Oh, “Horrors of Netflix”, how I missed you while I was away on vacation! It’s so nice to be back and browsing all the awful, terrible, and ridiculous selections you have for me to choose from.
With just a few days left until Halloween (this month went by too quickly! Nooooo!) I wanted to get a couple more movies in this year’s series before HoN signs off until next October. I’ve covered ghosts, vampires, Val Kilmer, and hillbilly-eating-pits-in-the-ground- so I thought I’d choose something a little different this time around and check out 2012’s ‘Black Forest’, a sci-fi/fantasy/fairy tale horror movie with a 1 1/2 star rating.
The synopsis, via Netflix:
“When tourists visit a European village and agree to observe a pagan ritual in the forest, they become trapped in an alternate fairy tale dimension.”
This sounds like it’s going to be filled with terrible decision making and even more terrible special effects. Let’s get into it, shall we?
And- of course- there are spoilers ahead! If, for whatever reason, you want to watch “Black Forest” for yourself (and why wouldn’t you?) THEN DO NOT CLICK THE “CONTINUE READING” TAB. I REPEAT. DO NOT PROCEED.
You’ve been warned!
Barely two minutes into “Black Forest” and the movie’s low budget and insane premise is already made pretty obvious. After a brief, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it animated/cartoon opening credits sequence, we are introduced to two characters- a man and a woman- who are running from an unknown threat in the middle of the woods. They find their car, which is inexplicably parked in the woods, too- and of course they have trouble getting it started- because why wouldn’t they?
A large bird hits the roof for some reason, denting it as the pair struggle to turn the key in the ignition- and then- out of the blue and in the most incredible display of patchy, amateur CGI I’ve ever seen- the girl TURNS INTO A GIGANTIC RAVEN. Just- out of nowhere! And then, like any raven- she presumably murders the guy in the car with her instead of flying off to pick up shiny objects from the side of the road or rip apart someone’s trash bin or something. I’m not quite sure what ravens do but I DO know that they don’t murder people.
Cut to a bar just outside the “Black Forest”, where one man who seems to be doing a poor man’s Liam Neeson impression (it’s Ben Cross, who is too good for this movie) is telling the story of the raven-girl-scene-we-just-saw to another guy- a former Doctor- over a pint of beer. Turns out it’s a popular horror story among the locals- and it leads up to second rate Liam Neeson telling his drinking buddy that the following night is mid-Summer’s Eve- and paranormal activity is at an all-time high because of it.
The Liam Neeson imposter (actually named Cazmar, if that’s not enough of a reason all on it’s own not to trust him) is a tour guide, who takes travelers to a special spot in the forest during mid-Summer’s Eve to see some of the otherworldly shit. He invites the Doctor via his calling card/invitation- which is nothing more than a dirty looking feather. Later that night, the Doctor has a dream about who I’m assuming his his ailing/possibly dead wife- before he too, begins to turn into a raven, and wakes up abruptly in a cold sweat.
The following day, we meet Anderson- who is preparing to surprise his wife Hannah with divorce papers upon their return home from their current vacation in Germany because he’s a gigantic douchebag. The Doctor meets them outside, seemingly for the first time, and it’s revealed that they will be embarking on Cazmar’s tour of the Black Forest after all. I’d like to add that Hannah is holding a small child and seems genuinely excited to spend the evening in the woods with her husband- which further proves my point that Anderson is horrible and must be murdered as quickly as possible.
The trio are soon joined by two nerdy guys that have yet to be named (although one of them is Amanda Bynes’ love interest in “What a Girl Wants”, so there’s that) and Anderson & Hannah’s nanny- Amber- who is wearing the most impractical shoes and skirt I’ve ever seen for a day spent in the forest. I digress- the group heads out in Cazmar’s murder-y van.
During the drive to their destination- we learn a little more about the nerdy guys- who are so over-the-top and exaggerated that they make Eugene from ‘The Walking Dead’ look like Rambo in comparison. We also see the many facets of Amber’s personality- like giggling moron and, uh- giggling moron. Once the van stops pretty close to a hill with Stonehenge-like rock formations, the group set off for their twilight ritual. Although arriving during what looks like the early afternoon, it takes them like five hours to reach the formation for some reason because by the time they get there- it’s dark out.
