Friday, July 8, 2011

Forest of (Boredom to) Death

We’ve all seen M. Night Shamalaongadong’s The Happening. We’ve all learned the wonders of SCIENCE! and the horror of DYING BEES! and non-importance of sharing TEERAMEESUE! and, perhaps most importantly, the absolute wonders of something called a HOT DOG. If The Happening has done anything of note in the 21st century, that something is make it far easier for any other film to feature evil flora and come off with at least one compliment:
It’s better than The Happening.
Marky Mark almost always agrees with that statement

Quick Plot: An unusual forest is becoming home to a gaggle of suicides and a vicious rape-murder. When an investigating detective dies of a heart attack under the trees, a flighty reporter named May launches an exploitive news series on the forest’s mystical hauntings, trying her darnest to rein in some help from her botanist boyfriend Shu-Hoi, an obsessive man who’d rather carry out experiments in his greenhouse. A dead-serious female detective named Ha (stop it, it’s not funny) jumps on the case with some help from Shu-Hoi, dragging the sleazy suspected rapist into the woods with a gang of reporters where the trees somehow drag out a hilarious, condom-eating confession.

That’s about the first hour of Forest of Death, though it feels akin to three weeks and half a Monday. This is a slowwwwwww film. And not an overly interesting one, despite the promise of evil forestry, ghosts, rape, and condom snacks. 
The idea of a botanist hero is fun. But Shu-Hoi is not. He’s a handsome enough scientist, but saddle the poor nerd with a shrewish Gale Weathers-lite girlfriend and it’s hard to really like him. As Detective Ha, Shu Qi is easily the most interesting character onscreen, but it’s a shame that the film feels the need to hint at a relationship that’s never actually there between her and Shu-Hoi. It’s like Forest of Death made a bold decision to feature a strong female center, then remembered she was attractive and hence warranted a tepid love triangle. It’s somewhat insulting.

There’s also the matters of storytelling and pacing, something Forest of Death seems to make up as it goes along. Once the main crime is resolved (rather hilariously, might I add), the film just kind of limps along for another half hour. It’s as if you entered a wave pool where the waves were REALLY rough, then it was time to turn it off and you hung out, eventually realizing the waves would never come back on because the person that pushes the wave button is taking a really long lunch. So you leave. And the credits roll. And Emily is left feeling very unhappy.
High Points
I like the idea of these three stories--Ha’s investigation, May’s sensationalist reporting and Shu-Hoi’s plant talking--and how they could interweave. It’s certainly not a bad starting point for a film...

Low Points
...except Forest of Death never does anything interesting at all with them
Lessons Learned
Hong Kong journalists are, on average, 17 years old
Post-coital secret sharing only works when you or your partner enjoy the coitus
Lab plants dig a good funky beat

Meh. I watched Forest of Death because it was expiring on Instant Watch and now that it’s gone, good riddance. This isn’t an awful or incompetent movie, but I personally kind of sorta really did hate it. Slow, plodding, aimless, and somehow unoriginal despite being about lie detecting plants. Hardcore Asian horror enthusiasts might still appreciate some of its aspects, but I’d much rather pop in Little Shop of Horrors and recall my childhood crush on Rick Moranis than sit through this one again. 

Then again, I kind of ALWAYS want to watch Little Shop of Horrors and moon over Rick Moranis’ adorableness, so perhaps that’s an unfair comparison. Here’s a better one: I’d rather watch William Friedken stumble all over a tree lover-themed horror film in The Guardian than rewatch Forest of Death

Heck, I’d rather watch William Friedken eat a condom than rewatch this movie. I’d rather--
I’ll stop before I say something illegal. We’ll leave the last word to Oscar nominee Marky Mark:


  1. 'Gaggles of suicides'. Ha, hilarious!
    Have you ever heard of Aokigahara Forest? It's a forest in Japan where, most people who want to off themselves go to. The toll of suicides there in the last few decades is up to 500!! So, this is a forest that really exists, that if you take a walk through, you'll notice the creepy darkness due to clustered trees, signs begging people to 'reconsider, for life is a beautiful thing', all the while probably stumbling on someone hanging from a branch!! Creepy! And most certainly a lot more creepy than this movie!

  2. I imagine the the titular forest of this film is probably inspired by that one. I just wish the film were half as interesting!

  3. Never pay attention to a science teacher that:

    A: Tries to explain what a "scientific theory" is and gets it completely wrong.
    B: Used to be a caucasian rapper.

    Anyway, this movie has Shu Qi in it, so I'll probably watch it, and there's nothing you could say in your review to deter me. You could complain that the movie gave you a mystery rash and I'd still be on board.

  4. I had to perform a rap about cell theory for extra credit on a science test in 7th grade. I'll never forget the shame of emphasizing the power of mitochondria, suburban gangsta style.

    If only Marky Mark was my teacher...

    Shu Qi is quite stunning, and she's also the best thing in the film. It's a shame she's wasted. So I still don't recommend it, but so long as you have some anti-itch cream on hand, I won't stop you.

  5. "long as you have some anti-itch cream on hand"

    Hopefully this is a subtle masturbation joke, and if so...kudos.

  6. What can I say? I'm a classy broad.

  7. "Post-coital secret sharing only works when you or your partner enjoy the coitus"

    I don't know why but this is funny to me.

  8. I'm not a big fan of asian movies.. but
    I am a big fan of the gaurdian
    jenny seagrove, carey lowell and an animatronic
    tree that maims..
    That is the true forest of win!

  9. Funny. And so very, very true...perhaps that explains why all those insider trading stock tips never paid off. But what does that say about me?

  10. I think there's been a good two dozen references to The Guardian here inn the last month. A rewarch is imminent!

  11. For some reason, while reading this, I could hear you going off on a rant about it. Which made it amazing.

    It sounds pretty boring which is fast becoming an unforgivable cinematic crime for me. Perhaps because I keep happening upon SUPER boring movies. Oh! The humanity!

  12. It did make me angry. Feet were tapped damnit!

    And yes on the boring thing. I've got stuff to do. Cats to pet. Boggle to play. Apartments to think about not cleaning. Other fun-bad movies to watch and actually enjoy. I don't have time for shit that isn't interesting!