Director – DannyPang
Cast – Qi Shu, Ekin Cheng, Rain Li, Siu-Ming Lau, Suet Lam, Tommy Yuen, Lawrence Chou, Cub Chin
Release Year – 2007
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I have been a strong fan of the Pang Brothers ever since their epic debut horror film, the original version of The Eye, as well as another film I really enjoyed from them, 2006’s Re-Cycle. A year later Danny Pang decided to put out a horror film without teaming up with his twin brother, Oxide Pang, and gave us Forest of Death, which I had high hopes for. Why? Well this film brings me a plot that contains elements I would enjoy, and it was given to me by a director I respect. Sadly to say, this film was one I enjoyed from the get-go but slowly worsened as the film went on and did not stop until the end credits kicked in.
This flick focuses on a beautiful yet mysterious forest that has become a hotspot for many suicides over the years. Some believe the forest to be haunted, and that each person who commits suicide suffers the horrible fate of having to repeat their suicide everyday for eternity. When a detective investigating a rape/murder he believes was disguised as a suicide suffers a mysterious death while in the forest, the young hotshot Detective C. C. Ha(Qi Shu; The Eye 2) is assigned to finish up the case. She believes the forest can tell her what happened to the young girl, but she cannot do it alone. She enlists the help of renowned botanist Shun Shu-hoi(Ekin Cheng; Re-cycle) to help her understand what clues the forest’s ecosystem can offer her. The two manage to get the forest to tell them what happened, but not without exposing themselves to the horrible effects the forest has to offer.
I really wanted to like this film, and for the majority of the film I did just that. Right from the beginning we are thrown into beautiful cinematography and atmosphere delivered to us from Danny Pang, and his direction proves great throughout the film. His editing and beautiful sets are a true treat to watch that left me feeling as if I were watching a film with the sole purpose of displaying nature’s beauty. The character performances are top notch as well, and this flick had my devout interest for at least the first 2/3 of the film.
So what is the problem with this film? Well…once the third act kicks in the storyline crumbles quicker than poorly placed Jenga blocks. What WAS an awesoem story turns into a lame and cliché outro that left me dissatisfied and very disappointed that a film with so much potential took such a poor route. For one, this flick takes place in a creepy yet beautiful forest that has much potential in setting up great scres butis only used to give us the poor outro and a few interesting scenes thrown in here and there. I expected to really enjoy the biological science aspect in this film at the hands of the botanist and for the most part, I did. I did have problems with this element from time to time simply because it came off to me as something just to watch, and not understand. The cool lab scenes and science that Shum Shu-hoi brings to us was never fully manifested but seemed to just be thrown into the film for aesthetic purposes, and with very little to no substance whatsoever.
But wait…there is more. The character usage was a letdown to me because once again there was much potential that was not tapped into. We get hints here and there that Shum’s girlfriend is going to cause a ruckus over the fact that he is spending so much time with Det. C. C. Ha, but not even the slightest of ruckuses every occurred. Normally I care little for this type of jealousy character play, but I found myself yearning for in it in this film simply because we get NO character conflict whatsoever. If a film leaves me seeking even a cliché and overused “jealous girlfriend” element due to the lack of character conflict then the script has some major problems in that area.
Do not get me wrong though, this is a finely executed piece that just unfortunately comes with a storyline that cannot hold its own. Up until the story-crumbling third act kicked in I was really enjoying this film, but everything that I was enjoying never manifested to anything special in the third act, which left me to feel that this film is simply nothing more than wasted talent and effort.
Overall, this is a mediocre watch that could have been really great but ultimately amounts to nothing special thanks to a poorly written story. The direction is great, but even this film’s great direction can only amount to so much with a storyline that does nothing but hinder the experience.