July 30, 2018 The Forest of the Lost Souls (Movie Review)
In this forest, those who are suffering under the weight of life come to end their personal pain. Unfortunately, for some, this is only where the true horror begins! Coming to select North American theatres, as well as On Demand, as of Friday, August 3, 2018, The Forest of the Lost Souls is a brand new Horror offering from Wild Eye Releasing. The cold hard truth? Sadness will last forever!
Akin to Japan’s Aokigahara Suicide Forest, this lush Portuguese landscape is the Forest of the Lost Souls, a beautiful locale with a tragic purpose: here, troubled souls of all ages come to end their lives and their suffering. On one lovely afternoon in the woods, two such individuals have a chance encounter. Middle-aged father Ricardo (Jorge Mota: Conta-me História series, Ministério do Tempo series) sits down to inspect his backpack full of his final preparations, and discovers teenage Carolina (Daniela Love: Empress of the Evil Dead 2012, Offline 2016) watching from atop a nearby boulder.
The pair quickly begin a taunting banter that shows that feisty Carolina is a tourist to these woods, someone who comes again and again, and a hipster – complete with cigarettes and leather jacket – who can namecheck the likes of Nick Hornby, von Goethe, Arcade Fire, and Elliott Smith, all while mocking Ricardo for his hara-kiri-esque approach to suicide. As they trade barbs in regards to one another’s suicide prep, they ultimately decide to go for one last hike together before they both embrace the end – he by hunting knife, and she via poison. Unbeknownst to one or both of these individuals, there is a psychopath who patrols this forest of the dead and dying, looking for victims.
Clocking in at roughly 70 minutes in-length, The Forest of the Lost Souls – originally entitled A Floresta das Almas Perdidas – is presented in Portuguese with English subtitles. The film is a feature-length debut for Writer/Director José Pedro Lopes (Survivalismo short 2011, M Is for Macho short 2013), and also stars Lilia Lopes (Ramiro 2017) as Irene; Mafalda Banquart (M Is for Macho short 2013, Uma Vida Sublime 2018) as Filipa; Lígia Roque (True and Tender Is the North 2008, Amor Maior series) as Joana; and Tiago Jácome (Video Store short 2014) as Filipa’s boyfriend, Tiago.
This coming-of-age Horror-Thriller is presented in black-and-white, an intriguing offering that has a truly haunting resonance long after the end credits have rolled. In short, The Forest of the Lost Souls raises more questions than it seems to answer, and heavily toys with themes of suicide, psychopathy, and the apathetic teenage generation who seem to practice religious Schadenfreude. This is all thanks largely in part to the superb acting skills of Love, who does a magnificent job of making moviegoers loathe everything about her Carolina. She is a macabre tourist who steals from the dead, a frantic Facebook user, someone who frequents summer festivals and suicide forests, all while displaying the same amount of zeal (or lack thereof) despite her disparate surroundings.
As her counterpart in every sense, Mota is a kindly every-man who is suffering under the weight of a true family tragedy. However, he is so enmeshed in his own emotional upheaval that he fails to see the pain that will be further compounded upon his family at the time of his death. He is, in a sense, a kind of modern day Willy Loman, if you will, who in some twisted sense feels that his death will “right” a pile of wrongs. Ricardo, in a sense, depicts the elder generation and their views on suicide, while his foil, Carolina, is the teenage generation’s take on the same subject; a macabre yin and yang of twisted beliefs.
Ultimately, this all gels together to formulate a film that is artfully presented – and with enough stunning locations to be a photographer’s dream – all while raising intelligent questions for debate. In fact, the film’s opening segment alone is chock full of gorgeous snapshots, while its score (by Emanuel Grácio) is the perfect complement to all its visuals. Furthermore, the opening credit sequence presents a bizarrely eerie papier -mâché forest that is also wonderfully done. So, in short, pretty much everything about the film is artistically-derived and magnificently portrayed.
Yet, The Forest of the Lost Souls is a dark, haunting affair that is not going to appeal to all audiences. The subject matter here seems to draw parallels between suicide and murder, questioning the emotional upheaval left in the wake of both tragedies. After all, isn’t the emotional toll left behind the very same no matter the method of death? The very thought and the implied debate is a darkly moody one, an emotionally hefty idea that will make some cringe and, therefore, averse to The Forest of the Lost Souls.
For those who are themselves already strange and unusual, this is a film that tackles topics that cast a bleak eye on humanity that is morbidly poetic with a definite hint of all things macabre. For these reasons, CrypticRock give The Forest of the Lost Souls 4 of 5 stars.