Movie Review: Forest of Death

Forest of Death is the latest horror from filmmakers, Brendan and Kellan Rudnicki. Having produced thirteen horror movies since it was launched in 2017, the prolific DBS Films indie horror studio draws cast and crew from within its community in order to make horror happen fast and on a tight budget. This community-driven approach and efficient shooting style has turned their love for low budget horror movies into much more than a family affair, gathering talents together with complete creative control.

It’s important to give context to films like Forest of Death. Produced on a micro budget, this horror isn’t aiming for the artistry of elevated horror but rather trying to take viewers on a satisfying horror journey. One of the genres that tends to work better with limited resources and when it’s not over-produced, it’s a smart choice for an tight-knit studio. The overall quality of the productions is directly proportional to the guerilla style shooting technique, speedy development and community focus.

Forest of Death tracks the misadventures of four friends who rent accommodation for a relaxing weekend only to discover the cabin’s dark secret and lurking evil presence. The film stars Dylan DeVane, Stephanie Kirves, Chloë Marie Rhoades, Tyler Miller and Benjamin L. Newmark. While the thin script doesn’t give the actors much to work with, their casting helps as they take ownership of their characters with emphatic performances. The perfunctory dialogue is enough to keep the story moving along but it would be interesting to see what ad-libbing would bring to the film, much like Uwe Boll’s experimentation with 1968 Tunnel Rats.

While the performances are limited based on fairly straightforward roles, Rhoades and Miller brandish their character’s loud personalities with film star looks, while DeVane and Kirves contrast this energy with a more introverted, subdued and thoughtful presence. Hovering between Pauly Shore and Bradley Cooper, it’s Newark’s turn as the cantankerous, thorny and unpredictable Roger that stirs things up quite beautifully.

forest of death movie

“Is anybody out there?”

As with many of their films, Forest of Death leans quite heavily on the genre’s trappings, delivering a cliched cabin in the woods tale. While it’s rather limited in terms of film finesse, there’s a good energy and understanding to the horror with several regulars coming into play. The horror whips through scenes to cut to the chase, keeping up a clipped pace only to check in at a brisk 70 minutes. Starting with an opening gambit and prelude to the arrival of a new group of unsuspecting young people, things progress with a hop, skip and a jump. Crash-landing audiences in a familiar territory with an evil forest just beyond the safety of the campfire, the story unfolds as the woods become a character.

As you may expect, jump cuts are Forest of Death’s go-to choice for scares. There’s a slow build in terms of the characters, teasing out the horror element with some restraint after a fairly gory introduction. When things fall apart, there’s a strong burst of blood-letting as the body count stacks up. Using visual effects sparingly, there’s an attempt to leverage shadows and imagination with a few spooky uninvited guests to up the creep factor.

While the filmmakers keep things on the boil in terms of pushing the story along, there’s not much time to dwell or take stock, content to forge ahead with a superficial blend of action and emotion. The thin script and rushed shooting style leaves little room for nuance or subtext, which while possibly less important in horror, still offer the dramatic texture so sorely missed when going pedestrian. These touches would certainly enhance the overall offering and tap into a deeper level of psychological horror.

Forest of Death isn’t unwatchable and has its indie charms but isn’t aiming high from the get-go. Content to deliver a brand of low budget horror that relies on the genre’s tropes, the craft is more production line orientated than about showcase. The team spirit bubbles under and it seems as though the cast and crew had fun with the production. While doing their best within the parameters, it leaves much to be desired.

Much like its uninspired title, Forest of Death has promise and aims to entertain but ultimately collapses to its rush job execution and low expectations. While the filmmakers have picked up some good tips and tricks over the course of their micro budget productions, it would be interesting to see what could be achieved with a bit more spit and polish in terms of writing when it comes to concept, characters and story. There’s no shortage of passion, but a few key changes could go a long way to getting their indie horrors into the realm of The Blair Witch Project, Creep, Monsters and Paranormal Activity.

The bottom line: Slapdash