The Forest Of The Lost Souls

Introductory note;

I first came into contact with The Forest Of The Lost Souls in mid 2016 when I was lucky enough to be able to chat with the films creator and see an early release of the movieToday I received news that the film has been picked up by the fabulous distributors, Wild Eye Releasing, setting it as their first theatrical release for August 2018.

It felt therefore appropriate to repost the article that not only included a review of the film but also an interview with the film’s creator, Jose Pedro Lopes.

 

December 2016

The bulk of this review article, namely the inane chatter from myself and the illuminating interview, was first published in a nostalgically warm month (It’s now a perishing cold December) way back in a deliciously warm July of this year. It was something of an unusual promotion article, namely that due to a request from the filmmaker I wasn’t actually able to do much in terms of a review when talking about the film. This was due in the main for a need to hold off on reviews until the film was to be entered into the various festivals on 2017. Well it was certainly something of a tricky task – but I had a go.

Well six months had elapsed until I received an email  just a couple of days ago from director, Jose Pedro Lopes who advised me that The Forest of The Lost Souls was debuting at the Fantasporto Film Festival in February 2017. In other words, it was time to put some review type comments down in print!

So in the time-honoured tradition of my wanting to save myself some work (or any if the chance permits) I’m re-publishing much (ok, all) of the original July article with the newly added review section at the end.

So there I was, in the strange position of having been lucky enough to get an early look at a yet to be released film, thoroughly enjoy the said film, and yet not be able to divulge a word about it. Yet that is indeed the very situation that I found myself in. It’s all the fault of JOSÉ PEDRO LOPES, who is the creative force behind a quite remarkable film, The Forest of the Lost Souls

José wrote to me earlier in the week via the 5D website. He told me that he’s a filmmaker from Oporto, Portugal and currently starting the festival run for his first feature film, a coming of age slasher movie. In the message he asked me whether I would like to look at the trailer for his yet to be released film. Well indeed I would and indeed I did. After all, he had me at ‘coming of age slasher’.
In fact, so intrigued was I that I asked José if he would let me see the complete full length version of the film so that I could put a more complete article together (there’s a first time for everything, I hear you say!). José told me that he’d be happy to send me a super-secret online screener, however he had one teeny weeny minor condition, namely that I wasn’t to divulge to anyone just yet any major review details about the film. The reason being that The Forest of the Lost Souls has yet to begin its festival entry run and so understandably wanted to wait for reviews so as to accompany the films release.

 

Oh, OK I thought, this could be something of a challenge methinks, having never actually done a review article without actually writing a, er, review. At first I considered putting in a few clever and cunning hints about the film in this write-up. However I soon realised the problem with that plan was my complete lack of skills in the clever and cunning department. My second plan was to record a video review of the film in the form of improvised interpretive dance, that was until I remembered that I have the dancing skills of an Emperor Penguin on Valium.

So after much consideration I agreed to Jose’s request not to divulge any details of his movie….

I say ‘request’ because there was a definite undertone of him ‘making me an offer that I couldn’t refuse’ if I disagreed. Thankfully I managed the conundrum of talking about the film without talking about the film, by skilfully weaning some information by some clever investigative questioning techniques with the man himself.

First of all, let me provide you with a synopsis.

Ricardo and Carolina are complete strangers that meet seemingly by chance in the “Forest of the Lost Souls”, a place where many people go to commit suicide. These two, a young woman and an old man, are no different than the others as they also came to the forest for this very reason.

 

They decide to briefly postpone killing themselves in order to explore the forest and also to continue talking to one another, as Ricardo and Carolina find themselves intrigued by one another. 

 

However, as the pair go further into the forest it becomes clear that one of them has other reasons for being in the forest and is not who they would have the other believe them to be and is actually a psychopath…

As I mentioned earlier, José also kindly agreed to answer a few of my piercing questions. Let me first give you a little information of the man in question.

JOSÉ PEDRO LOPES was born in Oporto (Portugal) in 1982. He studied Management at the Oporto Catholic University (Portugal) and film at Madrid’s Escuela de Cine Septima Ars (Spain).

José founded the production company Anexo 82 in 2011 with Ana Almeida with whom he has produced several shorts films in the fantasy genre such as «A Noiva» (2007, The Bride)«Survivalismo» (2011, Survivalismo) and the direct-to-web effort «M is for Macho» (2013)Their most recent work, the 90s-set coming of age drama «Videoclube» (2014, Video Store) proved to be a festival success and became part of the Mailuki Films catalogue.

