Being the only horror film entry in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival, Ian Loreños’ “Haunted Forest” has the advantage of catering to a certain niche of moviegoers. With this naturally comes the expectation to rake in millions of earnings, yet, all that Regal Films could offer us in this film is a hodgepodge of Pinoy horror movie tropes and devices, awkwardly assembled to come up with something that technically falls within the horror genre, but is nowhere near scary.
Watching “Haunted Forest” feels like listening to a poorly prepared sales pitch. There was no active effort in mapping out a cohesive and sound storyline but rather, we were offered a Frankensteinian monster of tropes stitched together for the sake of having the film pass as horror. Sadly, the plot isn’t cohesive, and events happen conveniently, accentuating the silliness of the confusing premise.
The characters are cardboard cutouts whose sole purpose is to usher the story from point A to point B. Several arcs were established but not developed, like how the resolution in the father-daughter relationship of Aris (Raymart Santiago) and Nica (Jane Oineza) was conveniently rushed. The dynamics between Aris and Nardo (Joey Marquez) didn’t work out either, primarily because their arc has been abruptly cut. There’s also a teen romance going on which frankly, only works because of Jameson Blake’s dimples, and Maris Racal’s charm. The film asks you to invest in several scattered elements but leaves you hanging in each one.
The idea of the “sitsit” as an evil elemental that takes young women as its victims has potential. The Sitsit tries to get the attention of its victims through “paninitsit” (hence the film’s title). If only the story was more creative in utilizing this uniqueness, we could have had an iconic cinematic monster along the lines of the “Halimaw sa Banga”, “Tiyanaks”, and “Manananggal”. Sadly, the film makes the Sitsit a mere plot device with no motivation or reason, whatsoever—just an evil that exists because the movie ones.
Technicalities, which should have been straightforward, were also messy in their execution here. I’m unsure if the issue is with the cinema I’ve watched the film in, but the sound crumbles at every jump scare and scream. It feels as if the filmmakers skipped audio engineering and simply pooled sound effects from an online library. Criminal still is the unintentionally inconsistent color grading and frame rates.
“Haunted Forest” exists on the same plane as “Pwera Usog” and “Bloody Crayons” – films that technically can be categorized as horror, but don’t really make an effort to be good ones. At least “Bloody Crayons” was so bad it was fun and its story was consistent. “Haunted Forest” is just downright silly and all over the place.
2017 / Horror / PH
Direction: Ian Loreños
Screenplay: Jeps Gallon
Stars: Raymart Santiago, Joey Marquez, Jane Oineza, Jameson Blake
The story revolves around Aris (Raymart Santiago) and his estranged daughter, Nica (Jane Oineza). When Aris was reassigned, he immediately starts on a case investigating a murder which is staged similarly to the death of a childhood friend that haunts him. While his father is away, Nica, her cousin and her local friends went for an outing where she started to get weird things happen to her. She tries to shake it off at first, but it gets worse day after day.