Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

From the Pang Brothers, the team that made an international name for themselves by bringing us the quiet but creepy ‘The Eye’, comes their latest production ‘Forest of Death’.  One may think initially that ‘Forest of Death’ is one these weird, get under your skin Asian horror movies along the lines of ‘Ju-On’, ‘Séance’ or ‘Ringu’, but one would be sorely mistaken in that assumption, despite the presence of the Pang Brothers name.  I don’t know what exactly ‘Forest of Death’ is.  Slow-moving?  Yes.  Creepy, involving, or scary?  No even close.  Dull and overly complicated?   Certainly. 

Somewhere where this particular film takes place, there is a forest where people like to go kill to themselves, and as such this forest has received the moniker the Forest of Death.  But some folks who have ventured into these deep woods to end their lives report seeing weird things happening just before they were set to do the deed, such as a sudden fog and the appearance of people in white.  Suddenly after seeing these things, these people have decided that life is like cool and hightail it the hell outta them deadly woods.  Rain Li plays tabloid style entertainment reporter May who is reporting all of these incidents in the forest much to the dismay of her dour botanist boyfriend Shum (Ekin Cheng).  Neither of these two has any respect for the others profession as Shum thinks May is exploiting plants for ratings or something, and May thinks Shum a melodramatic plant loving sourpuss.  Both would be completely correct in those assessments.

The always stunning Shu Qi is Detective Ha, a equally dour police inspector investigating the murder of a young woman in those devil woods by one Patrick Wong (Lawrence Chou).  Wong claims he was in the woods to kill his own damn self but saw some poor woman hanging from the tree.  So ever the good Samaritan he put his

own suicidal plans on hold and decided to help woman down from the tree and attempt to resuscitate her.  That would probably explain the rope burns on her neck and why her panties were bunched down by her ankles.  Wong, her mouth is UP HERE bro.  Detective Ha knows the woods have the secret but every time she ventures up in there weird stuff happens, and her efforts to figure out these woods are sublimely thwarted by the police attendant in the area, Mr. Tin (Siu-Ming Lau), who seems to know a lot more about what’s going in these evil woods than he’s letting on.  Also, the detective handling the case previously had a heart attack while having Wong recreate his version of the crime in these very same woods.

Wouldn’t you know that Botanist Shum is working on a method to communicate with plants as it seems they have their own language as well as psychic abilities on human intent.  Detective Ha figures she’ll have Shum set up his gear in the woods, bring Wong the rapist and somehow the trees will tell them what really went down.  Seriously.  There is also the side story of the increasing distance between Shum and May, and the growing relationship between Shum and Detective Ha.

Other than the fact Rain Li and Shu Qi are both awfully good looking women, there really wasn’t a lot to see here in the ‘Forest of Death’.  I understand that the tone of the film was a muted one, but the performances given by both Cheng and Qi were so low key and understated that the entire film played from start to finish without the slightest bit of spark.  Qi’s character of Detective Ha seemed to have some sort of weight or baggage that she was carrying around, but with no back story to support her character, she ended up just being a sour downer chick with spectacular lips.  Also considering how little the characters of Shum and May had in common and their seeming unilateral disdain for each other, one wonders how in the hell they managed to get together in the first place.

Danny Pang who is handling the directing duties solo without his brother Oxide does a competent job behind the camera with a lot great visuals, but on the script side he gives his story almost no substance and as such gives his actors very little to work with.  Quite honestly, the whole talking plant thing was handled much better in the ‘Great Vegetable Rebellion’ episode of ‘Lost in Space’.  The one with walking talking carrot?  Now That’s entertainment.

Though ‘Forest of Death’ is pretty to look at, there’s not a lot to experience while watching it.  With very little substance, very little action, a less than zero fright factor and a ridiculous plot device you may be better served to pick up ‘The Eye 2’ if you gotta have your Shu Qi horror fix.

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