“Some time ago” (no, really, the movie’s that unspecific) two teenagers were killed in the Northern Valley in upstate New York. The locals had long reported sightings of a strange giant humanoid creature, and an anonymous local philanthropist put out a 2.5 million dollar bounty for anyone who could catch or kill the beast. Two locals claimed to have shot and wounded a creature fitting the description, but lost it in the forest and the hunt was otherwise inconclusive. Now, Barbara Sanders (Anna Kendrick) and her group of teenage friends go into the same woods on a camping trip and encounter… something….
Fear The Forest (as you might have guessed from my synopsis above) is a horror take on the Bigfoot legend – but it’s much more complicated than that. For one thing, the events in the synopsis take a good half hour (in not more) to unfold – we don’t even meet Barbara for 15 minutes or so. The intervening time is filled with attempted-found-footage of “locals” talking about their Bigfoot experiences and a strange digression where two groups of hunters have a stand-off for no obvious reason. We then go through a strange bit of high school movie business where a rival group of girls tries to menace Barbara and her friends at her birthday party, and Barbara rams the ringleader’s head into a cake. Barbara and her rival resolve this the next day in the Taekwondo gym, where they fight to contest black belt ranking (or something – it’s fairly unclear). We then spend another at least ten minutes meeting all the other characters, including the (theoretically Native American but obviously Italian) Matt (played by director Matt Bora) and his equally obviously-Italian mother and sister, who we will never see again.
If it seems like I’m just painfully relating the events of the first segment of the film rather than reviewing it properly, that’s because it’s it’s hard to otherwise convey to you how convoluted and rambling this whole mess is. It’s far far far longer than it needs to be, and seems to have hardly been cut at all. There are endless digressions, including a group of “forensic scientists” who pontificate about hair samples from the creature and otherwise have no connection to the main plot, frequent cutbacks to the state governor (Kevin F. Barrett) who is Barbara’s father and tries to coordinate rescue efforts when things go wrong, and a bizarre flashback to pre-European times when offensively low-rent “Indians” lived in harmony with the Sasquatch.
There are other problems. Matt looks 10 years older than his fellow “teenagers”, making his role in guiding them into the woods unintentionally creepy. Continuity is a non-starter (in later scenes Barbara has a ponytail that literally pops in and out of existence from scene to scene, and the teenagers can apparently spend a week wandering and sleeping rough in the forest without attracting a speck of dirt). Barbara, established at the start as an Olympic-class Taekwondo fighter, forgets that she can fight when ever her putting up resistance would be inconvenient. The creature looks… strange – and clearly consumed so much of the effects budget in its construction that when it kills people the corpses are just daubed with fake blood community-theatre style and left without any obvious wounds at all.
This all could have been survivable – hokily charming, even – if the movie wasn’t so damn long. Not content with the aforementioned endless setup, there’s a similarly interminable set of epilogues and a mid-plot digression that clearly wants to be a twist but just ends up being another convolution among many. Adding to this, Matt Bora seems to having been aiming for a naturalistic unscripted Blair Witch-esque style in his dialogue – but most of the characters’ conversations just end up muddled and incomprehensible, and the awful sound (much of it seems to be location sound on a low-grade camera mic, often heavily noise-reduced) doesn’t help. This actually makes the dialogue-heavy scenes feel longer than they are, which is fatal when the film is already so rambling and confused.
With a sufficiently brutal cutback (80 or 90 minutes down from the current 110 would about do it) this could be an amusingly-bad creature feature and would probably attract a cult following. As it stands, it’s pretty hard to watch. Not recommended.
Extras include: Director Interviews, Behind the Scenes, Making of the Creature, Deleted Scenes, Two Music Videos and a Trailer.
DIRECTOR(S): Matt Bora (who also wrote the script, starred, produced and did the fight choreography – such as it is) | COUNTRY: USA | YEAR 2009 | DISTRIBUTOR(S):Radiant Pictures Entertainment | RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 1.33:1 | REGION: 1 / NTSC | DISCS: 1