In 2016, he directed his first feature film, the coming of age slasher film «A Floresta das Almas Perdidas» (The Forest of the Lost Souls). He was line producer for the Portuguese shot of the Austrian documentar «Brother Jakob Are You Sleeping?» by Stefan Bohun, produced by Mishief Films.

Besides producing films, José is also a journalist (most notably for Portugal’s leading indie film website c7nema.net), a festival programmer (for FEST – New Films/New Directors and on occasion Shortcutz Porto) and an enthusiast.

He has created promotional and documentary films for entities such as the Porto Town Hall, the European Comission, the Museum of Transports of Oporto and Braga European Youth Capital.

 

Q) So, Jose, what are your cinematic inspirations?

I’ve been doing films ever since I was 12, and I’ve started producing short films back in 2007 with «A Noiva» (The Bride) by Ana Almeida. Growing up in Oporto I was very much in love with Asian extreme cinema due to Fantasporto, a very big fantasy festival that takes place here every year. Also I’ve always been a die-hard fan of John Carpenter. His take on storytelling, both as a visual, narrative and musical form, is a big influence on me and it shows in «The Forest of Lost Souls».

 

But in this film, I drew more inspiration actually from Japanese cinema, specially Keiichi Kobayashi’s «About the Pink Sky» and Sabu’s «Miss Zombie». Both are very moody stories shot in black and white that shift genres and the way we see stories. «The Forest of Lost Souls» crosses slasher films with a coming of age drama, and a bit of generational comedy.

 

Q) What made you make a film about a coming of age slasher?

I’m a big fan of coming of age stories, from John Hughes movies to books/films such as «The Perks of Being a Wallflower» and «Me, Earl and the Dying Girl». But sometimes they can be kind of lame. Often they have too much “be who you want to be”, “go be an artist” kind of message – they become positivist to a point they are unnerving. People in this movies talk about books, movies, song and their dreams over and over.

 

So I wanted to take this kind of inspirational, nice film, and invert it. The two people who meet in this film don’t talk about their dreams, but how much they just want to die and get over life. And even if for a while the movie walks the inspirational coming of age storyline, it eventually twists all that into a much darker, sad place.

 

This story was obviously inspired by Japan’s Aokigahara forest. There are places like that here too – and in a way Portuguese and Japanese take on death are very similar. We’re the country of fado music, the most beautiful yet melancholic music genre you can find.

 

 

Q) Why shoot it in black & white?

There were several reasons why we shot in the B&W. Actually when I, my producer and my cinematographer talked about filming, everybody was assuming it was B&W as we’ve always though of this story like that. Black & White brings out a lot of the textures and contrasts in images. This makes the forest a more isolated place, and more crowded with trees and rocks. The characters become more isolated from the background.

 

Also as this story is set in the summer, which is very hot here in Portugal, black&white allowed to make the far away background always overexposed and very white. The characters are a lot of the time in the dark – while the world behind is almost white.

 

Also as this is a very emotional, sad family drama in its core, black&white very brought out the work of the actors and their expressions. The movie talks a lot about suicide, loss and grief. I felt that B&W would keep the emotions on the characters and their feelings very outlined and exposed. So it was both a technical and a storytelling decision to make it B&W

Yet, at the Berlin Film Festival this year a distributor told me: “You made a black & white crossover Portuguese film? Could you have me it more difficult to sell?.

 

 

Q) When and where are you releasing it on the circuit?

I’ve just now started to send it to festivals, hopefully to premiere it before the end of the year. I guess 2017 will be mostly festivals, but I’m looking into commercial circuits where this kind of movie could get release. I’m still figuring it out.

 

Q) What are your future plans?

I’ve a production company based in Oporto, Portugal called Anexo 82. We’ve been making movies since 2012, and this is our first feature. We’re already working on several other projects, our and from others, but we do hope we can make more feature length fiction in the future. Maybe a happy film next time……

 

THE REVIEW BIT……..

The Forest of the lost Souls is a beautifully atmospheric and emotionally charged piece of cinema, enhanced in no small part by the performances of it’s main cast, the incredible black & white cinematography and evocative soundtrack. 

