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Directed by Mauro Borrelli
Written by Mauro Borrelli
Starring Sevy Di Cione, Adam Green, Mark Hengst, Naomi Ueno
Produced by Mauro Borrelli
If you’ve been stalking the aisles of your local video store lately, it’s entirely possible that you’ve wandered past this title. And though you may think “Japanese import,” you’d be wrong. Though this time around, you shouldn’t let that stop you. Go ahead. Take a walk through the “Haunted Forest.”
And in “Haunted Forest,” what we’ve got to deal with is three guys going into the titular haunted forest where a vengeful ghost named Satinka waits to lure travelers to their likely deaths but generally just disappearances. Someone else has just vanished, you see, and thus the three guys want to figure out just what happened to him—whether he just fell into a lake or a gully or pit or assorted hazard of the forest or whether he ran into Satinka. If he ran into Satinka, they realize, based on an old book one of them has inherited from a grandfather, they will likely find a tree marking a burial ground with, apparently, cash at the bottom. The trip, for numerous horror movie reasons, will be highly dangerous and probably a bad idea. With, of course, a body count.
Those of you who looked at the box art and thought this was a Japanese import are not alone. I thought much the same thing, and frankly, the farther we get into “Haunted Forest,” the more it looks, feels, and watches like a Japanese import.
Sure, it’s a little flimsy in the plot department—a ghost who haunts the woods and kills by slipping a twig under the skin?—but despite that weak little premise, “Haunted Forest” actually manages to keep things moving at a halfway decent pace and in a fairly stylish manner. It may not be an Oscar contender—may not even be terribly deep—but it doesn’t look or feel cheap. It’s actually not half bad.
Though the plot is a bit flimsy, it’s executed very, very well. It really does have the look and feel of a Japanese import, with all the positives that term can muster. Lots of quick appearances of our ghost Satinka, lots of strange things that pop up out of nowhere and vanish almost before they even register in your brain, all those wonderful things and more that make Japanese horror rank among the best on the planet.
The ending, meanwhile, is more than a little far-fetched, but doesn’t diminish too badly from the events preceding it.
The special features include audio options, English and Spanish subtitles, and trailers for “The Abandoned,” “H.P. Lovecraft’s The Tomb,” “Reincarnation,” and “The Lost Room”
All in all, “Haunted Forest” isn’t a half-bad entry into the wide array of horror choices we have to choose from these days. You could do wildly worse, and frankly, you’ll be hard-pressed to find much better.
Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.
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