When I first received Black Forest in the mail, I had no idea what to expect. I went into this movie nearly blind. All I knew was that Distant Field Productions’s David Briggs had directed it and that there were girls and possible a forest involved in some way. But girls and some trees does not a horror movie make. Was Black Forest an undiscovered gem or was there a reason why I hadn’t heard of it?
The official synopsis:
Best friends Bree and Jess plan a beautiful summer canoe trip in Northern Ontario only to encounter a nightmare beyond comprehension after meeting, Isaac, a strange man with twisted visions of post-apocalyptic survival.
Briggs (Blood Night 2016) both wrote and directed the piece, which was filmed in his native Ontario, Canada. The film stars Antibirth‘s (2016) Marie-Josee Dionne, Jayson Stewart (The Pasta Killer! 2016), Callam Rodya (Beautiful Monster 2014), The Void‘s (2016) Trish Rainone, and newcomer France Huot. The special effects were created by Jessica Kivi (REZilience 2016) while the original music and score was composed by Dan Bowey. Torin Langen (Late Night Double Feature 2016) was in charge of the cinematography.
What works in Black Forest:
There are quite a few things I want to mention here. Let me start with the special FX by Jessica Kiva. As a gorehound, I always notice a movie’s FX, most notably the look of the blood. There are many horror movies out there – even Hollywood level horror films – that use a very basic blood recipe that looks the same no matter what movie it’s been used in. The blood in Black Forest, especially the blood in the opening scene with the slaughtered hikers, is spot on. I do not give that compliment lightly. I’ve seen a lot of real blood in my life and I know what it looks like. The blood used in Black Forest was gorgeous and near perfect.
I was also very impressed by the acting, especially Callam Rodya and Marie-Josee Dionne. Rodya’s portrayal of a bloodthirsty psychopath who also must deal with his own personal problems was excellent. Dionne was forced to carry a lot of the storyline on her shoulders and she was able to portray Bree with both strength and vulnerability. I honestly can’t tell if Trish Rainone was extraordinary as the shell-shocked kidnap victim May Iris or if she just didn’t emote very well, so it’s hard to give an opinion on her. Jayson Stewart also did a phenomenal job, making Isaac both a scary and sympathetic character. I absolutely loved the characters of the pot dealer and Eddie the Engineer. These two need their own film stat!
I liked that the kidnappers were not just some one-note psychos who want to maim and kill just for the sake of seeing people suffer. These guys had reasons for their actions, as twisted as they may be. The combination of the women’s torture with the sexual fetish dreams was original and really made me think about the kind of people that have these kind of “tie me up and strangle me” fantasies.
What didn’t work in Black Forest:
I couldn’t stand the uneven camera work. It was as if the cameraman was just running around, jumping over logs and tripping in potholes. It wasn’t really shaky cam in the fact that I don’t think it was done on purpose. I think with some more experience, Torin Langen may have an excellent career ahead of his if he just gets himself a steadicam. I was also a bit confused by the seemingly arbitrary things edited into scenes. I understand that they were supposed to help set the mood, but I wasn’t a fan of having my viewing experience interrupted by shots of random woods or houses.
When I heard about Bree’s brother in the beginning of the movie, I was excited to hear about his crimes and hoped it had something to do with the story. Alas, once she set out on the canoe trip, we never heard about Bree’s jailed brother again. This was pretty disappointing. Why even mention him? The editing could have been a bit tighter. Some conversations went on too long and some scenes and shots were unneeded, but this will come with time for Briggs, who I think has a fantastic career ahead of him. The few things I nitpicked about are easily fixed, but an imagination and passion for horror as well as original stories cannot be taught or learned.
I though Black Forest was an original film with enough twists and turns to keep me hopping during its feature length running time. I was pretty impressed with the added touches that Briggs added to make Black Forest a standout film in a long list of kidnapping and torture movies. If you’re in the mood for some realistic gore and horrifying cat and mouse game, be sure to check out Black Forest!