For a start the film looks quite wonderful, shot in the Caramulo mountains in the centre of Portugal and in Spains Sanabria lake region the viewer is rewarded with vistas and landscapes of breathtaking quality. The visual feel is further amplified by the inspired decision to make the movie in black and white. Jose said in his interview that his intention was to exemplify many of the textures and contrasts in the film’s images. He wanted to make the forest a seem an even more isolated place, apart from the abundance of tree and rocks, serving to make the characters become more isolated from the background. Shooting the film in black and white he was sure would do this.

It’s safe to say that he has succeeded completely, black and white photography when used correctly can add technical and narrative dimensions to the feel of a film that colour simply cannot do. The skillful way in which the film begins with bright well-lit scenes and then mirrors the progressive darker narrative as it advances to a similarly darker visual look is excellent. This is not to say that the film wouldn’t have worked as a colour production, because I’m sure it would, however the black and white effect adds a technical and emotional depth of real quality.

Yes, this is a story of an ageing man who meets a young girl in the forest, both of whom have gone there with the intention of committing suicide – so it’s pretty safe to say that this is a story of tortured emotional isolation and desolation. In other words, there isn’t much here for the Pop idol or Glee generation of superficial sugary happiness. Though that doesn’t mean to say that there are no moments of humour on show in this film, because there are – black and biting perhaps, but humour nonetheless as the bond between the two unearths two pasts full of similar emotional contradictions.

For those who like their horror without intelligence but prefer unadulterated blood-soaked gore upon gore (and yes there is a time and place for that sort of horror experience) then The Forest of the Lost Souls may not be for you. 

There is indeed a degree of murderous violence (this a slasher film after all), however this arrives after some wonderful exchanges of dialogue and story telling between the main protagonists. There is a genuine depth of emotion on show here with sadness, remorse, anger and an overall lack of hope filtering from the actions and conversations between the characters. 

At times it’s intense stuff.This serves to explore some fascinating philosophical themes about love, loss and the desire to end the struggle of life. Now don’t get me wrong, whilst there are the inevitable references to the likes of Nietzsche et al, the film doesn’t overly prevaricate on such themes – unlike some movies of this nature which seem more intent on contemplating their own navel instead on concentrating on important matters….such as being a good horror story. No, because before one realises what has happened the increasingly dark twists and turns swiftly transport you into a world of violence and pain – very nice.

As I mentioned earlier, the acting on show is of the highest quality, with newcomer Daniela Love as the deliciously unstable Carolina showing a depth of performance that belies her lack of experience.A special mention too must also go to the fabulous soundtrack in this film. Even if Jose hadn’t said in his interview that the likes of John Carpenter, whose enduring genius has been to incorporate music as a visual and narrative enhancement, has been an influence on his work well it would have been obvious here. The soundtrack for The Forest of the Lost Souls is quite simply stunning, with the noticeable inclusions of songs by the likes of Cyberbully Mom club who’s ‘March 1st’ features in the final act of the film and also the catchy summer song «Beach Bummer» by No Vacation  which is featured in a particular important moment.

 

Perhaps the standout musical element though comes from Hann Cassady, whose song ‘Smoke Break’ features in the film’s trailer. Hann is a singer/songwriter recently relocated to the east coast from her hometown of Chicago, Illinois. She has released three EPs: ‘Okay‘, ‘American Spirit‘ and ‘Love Bites‘. She is currently working on her first LP.

It’s a perfect soundtrack for a coming of age slasher film!
So if you like your slasher films to be thoughtful, intelligent, dark, twisted and violent – then The Forest of the Lost Souls is just the remedy for the standard coming of age films that we normally have to endure!
If you don’t believe me then check out the incredible trailer yourself at https://youtu.be/nQXzASuWHzs

The psychological “coming of age” horror film, written and directed by directed by José Pedro Lopes, marks the distrib’s first theatrical release.  The film, which had its world premiere at the Fantasporto Film Festival on February 26, 2017, is scheduled to open in August. 

 

The Forest of the Lost Souls will open theatrically August 5 in L.A and other cities.

 

Wild Eye Releasing, whose recent releases include well-received sci-fi thriller Soft Matterand James Klass’s House on Elm Lake, represents horror, exploitation, dark arthouse, cult and documentary films from around the world.

 

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