Forest of boring Asian horror/mystery film chiches.
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 03/30/2009
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Forest of Death (Danny Pang, 2007)
Danny is half of the Brothers Pang, two guys who have been at the forefront of the recent resurgence in Thai cinema on the world stage (Bangkok Dangerous, The Eye). Danny's brother Oxide branched out on his own relatively successfully with The Tesseract, so I guess Danny thought it was time to do his own thing as well. Danny's results have never been as successful as Oxide's, and Forest of Death continues this trend.
Forest of Death is a pretty standard southeast Asian supernatural flick that borrows a good deal from both Il-gon Song's 2004 flick Spider Forest and Pang's own supernatural thrillers (most notably The Eye), but gets some serious starpower on board. Megastar Shu Qi (The Transporter), who'd previously teamed up with Pang in The Eye 2, stars as detective C. C. Ha, head of a task force assigned to look into why so many people are drawn to a particular forest, known as the Forest of Death (one of seven, we are told, in the world), coming from thousands of miles away to commit suicide in the forest. Perhaps they're not all suicides? The equally gorgeous, though far more underrated, Rain Li (House of Mahjongg), co-stars as May, a perky television hostess who becomes obsessed with the idea of doing a story on the Forest and its sole permanent denizen, a forest ranger. Meanwhile, the detective has enlisted the help of the hostess' boyfriend, a botanist named Shu-hoi Shum (Ekin Cheng of Ab-Normal Beauty) who believes that he can really make plants talk; this would obviously be of a great use to the detective in her investigation. The two women each occupy a storyline, and occasionally overlap, but the movie never really makes much of an effort to integrate the two, despite Shu-hoi's presence in both.
While there can be no denying that the photography here is fantastic, and the leads are certainly easy enough on the eyes, the movie never really gels as a movie; the mystery angle is never as pronounced as it is in the films from which Pang and writer Cub Chin (who collaborated with the brothers on their previous collaborative film, Re-Cycle) drew so much of their influence, and that renders this somewhat impotent as anything other than a succession of pretty pictures. We never really get to know the characters as much as we should, which doesn't help matters either. It's not terrible, but there are certainly better Pang-related ways to spend your time. **