After a family camping trip turns horrific, a mother must fight to save her family from an angry landowner who's hiding a terrifying secret on his property.
One of the things that I attribute the fact that I’m still alive to is the fact that I never liked going camping. From The Hills Have Eyes to The Trees Have Eyes to Eyes of Fire and now In the Forest heading out to the great outdoors never seems to end well, does it?
In the Forest opens with Bob Seegar’s “Against the Wind” playing on an RV radio. Apart from making me feel old, it made me nervous because getting the rights to a song like this probably ate most of the film’s budget. Inside the RV are Stan (Lyman Ward, Titan Find, Independence Day), his daughter Helen (Debbon Ayer, Freeway Killer, Death and Cremation) and her daughter Emily (Cristina Spruell, Mr. Student Body President, Ghostmates). Stan seems to think this trip will do the ladies some good, they don’t seem to be so sure.
And things don’t get much better when gun-toting Howard (Don Baldaramos, Bad President, Zombies Vs. Strippers) shows up waving a gun around and claiming he owns the land they’re camping on and demanding they leave. They try to leave, but the RV gets stuck, and Stan gets injured trying to get it unstuck. When Helen tries to find help she instead finds out why Howard doesn’t want anyone around.
The mother-daughter squabbling and the father-daughter advice scenes are so badly written that the first half-hour of In the Forest is fairly painful to sit through. This is yet another case where the dialogue could easily have been cut back and still given us the information we needed rather than let everyone drone on to pad the running time. It doesn’t take that long to inform us that Helen’s finances are trashed and she and Emily have typical mother/teen conflicts.
Once Helen goes for help though things do get better. There are a couple of good jumps and a tense game of cat and mouse to start things off. Howard’s secret, while not a huge surprise, makes the situation that much worse. And ensures that he isn’t their only threat as Gary (Time Winters, Exorcism of Allie Fay, Thinner) and the absolutely psychotic Pamela (Sharon Sharth, Fade to Black, Doorman) become involved.
For most of its running time, In the Forest doesn’t stray very far from the formula, writer/director Hector Barron (Josh is Dying, Lloyd) hits plenty of familiar notes. An isolated setting, mother and daughter separated and facing danger on their own, other children at risk, etc. But he manages to do it fairly efficiently and keeps the suspense up during the expected captures, escapes and chases that make up most of the film’s midsection.
While their names may not be overly familiar, much of the cast has plenty of experience and that kind of casting pays off here with performances that hold the film together during its weaker moments. And help make the less than Shakespearian dialogue a bit more bearable. To his credit though, once the plot gets cranked up Barron does cut way back on the talk.
In its last few minutes In the Forest tosses a couple of curves at the audience and delivers most of the film’s action. Unfortunately, it also leaves way too many questions unanswered, a post-credit scene doesn’t do anything to help that either. In the end, it’s a watchable film that has some good moments but never rises above average, held back mostly by the terrible dialogue and vague plotting.