“Horror in the Forest,” directed by Brendan Rudnicki, presents itself as another entry in the found footage style films particularly from the horror genre.
While the film initially dares to tread on well-worn ground, it manages to find its voice and deliver an engaging and atmospheric experience that is likely to satisfy some fans of the genre.
The story revolves around a group of documentarians, led by Georgie (played by Alexa Lauren), Bo (played by Andrew Thomas), and Stephan (played by Dylan DeVane), who venture into the enigmatic Rudwick Forest to unravel its mysteries.
The real mission is to find answers to the forest’s history of its unexplained cases of missing persons. They start by interviewing locals, seeking information about the fabled witch and the series of missing children. Admittedly, the setup feels familiar, echoing the hallmarks of found footage films that came before it. Particularly, it has a striking semblance to the widely known “The Blair Witch Project“.
Rudnicki’s film manages to create and sustain tension by evoking a sense of unease, particularly through its well-executed night shoots with very minimal lighting. Your imagination runs wild as you are led to expect something eerie to happen at almost every turn.
As the film progresses, it takes a compelling turn with the introduction of Nelson ( played by Jim Johnson), a grieving father who tragically lost his daughter during a hiking trip. Nelson firmly believes he can summon the witch and coerce her into returning his beloved child. This unexpected twist injects fresh energy into the narrative, propelling the story beyond mere formulaic scares as he becomes the film’s antagonist.
The overall acting performances work well for this film, the story, style and genre. All the actors deliver well enough providing the needed characterizations that help propel the story.
While “Horror in the Forest” may not break new ground within the found footage subgenre, it skillfully capitalizes on established expectations. The first half of the film, while reminiscent of its predecessors, succeeds in establishing an eerie atmosphere that lingers in viewers’ minds. Almost as though you are being prepared for something monumental. Even with this, the jump scares seem almost very predictable which takes quite a bit away from this film being scary.
The film’s pacing, however, occasionally feels sluggish making it easy for you to be distracted by other things that might take your attention off the film. Yet, it is during the second half that the film truly comes into its own, venturing into unexplored territory and establishing a distinct identity within the genre.
Director Rudnicki demonstrates an understanding of the limitations inherent in the found footage format. Rather than relying on flashy digital effects or gratuitous scares, he opts for a more restrained approach, allowing tension to build organically. This decision pays off, as the film’s genuinely creepy moments stem from a well-crafted atmosphere and a sense of impending dread. Rudnicki’s visual storytelling and attention to detail effectively immerse viewers in the chilling environment of the forest.
While “Horror in the Forest” does bear similarities to “The Blair Witch Project,” it manages to clear its own path through its thematic exploration of grief, loss, and the supernatural. It delves into the emotional toll experienced by those touched by tragedy, offering a deeper layer to the scares. The film’s ability to infuse its horror elements with substance elevates it from a mere scare-fest to a thought-provoking experience.
In the end “Horror in the Forest” strikes a balance between familiarity and originality within the found footage genre. While its initial setup may feel derivative, the film finds its footing and delivers an engaging and atmospheric adventure.
I would rate this film 6/10.
The effective use of visuals, commendable performances, and the injection of emotional depth through its characters and themes make it a worthwhile addition to the genre. Although not groundbreaking, “Horror in the Forest” offers a solid fright-filled journey through the woods that is enough to satisfy some fans of late-night thrills.