Haunted Forest (2007)

American horror films are in a rough state. First there are the remakes that try to modernize an already established form but fail at doing so; then you have the “splat pack” that cares more about one-upping each other than the actual quality of their films. Haunted Forest falls into neither of these categories; it actually falls into a category that’s much worse: The Imitation.

The imitation horror film has zero originality, zilch creativity, and not a single unique bone in its body. Unlike the remakes that attempt to bring something new and updated to a film, or the gore hounds that try to push boundaries, the imitation is just a copy of a copy; like a red-headed twin nobody wants.

Every thing in Haunted Forest has been done better somewhere else. Although I expect repetition in horror films, the extent of it in “Haunted Forest” is abysmal. The trite plot isn’t the only problem; it’s everything else in relation to it, as well. Usually if a film is lacking in a particular area, something else makes up for it. That way, if the film is terrible, than the viewer can leave with, “Well, at least the dialogue was funny,” or “Well, at least the actors were hot.” Haunted Forest has nothing to offer, gives up half way through the movie, and fails in every way possible.

Three friends set out into the woods to look for a missing man and also explore the legend of Satinka (Kiralee Hayashi), a vengeful ghost with twigs for fingers whose spirit has been trapped inside a sacred tree. The legend goes that if one is stabbed with a twig, the spirit of Satinka will come and drag you into the ground to become the roots of the sacred tree, or something like that. Of course, as soon as the campers step foot into the forest they begin to disappear one by one. There’s also a crazy hunter in the forest who runs around, stalks the campers and, well, acts crazy. All of them are fighting to find the sacred tree.

Haunted Forest is clearly a rip-off of recent East Asian horror films like Ringu or Kairo. The long-haired, vengeful female ghost is typical for most East Asian horror films and is taken from ancient folklore and legends. Rarely do you see it in Western films, unless it’s a remake. Clearly Haunted Forest wanted to the milk the popularity of J-Horror, but its influence here is too obvious and trivial. The lack of originality keeps the ghost from being truly scary and most viewers will simply roll their eyes since they’ve seen it all before.

For example, there’s a scene where Satinka’s body is pulled from the sacred tree. Wait, this sounds familiar. Oh yeah, there was a similar scene in Ringu where Sadako’s body is pulled from the well. Of course, in Haunted Forest it’s less cathartic.

In addition to the copy cat plot, the characters are as interesting as high school math homework and their lack of personalities make it hard to have a single ounce of empathy for any of them. Instead of spending time adding depth to the characters, most of that time is spent watching the characters run around screaming, “Where’s [missing friend]?!” for the millionth time. The scene then cuts to [missing friend] tied to a tree looking particularly squirm-ish. Most of the characters in the film are useless and are simply there for the ride.

One character, a camper the gang finds along the way, is especially worthless and spends most of the film standing around looking mildly concerned. At the end of the film, she’s seen calmly leaving the forest like she just left the spa. There’s also the character of the crazy hunter whom we later find out is aiding in Satinka’s hunt. Although his character has the most potential for conflict, he turns out not to be so scary after all and is just a stereotypical crazy hunter. The others get rid of him pretty easily.

The ancient horror cliché of every character being in complete denial is there, too. When the campers start disappearing it takes ages for someone to hint that maybe, just maybe, the ghost had something to do with it. And even when that’s finally mentioned, the rest of the characters roll their eyes in disbelief. Wait a minute, isn’t the reason they’re there in the first place is to find the ghost? If anything, they would know something was afoul by the first disappearance, but of course, that would require thought and logic, which this film clearly lacks.

As for extras, there are no extras. But do you really want to hear the director stumble through a commentary trying to defend this dreck? Of course not, which is probably why it’s not on the DVD. Rarely is there a film that has no good qualities; usually there’s always something to account for its mediocrity, but here I have to disagree.

There is nothing good about this film. Nothing. There are no pros, just a big steaming pile of cons. By far, this is possibly the worst horror film to come out in the last few years; an unfortunate title appropriate for an imitation horror film.

RATING 1 / 10