Good Backwoods Horror Will Not Be Found In The Forest (2022)
Title: In the Forest
First Non-Festival Release: January 28, 2022 (Limited Theatrical Release)
Director: Hector Barron
Writer: Hector Barron
Runtime: 83 Minutes
Starring: Debbon Ayer, Lyman Ward, Cristina Spruell
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Helen (Debbon Ayer) is at her wit’s end while on a camping trip with her father (Lyman Ward) and daughter Emily (Cristina Spruell). After they find the perfect campsite, they are approached by a landowner (Don Baldaramos) informing them they are on private property and that they must leave at once. Their bickering reaches new heights when they are left stranded in the woods due to their RV getting stuck in a hole. Helen goes off to find the grumpy man, leaving behind her family. When she reaches his house, she learns that he has good reason to warn passerby.
Tedious and simplistic, In the Forest is a humdrum horror film devoid of originality and thrills.
Each reveal in In the Forest proves to be less interesting than the last as every thread brings the film closer to familiar territory before its inevitable conclusion. It’s almost impressive In the Woods hits every trope possible for a tame horror thriller, that it almost feels AI generated. With these little twists coming in at 15-minute intervals, its predictability makes it more eyeroll worthy than endearing. What’s worse is that many other questions raised by these revelations are left unanswered. Typically, that would be fine for a more heady film but for a stripped-to-the-bone thriller one expects more answers than questions by the finale.
Most of the cast fails to make their characters or actions seem believable or authentic. The closest to achieving this feat is child actor Mathew Odette in his role of Andrew. Odette has a certain spark on screen and gives life to the paper-thin dialogue written for him. His motivations always seem teetering between the innocent and the sinister which makes him a solid focal point of the conflict for most of the film. It doesn’t help that the flat characterizations of the core cast leave much to be desired too. The growth is mostly one note and there is barely any full circle moment in the character’s journeys. Each character serves their purpose until they are killed in the least exciting ways possible.
Without major rewrites to the script, there isn’t much that can save In the Forest. Flat, dull, and poorly placed, this backwoods thriller takes the bare bones of a twisty horror film and makes it as conventional as possible. Even the score in the climax feels off, as if it is meant for a much more comic or fun film, not for the end of a mysterious backwoods horror that In the Forest aspires to be.
It would be lying to say there is no grain of positivity within In the Forest. There are quite a few nice shots of the forest and interior of the home. The home particularly is a solid yet underutilized set piece that provides a few scenes that have the potential to be truly tense with a few tweaks. Again, Odette is a bright spot in the cast and his character shines. Should he get the attention he needs to continue honing his craft, there is a bright future for him should he take that path.
What is most irritating about In the Forest is its commitment to generic backwoods horror tropes and cliches. Pretty much every twist in the story has been done to death and its lack of subversion feels more dated than novel. Rough dialogue, poor characterization, and wooden acting makes the overall experience dull and tiresome. Low budget horror films need to have something special to stick out amongst the vast swaths of releases. In the Forest fails to break free from the constraints of its limitations. You’ll more than likely be a happy camper if you avoid this one but if nature calls feel free to answer it at your own risk.
Overall Score? 3/10