Included with Amazon Prime as of Nov. 2017
Welcome to the first in my "Play or Pass?" series, where I sift through the unhyped horror, thriller, and supernatural films on streaming services to find the ones worth your time!
The Amazon description bills The Forlorned as your classic "isolated man tormented by spirits" story, with little to no hint at any interesting departures from the familiar theme. It features a down on his luck man, Tom Doherty, who takes a job renovating an out of service lighthouse in order to buy back his father's repossessed boat. A ghost story doesn't have to be wholly new to be good, so I got my movie snacks, turned out the lights, and gave it a shot.
The movie's first visual is a scene of crashing waves under the night sky, which pans to reveal sheet-covered bodies on the beach, and a cross-wearing man inspecting them by lantern light. Our maybe-priest finds one of the bodies is a young man still clinging to life, and writes down his name before he dies. His task done, he says "God forgive me", hinting that perhaps he is the source of the paranormal activity in the future.
In the second scene we find ourselves jumping to the present day, where we meet Tom Doherty settling in to work on the lighthouse.
The acting here is not very promising: Tom's new employer seems intended to be withholding information in a creepy way, but it's not subtle enough to be anything other than slightly annoying, and Tom reacts to events that should leave him mildly confused with a look of sheer terror. This is a man who should die of a heart attack the moment anything truly scary happens.
The good news is the buildup isn't drawn out - Tom the Terrified begins experiencing paranormal activity almost immediately. Miraculously, he does not, in fact, have a heart attack and his wild-eyed stare quickly becomes familiar.
Cue the obligatory remodeling montage. Tom the Terrified gets to be plain old Tom for at least a few days, it seems. The sequence feels like filler; it neither adds to the story nor clues us in as to how much time has passed exactly, and it creates an awkward break in the action. After what seems to be a complete lack of anything paranormal, things suddenly ramp up. Sadly, the abrupt change, my disdain for Tom, and a lack of clear connection to what little background was given means that a third of the way in, it's hard to find a reason to care.
Eventually, the film does find a way to veer off the beaten path at least, albeit in ridiculous fashion. I'll leave just how ridiculous for later.
Moving into the second half the story finally starts to come together as Tom's experiences fill in more of the island's history, and there are even some legitimately poignant moments.
In the last act, Tom crosses paths with a new character, Amy, who is both more relatable and would have made more sense as the main character as she has a history with the place, and it's really her story that ties the past and present together there. Shortly after Amy's entrance, Colton Christensen (Tom) gains his feet and brings more depth to the part, but for me it's too little way too late in the game.
The final scenes manage to drum up the tension lacking throughout most of the film, largely thanks to the addition of Amy, but the conclusion is predictable and not all that satisfying.
**/***** for horror
***/***** for amusement
Don't go into this one looking for a scare, but if you have a group of friends in the mood to hate-watch something, this has some fodder.
Ghost pigs, guys. Need I say more?