After visiting a supposedly haunted forest, a teen girl comes to believe that a violent poltergeist followed her home and is stalking her.
I love scary movies. The original “Poltergeist” and “The Fog” are my two favorite ghost stories of all-time and while there are other well-made horror films out there, directors Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter both created extraordinary atmospheres of suburban life in the 1980s that has yet to be surpassed. You could literally feel how people were living their lives back then and the sad thing about so-called ‘scary’ movies these days, is that for the most part, they do not rely on atmosphere any more, rather, they prefer to use cheap scares and an overabundance of extraneous blood and gore. I’ve always been of the mindset that we don’t necessarily have to see someone being ripped apart or tortured, implying that it is happening and not showing it can sometimes more scary than actually witnessing it.
I give kudos to director Stephen McKendree for at least trying to build suspense and uncertainty in his movie “The Poltergeist of Borley Forest” and for not making yet another teen slasher movie. The events surround a young woman, Paige (Marina Petrano), who is supposed to be sleeping over at a friend’s house but instead, she and her friends are in the woods partying with older college kids. Paige is uncomfortable being there and quickly becomes restless. She decides to leave but has to track down one of her friends to drive her home. While walking through the forest, she comes across a tree with a rope hanging from one of its branches and when she touches it, she is forced to the ground and immediately begins to feel apprehensive and afraid.
Her friends find her and after they drop her home, she brushes off the anxiety she sensed in the woods but soon thereafter, she begins to experience strange anomalies and her life becomes a living nightmare. At night, she is awoken for no apparent reason but then she begins to see a shadowy figure in her room and over time, the figure becomes more distinct until she is able to make out the facial features of a young man. After it attacks her and her friends one night, they decide to do some research at the local library about the origins of Borley Forest. They discover that it was once an ancient burial ground and that in the 1960s, several people from the neighborhood disappeared there and that a young man, matching the description of the spirit Paige saw, was hanged as the main suspect.
With this in mind and the help of a medium, Paige and her friends must make their way back to Borley Forest one last time, in hopes of stopping the supernatural being before he takes any more lives. The forest itself serves as a good backdrop for an eerie setting, the only problem is, the movie is not scary. We see shadows and quick glimpses of faces intermittently and while initially this is somewhat effective, after a while it quickly becomes tiresome and uninteresting. I know with a limited budget that special effects are in short supply but that’s also an opportunity for the filmmakers to improvise. A good scary movie is successful when it can creep you out with the mere mention of a suggestion or a foreshadowing. The “Final Destination” movies are perfect examples of this.
We know that the characters are going to die and we know that they could perish as a result of something as simple as a hairpin dropping onto the floor or crossing the street at a busy intersection but we don’t know when and this is the power of suggestion, something I feel this movie could have greatly benefited from. Instead of genuine fear and a sense of foreboding, the film becomes trapped in repetition as Paige endures the exact same experience night after night. She wakes up but sees nothing but then the next night, she wakes up and thinks she sees an apparition but isn’t sure and the following evening, she grapples with the spirit until it disappears. You never feel a real sense of danger and a large part of that is due to the fact that the cast consists mainly of inexperienced actors.
Fear and apprehension can be created utilizing a multitude of elements including, but not limited to, subtle lighting techniques and creative camera angles but the other half of that equation, is the performance. While the setting might look scary, if the character in the shot is not convincing then the entire scene fails. And sadly, that is the case for the majority of this film. With an entire forest at the director’s behest, the acting, or lack thereof, take away from what could have been some genuinely creepy moments. Marina Petrano, who plays Paige, the lead character, looks like a youthful Lindsay Lohan and while many might scoff at that comparison, at least Ms. Lohan, when she was younger, could act.
Available on Digital Video and DVD June 2nd
For more info on James visit his website at www.IrishFilmCritic.com