Haunted Forest takes the spotlight in the horror category of the 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival.
Screenwriter Jeps Gallon and Director Ian Loreños tells the tale of a quiet and peaceful village rattled by a ghostly creature called the “sitsit.” It primarily preys on women, leaving their remains in the middle of the forest.
Nica (Jane Oineza) is in her teens when she is forced to leave her city life behind when her mother dies and her father, a policeman named Aris (Raymart Santiago), gets reassigned to the province.
She then lives with her father, her aunt (Beverly Salviejo), and her cousin Mich (Maris Racal), who becomes her close ally.
The film took a risk in veering away from box-office names and focused on fresh talent and faces, letting young actors such as Jane Oineza, Jameson Blake, Maris Racal, and Jon Lucas take center stage.
Jane’s character may have been filled with angst, yet she still managed to pull it off in such a way that won the sympathy and hearts of the audience. In Jane’s most intense scenes, she was able to hook the audience and keep everyone at the edge of their seats.
Despite playing a supporting role, Maris Racal simply charmed as Mich. Her witty banter with other characters, partnered with her loving nature to Nica, allowed her character to be more than just a two-dimensional side role.
Haunted Forest is primarily a horror film, but its ability to fuse in a bit of coming-of-age and drama is what sets it apart from majority of the horror films done before. The film does not rely heavily on scare tactics, rather focuses on the plot development to carry itself.
Haunted Forest may have been set apart from other horror films by throwing in a little teen romance and drama, however this may have served as a double-edged sword for the film as this was also part of its flaws.
There were several moments in the film that had too much drama or cheesy dialogues that somehow diluted the horror aspect of the film, and the eerie vibe that a horror movie should have was mostly absent for most part of the film.
The thing about Haunted Forest is that it managed to be a film suited for Christmas albeit trying to maintain its horror narrative. It focuses on the importance of fostering healthy relationships with friends, lovers, and especially family.
However, do take caution when watching with children, as the film does have gory scenes that may be too intense for younger audiences.
There's a mid-credit scene that will be shown after the movie so stick around to see the bonus scene in this Regal movie.
Ed's Note: The 'PEP Review' section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial team.