What happens in the suicide forest does not necessarily stay in the suicide forest. In the Portuguese equivalent of Japan’s Aokigahara Forest, an old man and a cynical teen meet as they make their final preparations. They will share their final moments together, until the film takes a sharp turn into left field slasher territory. Suicide is certainly not painless in José Pedro Lopes’ The Forest of Lost Souls, which screens today during the 2017 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.
For Ricardo, it seems appropriate to end his life in the same forest where his older daughter Irene committed suicide. However, the punky Carolina makes him realize how little he thought through the practical matters. Not pre-writing a suicide note was a mistake, because the lack of closure becomes an invitation to procrastination. Likewise, the hunting knife he brought is ridiculously unrealistic. However, she could help on both scores, if he would just stop lecturing her on the failings of her entitled generation.
One twist later brings us to a suburban neighborhood, where an oblivious family is in mortal danger. It is connected to the first half, in an especially sinister way, but it would be no fair telling. There is definitely slashery business, but it is the anticipation that kills us, rather than the actual violence. Daniela Love and Jorge Mota are both terrific as Carolina and Ricardo, particularly during and after the big pivot.
Without question, Forest of Souls far scarier and creepier than Jason Zada’s similarly themed, but workaday The Forest, but it is not as horrifying as the sappy symbolism of Gus Van Sant’s Sea of Trees (but don’t hold that against it). Lopes stage-manages the prey-stalking sequences with clockwork precision. Yet, ultimately it is the irony of what happens that chills us to the bone.