Sorrow and terror in a black and white slasher-esque drama. The Forest of the Lost Souls – movie review

Originally titled A Floresta das Almas Perdidas, The Forest of the Lost Souls is a Portuguese horror drama, entirely filmed in black and white, woven around interesting social commentary and psychological themes.

Yes, you guessed it, this is not a mainstream movie by a long shot: it’s most definitely not for everyone, therefore, even before delving into the good and bad aspects of this film, I would recommend it only for those of you who want to explore the borders of horror, in the form of an art-house motion picture.

Forest of the Lost Souls 1.jpgWhat’s The Forest of Lost Souls all about? After a brief opening sequence depicting a girl who downs some poison and sinks in a lake, we follow old Ricardo (Jorge Mota) and Carolina (Daniela Love) two strangers that meet in the titular Forest of Lost Souls, a place where many people go to commit suicide. Much like the more famous Forest of Suicides in Japan. The Forest of the Lost Souls is a rather short horror film (71 minutes), somewhat divided in two halves, each one of them set in a different location.

Continue reading and check my final grade below…

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The first half revolves entirely around the titular forest and starts off rather beautiful and sweet: the chemistry (or lack thereof) between the two characters is compelling, genuine and… funny. Yes, this is a movie about a tragic subject, but it still manages to have quite a few amusing moments spread throughout that work due to their subtlety.

At the same time, this setting fits perfectly the black and white cinematography. Nothing about the technical execution of The Forest of the Lost Souls is outstanding, due to budget restraints, but it’s all well-made and fitting in its plainness nonetheless.

It’s also important to understand that suicide is a particularly delicate subject in Portugal, since in 2016 the country reported a spike in the number of suicides on the territory, which saw a failure in its pledge to reduce suicides by 10% by 2020. This makes the story of this indie horror all the more poignant. Even though, I must admit, I have to look it up since I’m not too familiar with Portuguese social situation.

Therefore, the first half of The Forest of the Lost Souls is both eerie and unnerving, and thematically poignant. At the same time, the performances by Mota and Love are fabulous and bring an extra layer of interest to the movie.

Forest of the Lost Souls 2.jpgAt the same time, however, once the film switches tone – with quite a memorable turn, I must say – it really starts to feel confusing and disjointed. In the second half, the drama changes vibe to horror/slasher and here the shortcomings really start to show.

For example, this part would have benefitted from some gory and violent scenes, similarly to what another black and white Portuguese horror film did last year… instead, The Forest of the Lost Souls keeps its art-house tone that now, after we left the woods, doesn’t work as well anymore. As HorrorTalk said, “Writing a film around suicide has got to be difficult and, at times, it’s this difficulty that perhaps holds director Lopes back a little, as the action could have benefitted from being far more brutal, but there isn’t enough flesh on the bones”.

Yet, as much as I like films that leave certain things unexplained, here this tendency is brought to the extreme: at the end of the movie, you’re left with more unanswered questions than when it started. I feel like The Forest of the Lost Souls could be a 71-minute-long metaphor, a simple story about problematic people, a short journey into a dying society and much more… all at once.

Also, I believe this is a film that could’ve worked better with an even shorter runtime, like 45 minutes would have been enough and would have left less room for questions.

The Forest of the Lost Souls                     6/10