The Forest of Lost Souls Movie Review
Written by Ryan Holloway
Released by Anexo82
Written and directed by José Pedro Lopes
2017, 71 minutes, Not yet rated
UK premiere at Triple Six Horror Festival on 27th May 2017
Daniela Love as Carolina
Jorge Mota as Ricardo
Mafalda Banquart as Filipa
Lígia Roque as Joana
In 2016 Portugal reported a spike in the number of suicides in the country, which saw a failure in its pledge to reduce suicides by 10% by 2020. This makes the story of black and white indie horror The Forest of Lost Souls all the more poignant for a country embroiled in such an awful epidemic. Director/ writer José Pedro Lopes’ film is sensitive to the countries plight while also delivering an interesting scenario based upon it.
The film opens with a girl exploring the forest and despite the title of the film, it’s a rather pleasant setting which makes her actions in this almost abstract opening even more upsetting as she walks into the lake, downs some poison and sinks slowly into the water. It's harrowing in its simplicity and unsettling realism, and during this scene we also see flashes of her having her picture taken, her vacant stare telling its own story that we’ll sadly never know.
After a title sequence that serves as a reminder that this is a horror film and not a documentary, we get down to business.
Ricardo (Mota) and Carolina (Love) are strangers that meet in the titular ‘Forest of Lost Souls’, a place where many people go to commit suicide. Discussing their reasons for being there, apart from the obvious, they briefly postpone their deaths to explore the forest and to understand each other’s reasoning and perhaps their own. As they traverse the eerie landscape it becomes clear that Carolina may have alternative motives for her appearance in the forest, and after a lengthy first act (particularly with a 71min run time) we start to see the story unfold into something more twisty and turny.
Once we leave the forest, the pace picks up a little as we are introduced to Ricardo’s family; they have suffered a great loss and are a family separated by grief. The poor girl at the top of the film is revealed as Ricardo’s daughter and now we enter the horror phase of the movie that, if explained here, would only spoil a film that is fully reliant on its twist.
It’s part home invasion, part drama and part revenge-porn but despite some great camera work and the successful creation of an unnerving atmosphere it never quite comes together, with some moments that genuinely pull you out of the film.
Known for short film Videoclub, a film about two teenagers setting out to save VHS, (sounds amazing), Love is fantastic, especially in the latter parts of the film where all is revealed. She carries the film and is a joy to watch.
Writing a film around suicide has got to be difficult and, at times, it's this difficulty that perhaps holds director Lopes back a little, as the action could have benefitted from being far more brutal, but there isn’t enough flesh on the bones.
The film looks gorgeous in black and white but is sometimes let down by some poor production, this is of course attributed to a low budget so can be forgiven but with such a short run time we never really get to know many of the characters, which is a shame as it would have made for a stronger journey.