‘Black Forest’ (DVD) Review

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Our Rating

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A  cautionary tale… In more ways than one…

A year after seven teenagers disappear after a party near the US/Canada border, two friends head out on a road trip. A shortcut through a forest leads to a violent encounter with strange creatures. Are the two incidents linked, or is there something more sinister going on…

In my most recent post, I spoke about the perils of the no-longer-with-us straight-to-video market. I discussed the fact that often these films were of low quality, with small budgets and casts made up of people you’d never heard of. I mentioned that they’ve been replaced by something called ‘DVD Premieres’, films that seem to take pride in their underdog status, and that HMV have these films in their own section, daring you to give them a chance. And I let you all know that there are gems to be found amongst the detritus if you know where to look. However, just like back in the home-video era, the majority of what’s out there is going to be disappointing, so viewers searching for something to watch need all the help they can get when on the hunt. Reviews like this help, certainly, but if you’re standing in front of a rack of movies and wondering what to go for, and you don’t have the internet easily to hand (or magazines for that matter), what help is available? One example is sleeve quotes, little snippets of text taken (allegedly) from reviews and articles about the film in question, and usually positive and effusive in their praise. These quotes can make all the difference when making your choice, and it was a series of these quotes, all very positive, that led me to ‘Black Forest‘ (also known as ‘The Sighting‘ and ‘Travis‘). One promised “the best Sasquatch film ever made“, while another described it as “the scariest campfire tale ever told“. Were they accurate? No. No they weren’t…

 

Black Forest‘ takes place in an area of the US close to the Canadian border, where small towns nestle alongside large, forbidding forests and majestic mountains. We are initially presented with a story centred around a party that ended in some sort of massacre, with seven teenagers reported missing presumed dead, and the only evidence being some found footage from one of the bedrooms (you can guess what that camera was going to be used for). However, rather than follow this our focus switches to two newly-graduated friends, Travis and Nate (Adam Pitman and Nathaniel Peterson), who have an unspecified link to the party, and are heading off on a celebratory road trip to Canada. Rather than go through the hassle of legally crossing the border (the issue is vague, but it’s something to do with timing) the pair seek an alternative route, and are diverted to a trail through the nearby forest by a, seemingly insane, gas station owner. While there, and as is seemingly inevitable in all horror movies, one of the pair suddenly needs a pee, which requires a stop, which in turn precipitates the encounter that we’ve been waiting for, as a group of strange looking creatures block the road and then launch a savage attack on the teenagers. Nate is dragged off while Travis makes a run for it…

What follows could be one of the most disappointing, not to mention infuriating, films I’ve ever had the misfortune to experience. Hidden away in here somewhere is an interesting idea for a story, specifically the explanation for what is actually lurking in those woods. I’ve seen plenty of Bigfoot movies in my time, and read lots books on the subject, and this is a genuinely refreshing approach, offering an idea that really makes you think. Unfortunately it’s ruined by just about every other aspect of this film. The acting, for example, is mostly amateur-level at best, with only Gill Gayle and Sarina Hart, as the police investigating these incidents, being remotely believable. In contrast, Pitman and Peterson are so non-descript as our ‘heroes’ that the supposed jeopardy they are in doesn’t register, as you simply you don’t care about them enough. The story and script are also seriously at fault, as events happen in a haphazard, clunky fashion, and characters behave stupidly. The fateful party, for instance, seems important at the beginning of the film, but is sidelined while we focus on Travis and Nate, before being brought back to the forefront of the plot late in the film, by which point you may well have forgotten that it ever happened. The conclusions reached by the police also require considerable leaps of faith on the part of the audience, particularly as there is no evidence to back them up. The only moments that can be said to register occur during the ill-fated drive through the forest, where co-directors David Blair and Adam Pitman (the same Adam Pitman who is so unconvincing in the lead role) stage some effectively creepy moments as the forest-dwelling creatures make their move. Elements of the film are shot as found-footage, including an appallingly bad sequence set in a college lecture theatre, but not enough of the film for it to be an effective storytelling tool. You could also argue that the film has an issue with it’s own identity. Is it a horror film? A psychological thriller? Answers on a postcard…

To sum up, ‘Black Forest‘ is not a good film, and at times it’s barely a competent one. Poorly scripted and equally poorly acted, you’re left with the impression that this was made by a group of friends who had a script, got some money and some equipment and went out to fulfil their dreams of becoming filmmakers. Sometimes this approach brings you something like ‘Clerks‘ or ‘Down Terrace‘, instant classics that win awards and acclaim, while the filmmakers go on to bigger and better things. Sadly, however, mostly you just get garbage like ‘Black Forest‘. As a horror movie it’s not particularly scary, and as a psychological thriller or study of potential madness it’s simplistic and trite, leaping to conclusions that make no real sense. Most importantly, and in stark contrast to the wild claims made on the sleeve, it’s some way from being the “best sasquatch movie ever made”. ‘Exists‘, ‘Willow Creek‘, ‘Abominable‘, bloody hell, even ‘Bigfoot & The Hendersons‘, all are far superior to this pile of toss. However, the thing that most annoys me about this film, that really sticks in my craw, is me. The viewer. The (handsome) fool who was taken in by some ridiculous claims on the DVD sleeve, and broke one of his own rules in the process, namely reviews from websites you’ve never heard of (and may not exist) should be treated with the utmost caution. I allowed myself to be taken in by some fancy words, amongst them a quote from a review from Dread Central which I’m not sure is genuine, and I paid the price. I took that bullet so you don’t have to, so in many ways I’m a hero. Yes, I’ll take that…

Sometimes you watch a film like this, and you may find yourself making a note of the names involved, so impressed are you by their efforts that you intend to actively seek out whatever they do next. I’m doing something similar here, but for very different reasons. Despite the undoubted enthusiasm from everyone involved, the final result is so poor that, if they do insist on carrying on as filmmakers you can only hope they take a few courses and familiarise themselves with the basics of filmmaking before giving it another stab. And you can say this, looking on the bright side, the only way is up from here. It’s not much, but it’s the nicest thing I can say under the circumstances. Avoid, unless you have a fetish for this sort of crap.


 

About author

TheMetalHead

Long-time fan of all things geek-related. Comics, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, Warhammer, video games, mythology, you name it, I probably like it. This also extends to pro-wrestling and heavy metal, hence the name. Particular loves would be the Star Wars sage, Game of Thrones (books and TV), Judge Dredd, Assassins Creed, and many more. Born and raised in Essex by parents who have broadly supported these passions over the years, so much so that they now share many of them.