Thursday, February 10, 2011
The WTF Files: THE FOREST (1982)
THE FOREST is the bastard child of the extremely large slasher film family of the early 1980s. A very low budget independent affair from director Don Jones (an ex-boxer who went by the name of Irish Frankie Conway), The Forest is an anomaly in the slasher genre. There's no pre-kill T&A with nubile teenage bodies, in fact there's no teenagers at all. The victims here are adult couples who decide on a whim to take a camping trip, with the wives getting a head start on the highway in an unwise move to prove to their dunderheaded husbands that they're safe and competent on their own (they're not).
The two husbands fall behind because their truck breaks down and after they are overcharged by a grinning, gap toothed mechanic, they finally make it to the forest only to find themselves lost and unable to find their wives. A sheriff pulls up in his truck to give them the obligatory warning that people who come round' these woods go missing and are never found. He tells them, he'll come back in a week to check on them. Since law enforcement officers are useless in these kind of movies, he never returns. The two men go through an arduous search for their loved ones and one minute it's bright daylight and in the next frame it's pitch black only to return to sunniness. The inconsistency of night and day is reminiscent of the filmmaking of Ed Wood.
Not only do they go missing, but they fall prey to a grizzled, cannibalistic killer (Gary Kent, from Satan's Sadists) who lives in a cave dressed with candles and a rocking chair where he enjoys his victims roasted and crispy. His dead children and wife appear, disappear and reappear all over the forest to haunt the unlucky campers. The children, two cheerless and creepy kids doing something of a cheap Shining imitation, warn the campers that "daddy is going hunting".
The Forest is beyond bizarre and the kind of movie you find covered in dust in the .99 bin at a pawn shop next to the 8 track players and top loader VCRS. It's soundtrack alternates between bad 80s synth to really bad soft rock to horrible theme songs with lyrics such as "You'll have to pay the cost, cause many of died, in the dark side of the fooorrest!"
The dialogue, especially in the opening scenes, is wonderfully laughable. When the spouses are planning their trip and teasing each other in a battle of the sexes verbal exchange, one of the men makes an inexplicable joke: "Listen honey, the only backpacking you ever did was in bed!" Huh?
If the dialogue is funny, the killing sequences are jaw dropping and hilarious. The film's most memorable scene is a flashback which explains how the killer was driven mad by his slutty wife whom he finds in bed with the refrigerator repairman. Why is it that in movies unfaithful wives are always doing it with repairmen? In the middle of the afternoon when the husband is due home no less?
Anyways, the repairman flees the scene wearing only his black undies and our soon-to-be-killer is taunted by his wife as she teases him about being impotent. Meanwhile, she has locked her children in the closet. Horrified and angered, our vengeful husband passionately kills his wife and goes outside to deal with the fridge man, who has actually returned to fixing the appliance! Hey, at least the wife was honest about his profession!
The two men enter into a fight but Fridge Man is overcome by the husband's unexplained power to disappear and reappear with a new weapon every time the Fridge Man turns his back and runs in a different direction from him. He meets his painful fate when his stomach kisses a buzzsaw courtesy of the jilted husband. His kids are witness to this and after Mr. Maytag is finished off, he embraces his children and tells them they must leave this awful place. To the Forest they go! End scene.
It's not enough to explain the surreal madness that is this film. It's degree of badness can only be compared to the 1983 Spanish splatter pic PIECES, although it's no where near as gory as that film. Code Red, a great distributor of lost 70s and 80s exploitation titles, released this lost oddity on DVD and fans of slasher films should seek it out. It's awful, but fascinatingly so. It's bungled ambitious storytelling and lack of convention make it an atypical entry of the genre. Gary Kent plays his man eating murderer to the hilt, complete with an intense daze and monotone speech that show that he's one basket short of a picnic...but he has plenty of human limbs for his lunch.