Per Cazmar’s instructions, the group form a circle and join hands. Within no time at all- a choppy CGI, purple fairy appears- and encourages Hannah to break the circle in order to come closer to her. Once Hannah does, the fairy punches her in the face and disappears with Hannah and Anderson’s baby- and Cazmar- prompting the group to take off into the woods to search for them. I noticed that no one seemed particularly worried or concerned about any of the strange events unfolding before them- even when they come across the car from the first scene in the movie- which clearly has the skeletal remains of the guy who got killed by the weird raven-lady in it.
They don’t even ask questions when a random goat walks by them while they’re investigating the car. They just follow it to a weird looking house. This is the most carefree group I’ve ever seen in a “horror” movie- especially when a baby has been kidnapped.
At the weird house, where the decor is CLEARLY inspired by various children’s fairy tales- the group splits up BECAUSE WHY NOT. Hannah thinks she hears her baby crying upstairs and takes off where she is subsequently attacked by a spinster lady to meet a “Sleeping Beauty” type fate on the sharp end of a spinning wheel and falls into a coma- and Amber goes to investigate an adjacent room where she finds seven empty beds and decides it’s as good time as ever to take a nap- again- BECAUSE WHY NOT- and is then attacked by the seven tiny escaped convicts:
The seven dwarfs actually end up eating her- which is something I didn’t expect in what has been a kinda’ tame, PG-13 movie so far- so it’s pretty damned funny. The remaining group tries to help, and are suddenly aided by some strange woman who shows up out of nowhere to drive the remaining dwarfs back and out of the house. One of the nerdy guys (not the one from “What a Girl Wants”) chases them- BECAUSE WHY NOT- and he’s eaten by a terrible CGI wolf almost instantly. It’s incredible.
The woman who has helped, and who I thought would have an interesting, mystical name (but is actually named Karen), explains that she’s been living in the forest for a long time- so long, in fact- that she knows all the tricks to survive and outsmart the attacking fairy tale creatures and that dickhead Cazmar who led them all there in the first place. She convinces the group to stay the night and leave in the morning to find Anderson and Hannah’s baby when they have daylight on their side. They listen- until first thing in the morning, anyway- when Anderson decides to head out on his own after admitting he’s been a jackass to his comatose wife.
…………. Because why not? That’s essentially the reoccurring theme to this movie.
When The Doctor and the kid from “What a Girl Wants” are awake shortly thereafter, they watch Karen place bowls of cream (from that goat we saw earlier) around the corners of the rooms as a way to appease elves or some shit. The Doctor decides to test this on his own, as opposed to- I don’t know- looking for Anderson, trying to get Hannah to wake up, finding the stolen baby, looking for a way out of this Godforsaken area, literally ANYTHING but this- but he wastes the time anyway. Placing a glass container of creamer in a bedroom- he watches as it disappears and then goes to try and find it and/or whoever took it.
Instead, he finds another room with a super spooky $10.99 Party City skeleton in a bathtub, surrounded by cobwebs- that is apparently supposed to represent Little Miss Muffet. He gets attacked by spiders that weren’t there 2 seconds earlier, but okay. After escaping the room and getting patched up- he FINALLY decides that going out and actually making an effort to find the others and/or help would be the next obvious step. He has an awkward exchange with Karen prior to leaving- since she is apparently the exact image of his dead wife (I didn’t quite see the resemblance in the earlier flashback)– while Anderson is shown being completely useless in the woods.
Eventually, Anderson sees the goat- who is the real MVP in this movie- and follows him to some weird cottage in the woods where a creepy old woman is baking in the kitchen and singing completely off-key to the point where it’s painful to listen to. Anderson explains his plight to her, and she offers to help him in exchange for him putting some firewood in her stove. You all see where this is going, right? She tries to kill him- and the two engage in some serious Mortal Kombat style fighting (Anderson even gets his finger bit off) before the 90-year old woman somehow gets the upper hand and knocks his ass out.
