Forest of the Dead

MSRP: $14.98
RUNNING TIME: 79 Minutes
Feature Commentary w/ director and cast
Behind-the-scenes featurettes
• Bonus short film from dir. Brian Singleton

The Pitch

“What I
did on my summer vacation . . .”

The Humans

Singleton, Chris Anderson, Erin Brophy, Brandi Boulet, Elaine Cummings, Richard
Glasgow, Kevin Norris, Heather Duthie, Dan Shestalo, Miles Finlayson.

The Nutshell

Once upon
a time, a camcorder ventured into the woods with a group of twentysomethings. In
the ensuing action, the camera was forced to witness unspeakable horrors of
acting, framing, and storytelling. As if that indignity weren’t enough, some
unkind soul ripped the images from it like entrails from a slaughtered pig,
chopped them up, reassembled them, and now displays them to you in some
eldritch rite of foresight. In them, you can see the end of days.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the director.

The Lowdown

I don’t
buy that it’s difficult to criticize bad movies. In my tenure here at CHUD,
I’ve willingly endured quite a few wretched leavings of cinema, from
unsuccessful sequels to failed comedies to racing films shot against a brick
wall backdrop. I’ve never believed that the criticisms I write are intended for
anything more than your entertainment, but I try and dig at the foundations of
whatever I’m watching, to find what elements of skill were present in the
process. For bad movies, that digging just takes a little longer, and doesn’t
smell very pleasant. Sometimes there are dead possums.

The point
being that it’s not hard to stand up to a bad movie with red pen in hand; it
might even be too easy, which inspires all kinds of lazy writing. Sometimes,
though, it is pointless. I’m having a
real crisis, here. Forest of the Dead is an awful movie, shot in a carnival of
different exposures, with unfunny jokes and bad acting unmitigated by how intentionally bad they are. There are
scads of criticisms that I could level against it. But why?

The Morningstar is displeased.

Here are
the reasons, as I see them, for criticizing a tiny, horrible movie:

1) To warn others away. I am such an
altruist. I will watch a shitty movie so you don’t have to! In all seriousness,
some people take the advice of two-bit critics such as myself seriously enough
to veer away from the horror rack at Blockbuster if they see a title that has
been panned. I, for example, frequently substitute critical opinion for my own,
and consequently haven’t rented Gothika yet.

2) For humorous purposes. I am not Mike,
Tom Servo, or Crow. Lampooning a bad movie can be cathartic, but it’s rarely
ever useful, or worthwhile. Unless you’re trying to score readership based on
cleverness. That’d be a bad place for me to place my bank.

3) To supply advice to the filmmakers (or
similar filmmakers).
Here’s the gray area. Whether cruel or kind, accurate
criticism of small, bad movies has a greater potential of reaching the
filmmakers than similar does of making it to the desks of the big names. Therefore,
criticism of a bad movie might conceivably be intended as the first part of a
dialogue with the filmmakers. Criticism intended to expose modes and means of
improving one’s art and/or craft? Bizarre.

4) For the aggregate benefit of the critical
community, or to add to the lexicon of critical techniques
. Nope, that’s
not it.

5) I don’t understand. We have a winner!

Gonna kill ya, and then gonna steal your hair.

So, take
the less-caustic part of number 3, and couch it in the language of number 1,
and you have what I tend to write, by accident rather than intention.

Forest of the Dead? It made me want to get up, grab a few friends and a camcorder, drive
up into the mountains and bullshit our own horror tale. Not because it was so
well done, or evoked the thrill of spontaneous creativity, but because through
the whole picture one thought was never far from the very front of my mind:

“I could
do something better than this.”

I can’t,
of course. That’s a big ol’ fallacy that plenty of armchair critics fall into. At
the same time, from the victim’s point of view, there’s the competing fallacy
that people who haven’t created X can not criticize X.

Trying to
avoid fallaciousness as much as possible, while maximizing the number of times
I get to write the word “fallaciousness,” I’ll stick with my admission that I
could not make a better film that Forest of the Dead given the same
cast, crew, equipment, and fake accents. I also am of the opinion that the
filmmakers could have made a better film given the same et cetera. Why? Because
the half-assed male characters, sporadic changes in the camp meter, and dissociated
action editing are all qualities that could be improved with a bit more
preproduction and thought.

When I was eight, I accidentally killed a cat, and then stared at it
for the rest of the afternoon. I don’t know why I felt the compulsion to admit that.

I say
this because there is talent obvious in Forest of the Dead, when it comes to
effects and makeup. On an obviously tiny budget, renaissance man Brian
Singleton pulled off some darn good gore: eviscerations, beheadings,
immolations, and more. The blood changes consistency here and there, more
convincing in some shots than in others, but for the most part it’s admirable

overriding trouble is that, for a film that was obviously fun to make, it’s not
much fun to watch. It’s not just the quality of the acting (awful, to
reiterate, whether intentional or not) or of the photography; good storytelling
practices are tossed away, along with the understanding that good storytelling
creates the tension on which visceral thrills capitalize.

As a
frame for a demonstration of potential talent and tenacity, Forest
of the Dead
is solid enough, but it doesn’t have feet, much less legs,
as a film.

Monsters never have monocles. Why is that?

The Package

The cover
art grabbed me nicely. I’m a sucker for hand-drawn anything in this time of
floating heads and lighting effects.

The bonus
materials are, without exception, more fun than the actual movie. I think it’s
because the enthusiasm for the project is much more evident (though backhanded,
at times) directly from the mouths of the cast and crew than in the movie
itself. An energetic commentary kicks things off with director Brian Singleton
and some of his crew, though apparently it was recorded inside of a tin can;
additionally, you get a trio of featurettes which are fun for their showing how
a somewhat informal production like this reflects the traditional obstacles of
filmmaking in behind-the-scenes, special effects, and sound design.

also a set of outtakes, certifiably funnier than most of the jokes in the
script, and a short film from Singleton, the title of which ought to give you a
better idea of the quality of Forest of the Dead than I have in my
hundreds of words: “Return of the Dastardly Zombie Vampire Mummy from Planet

yes. Keep shining, you crazy Canadians.

3 out of 10