An excerpt of a suicide note is how The Forest of the Lost Souls starts, from first feature director and writer José Pedro Lopes (World of Death ), with his Portuguese flick done in black and white. This arthouse horror drama gives deep penetrating drama, depressive however, this movie simmers slowly, with a limited cast, as it swirls on the subject of suicide and grief. Early on one can tell Lopes works to create a calm mood and by extension an atmosphere for discussing suicide without glamorizing it and wanting to upset any viewer. One important element of this movie focuses on the arthouse concept, that was recently seen in Hereditary (2018), but popular classic found in the subgenre for example Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Don’t Look Now (1973), Angel Heart (1987), and Raw (2016). A quick note The Forest of the Lost Souls, is a truly fictional place with no relation to Sea of Trees formally known as Aokigahara (the suicide forest) in Japan, in which the American supernatural horror The Forest (2016) plays on those suicide themes. Of course, this review will work to hide and refrain from any spoilers, since discovering on your own is better and much more fun, lastly an interesting treat this movie distributed by Wild Eye Releasing who made it their theatrical debut too.
The film starts in the forest, known as a prominent place for suicide, the audience quickly learns it’s a foreign horror movie, language spoken is Portuguese, but the English subtitles are easily read and don’t interfere with the viewing, nor rushed to read them. Over the next couple minutes, we learn about the two lead actors, first Ricardo (Jorge Mota) a middle-aged man who reached his breaking point, thoroughly done with life. While he’s not alone, blessed with a daughter Filipa (Mafalda Banquart), and caring wife, he believes he’s more of burden on them and lived a life of disappointment and letdown. Ricardo believes he’s planned for everything to work out just right. Then along the path, he finds Carolina (Daniela Love), perched on a rock, looking down at him, a chance meeting or fate, time reveals all answers but does either have that much time? They walk together, taking in a journey discussing their passions, losses, triumphs and sadness, though at moments they appear to engage in mismatch behaviors, on the subject of suicide. Carolina roughly the same age as Ricardo’s daughter, who she too plans to end her own life within the forest, however he’s very much against it, trying to plea with her to reconsider, telling her she’s too young and sadness hurts others. Carolina states that this is not her first time in the forest, she’s watched other die, an attraction to death or something darker. A few problems face Ricardo has no note and never determined how difficult it would be to actually stab himself in the stomach. How to solve his dilemmas, watch and learn the secrets in death.
The lack of color fits the dismal topic very well, implying the draining of life, from vibrant to mundane, and supported nicely by good sound design. The movie definitely embraces the arthouse storytelling with layered suspense and misdirection, luring the viewers deeper into both the lives of Ricardo and Carolina as well as the forest itself, trapping them in the confines. The implantation of quotes in the beginning of a horror film is nothing new, but when that messages transcend from words to later images it adds another level, achieve herein with “The sadness last forever” a crafty maneuver.
The movie works for those who enjoy their horror multi-layered, and well disguised with twists and suspense dominating their scenes, while willing to explore past their safety zones in the genre. It at times reminded me of the Criminal Minds episode “A Higher Power” from April 2008, where an Angel of Death works to increase the suicide rate, which incidentally in 2016 Portugal reported a spike in the number of suicides in the country, causing an awful situation and panic. Therefore, make your decision wisely whether to enjoy the visuals or pass on the sadness.
- Sadness will last forever.
- Two strangers meet in the world’s saddest place, but one of them is happy to be there.
- The saddest place in the world. And she is happy to be there.
IMDb Rating: 5.5/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.5/10