Back at the house/inn, Karen and Amanda Bynes’ ex have a brief and boring conversation about fairy tales until Cazmar shows up. Karen meets him outside and it’s revealed that the two have a pact. She looks after the inn and leads anyone who enters to their deaths- and in exchange- she is protected by the forest creatures. However, he notices that she is particularly attached to this group, especially the Doctor- but Cazmar threatens and intimidates her into doing what they’ve agreed upon even though the only real show of force and power he’s had up until this point was disappearing with Anderson and Hannah’s baby. Other than that- he’s kind of lame.
The Doctor discovers the old woman’s cabin where Anderson disappeared, and what I assume is left of Anderson:
Before he can head back to the others, there’s some kind of electrical storm and solar eclipse that makes absolutely no sense in a movie that is spiraling so out of control I can’t keep up. “What a Girl Wants” kid rescues the Doctor in the forest and they head back to the house/inn. They are followed by an entity that has taken Anderson’s form- and who they let in even though the Doctor saw actual sausage links made out of him no less than five minutes earlier- and he attacks them as predicted, but not before kissing Hannah- who wakes up somehow even though it hardly qualifies as “true love’s kiss.”
Karen kills him, thus breaking her pact with Cazmar- and then gives her long and boring backstory about how she came to live in the forest after being kidnapped as a child and how she takes on the form of something/someone comforting to all who enter the inn as a way to get them to lower their guard and trust her. In this case, it’s the Doctor’s wife. She agrees to help the remaining members of the group rescue Hannah’s baby- who has been taken by the faeries who abducted her when she was young- and who thrive on and draw power from people believing in them.
It’s like that Tim Allen ‘Santa Clause’ movie all over again except with way worse special effects and no flying reindeer.
While the group look for something to give them some leverage when they finally confront whatever the stupid villains are in this movie- Hannah takes off on her own even though it has been proven time and time again that it’s a terrible idea- and not before grabbing a red cloak that she ties over her head. Get it? Get ittttttt?
It should come as no surprise to anyone that she meets a Goddamned wolf two seconds later. He’s surprisingly compliant with her begging and pleading, though- leading her to the crazy old lady who cooked Anderson, and a tree full of bassinets. While Hannah starts climbing the tree to try and find her daughter, elsewhere The Doctor, Karen, and what’s-his-name are dealing with a bridge troll and another witch that has blocked their path to getting an axe they need to ram through Cazmar’s face or something. It’s a boring and irritating scene- especially when they try to answer the stupid witch’s riddle- but when they do, Cazmar appears- and Jesus Christ- is this almost over? This is unbearably long.
The final confrontation between Cazmar and the remaining members of the group lasts approximately 30 unfulfilling and anticlimactic seconds before Hannah, who can somehow now teleport from location to location, appears and kills him while he’s in wolf form. The only casualty is Karen- who gets her throat slit- and as Cazmar’s faerie friends come to his aid, the Doctor urges Amanda Bynes’ ex to leave with Hannah and her baby (wait- she managed to find her kid? How?) while he stays behind to fend off the advancing forces.
The following day, Hannah, what’s-his-face, and the baby stumble upon a tour group once they make it back to town where they plead for help and try to explain what has happened to them. One of the tour guides seems genuinely surprised to hear who they are- and tells them that they’ve been missing in the woods for 15 years. They, the others, and where they disappeared to has become a fairy tales among the locals.
There’s your big twist. Try to swallow that nonsense down.
The final twist, and the last scene of the movie- involves the Doctor- who has now taken Karen’s place in what I think is the fairy tale world- where tells unsuspecting tourists the tale of how he’s essentially trapped there for all of eternity or something. I don’t know. This was an awful experience from start to finish.
The true origins of children’s fairy tales are typically horrifying in their own right (kids getting cooked in ovens? Wolves eating grandmas? Nightmare fuel) and a movie based around their devious premises MAY have been entertaining- but this film was beyond cheap, beyond cheesy, and made absolutely zero sense whatsoever.
It also felt about four hours longer than it’s actual hour and 20-something minute running time.
I’m gonna’ have to go watch Ben Cross in ‘Star Trek’ to try and get this one out of my brain.