Shelley Duvall

Shelley Duvall’s Return to Acting: ‘THE FOREST HILLS’ – Spoiler-Free Review

In 2022, the news broke out that Shelley Duvall (The Shining, 1980) would be returning to acting for the first time in two decades. Duvall’s career briefly died out in a whisper with her 2002 movie Manna from Heaven. Afterwards, Duvall battled mental health issues and avoided Hollywood; resorting to a quiet life in Texas. This silence was broken with a loud ear-piercing scream of an infamous Dr. Phil interview in 2016. Thousands were outraged that Dr. Phil would expose the vulnerable actress, using the excuse of “helping her.” After the interview, the actress went quiet again… Until now.

Shelley Duvall

Scott Goldberg’s The Forest Hills follows Rico (Chiko Mendez: Smothered by Mothers, 2019), a penniless man who is tormented by nightmarish visions after a blow to the head while in the Catskill woods. Rico battles with his mental health, questioning what is real and what is fake, all while his family and friends beg for him to get help. One recurring delusion persists above all; that of a blood-thirsty werewolf. This was a movie I was following the production on for quite some time. It was being filmed local to me and had Shelley Duvall attached to it, so I was excited to see it. I was lucky enough to attend the world premiere of the film, held at Kevin Smith’s very own Smodcastle Cinemas.

It would be unfair to compare an independent film like this to a multi-million dollar budget movie. That being said, I think it delivered everything it promised. When talking with Goldberg, he said he wanted to deliver a unique werewolf story that wasn’t as cheesy as those in the past (we’re looking at you, An American Werewolf In Paris). Now, I am a sucker for a good werewolf movie. Hell, Silver Bullet is a top five Stephen King movie for me. However, unlike Silver Bullet, the werewolf looks halfway decent in this movie. I just wish we got to see more of it.

The storyline is told in a rubber-reality type way, making the viewer question what is really happening. Mixing the rubber-reality and werewolf horror subgenres was definitely a ballsy choice on behalf of Goldberg, but it works for the most part. I didn’t know if Rico was seeing the werewolf, if he was really the werewolf, or if there was even a werewolf at all. 

The Forest Hills

A problem I have with most independent films is that they take themselves too seriously. The Forest Hills doesn’t have that problem. In fact, it has some great comedic bits in it. One particular moment involving a knife and a jar of peanut butter got the entire theater laughing, myself included. There are some scenes in this movie that are so ridiculous that it’s impossible not to smile. Half-naked men covered in blood and taboo lines of dialogue aplenty.

The kills in this movie are nothing to write home about. Most of them, happening very close together, are mostly simple stabbings or asphyxiations. The practical effects, on the other hand, are done really well. One dream sequence in particular that happens around a campfire was very impressive to watch. It reminded me of the effects seen in An American Werewolf in London.

The thing I liked most about this movie was the cast. It’s a film oozing with horror royalty, like Dee Wallace (The Howling, 1981), Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp, 1983), Stacey Nelkin (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, 1982), Marianne Hagan (Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, 1995), and, most notably, Edward Furlong (Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 1991). Their roles vary from supporting characters to cameos. Horror movie fanatics will have a ball seeing all these icons in the same movie. The Forest Hills made me realize how badly Edward Furlong needs to make a comeback to mainstream titles. He still has the ability to win over hearts, playing a flawed yet likable character.

As for Shelley Duvall, she is only in the movie for a brief period of time. She is seen in the opening as well sprinkled here and there throughout. It’s truly amazing to see her in a movie again. She plays Rico’s less-than-perfect mother, who seems one cigarette away from “till death do us part.” She sets the movie into action, giving reason for some of Rico’s mental troubles as well as his familial turmoil.

With an original story and the influx of horror actors, The Forest Hills was an enjoyable watch. It’s films like this that inspire young filmmakers by showing a big budget isn’t needed to make a good movie. The film isn’t afraid to make you use your head; think Donnie Darko meets An American Werewolf In London. While Duvall’s return to cinema was the biggest selling point for this movie, I think this forest has a lot more elements worth exploring for yourself.

About Cameron Clauson

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