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The Forest of Lost Souls

Aug 7, 2018

Even if you don't care for horror films, you might like this one. It's spare and non scary in an unusual way.

The Forest of Lost Souls

Grade: A-

Director: Jose Pedro Lopes (Survivalismo)

Screenplay: Lopes

Cast: Daniela Love (Videostore), Jorge Mota (Conta-me Historia)

Rating: NR

Runtime: 1 hr 11 min

by John DeSando

“La tristesse durera toujours.” (The sadness will live forever) Van Gogh

The woods of The Forest of Lost Souls is a mythical place in Portugal where many have gone to be alone in the moments before suicide ends all.

Writer-director Jose Pedro Lopes’s debut horror film is an excellent, intense, brief narrative about an outsider and a family, the former enigmatic but powerful and the latter clearly dysfunctional, with one suicide and one on the way.

The forest is emblematic of the lost souls who are alone and on an entangled path to the end. Outsider Carolina (Daniela Love) meets a father, Ricardo (Jorge Mota), who is entering the grey and forbidding forest after the suicide of one daughter.  Carolina, ostensibly on the same path, engages Ricardo in debate about the act and helps him prepare for it.

Like the forest trails, no trip for the characters is straight, and as the rest of Ricardo’s family enters the story, motivations and guilt are not easily understood. To say more would be to spoil the almost poetic minimalism of the plot and dialogue—“taut” would be the standard critical word for this commanding plot.

Little over an hour, The Forest of Lost Souls is a new kind of horror film that eschews jump starts and cheap thrills, with only a modicum of blood for reality’s sake. It is all about how off balance we can be, especially those “souls” who contemplate suicide. It provides few answers but thrills that satisfy the mind.

Because the act is ultimately unknowable, even with a proper note to accompany it, Lopes does not clarify all of the occurrences. What he does do is to make us sympathetic to the mystery of self destruction and wary of family entanglements that can lead to who knows where.

Perhaps Van Gogh had it right: “Sadness” is the instigator and the legacy.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com