting happens in this film at all.
7 (5 seen, 2 referenced)
Bare Boobs: 0
Day-For-Night Shots: 58
POV shots: 17
Instances of teleporting killer: 10
Gallons of blood: 1
Times Steve and Charlie snap at each other: 6
Times Steve cries: 4
Crappy songs: 2
Possible Product Placement: 2
Mins – That music! Is this a slasher or a light comedy?
Shadow's Drinking Game: Every time a day-for-night shot is seen, take a drink.
for larger image
A discussion on the potential dangers of camping.
“You know, whenever you guys don’t want us to go somewhere
or do something, you always say it might be dangerous or risky, just
like there are bears or wolves or rapists out there.”
Shadow’s comment: Yes, there is a rapist hiding in every bush. Wait…that sounded wrong.
John offers some roasted Teddi to an unsuspecting Charlie.
“Hey, it’s pretty good. What is it?”
comment: Funny, Charlie has been making that same observation
Film & Me
Despite having seen plenty of 80’s slashers during their initial theater runs or catching them later on HBO, I had never heard of this film until about six months ago. Then again, the sheer number of such films from that time period staggers the imagination. Reading about the then upcoming DVD release for this movie, I decided to research the film as best as possible. I found a couple of online reviews for it and went ahead and put the film on my Christmas wish list after reading and digesting them. I watched the film over the New Year’s Weekend and was forced to agree with the general consensus I had encountered elsewhere: the film is extremely dull. There is no terror, no suspense and very little blood. Yet, I figured I would give the film a look here at the Graveyard, so here we are. In truth, the film was a mixed bag. Some parts are very easy to rip and riff on, while other spots are so glacially slow and boring that even the razor sharp satirical wit of Jonathan Swift would have been quickly dulled by exposure to this film and he would have no doubt been prematurely committed to St. Patrick’s Hospital for Imbeciles. That is, if movies had existed in the early 18th century.
Shadow's rating: Two Tombstones