“Return of the Forest Monster” is one of the most shockingly clever independent horror films I have ever seen. In a story that starts out typical and then becomes obscurely funny, the filmmakers have created something that typifies what audiences expect in indie horror, but with the quirks, plot, and enjoyable characters that usually only come from high budget comedies.
The acting is sensational. This might be due to the direction, or it could be the talented actors, or maybe a combination of both. All I know is that the leads quite outstanding, making “Return” a shitload of fun. The truth is that the film isn’t even about the Forest Monster; it’s about the funny adventures of four friends who alternate between being ridiculous and touching; the Forest Monster is just a way of getting us to pay attention to them.
When Morgan, Jeff, Roy, and Kid Gorgeous go on a camping trip with their friend Dave, they run into a- Forest Monster. A Lugo to be more exact. An ancient power of evil unleashed by wizards eons ago against mankind. It lurks in the forest waiting for innocents to pass by, and then he eats them. After watching Dave die at the hands of the Lugo, the friends all flee the trip and spend the following week dealing with his death and their strange experience in their own unique ways. That’s when Kid Gorgeous and Roy decide to go back to the forest and seek out the monster. But not before getting kidnapped and dealing with two unruly frat boys, and tricking Morgan and Jeff into coming along. The rest is the stuff of horror movie legends; monsters, mayhem, and chaos. Except this time it’s all mixed with an exciting blend of intelligence and excitement that is rarely seen in this genre.
Raighne Davidson shines as the best damn indie actress to grace the low budget screen in a while. Jeff Smith and Mike Newhouse aren’t half bad as the comic relief, but it is actor/director Vance Kotrla himself who steals the show. Terribly good-looking, Vance has a charisma that won’t quit, and some of the nicest arms in horror history. Yum. If he weren’t such a good filmmaker I’d encourage him to go off to Hollywood and pursue an acting career, but hey, maybe we can keep him in the dark and he’ll make another movie.
The truth is that the film is low budget, which means that the special effects, cameras, and technical inner-workings don’t match up to anything you’ll see in a Hollywood film, and for people not used to low budget films, it can be hard to take. The only complaint I have about “Forest Monster” is that sometimes the sound wavers, making the dialogue difficult to hear. Despite it’s shortcomings, “Forest Monster” is so damn funny you’ll forget about the budget deficit and concentrate on how much plot, character, dialogue, and writing have to do with why “Forest Monster” works and so many other attempts at filmmaking fail so miserably.
The sharp and unexpected ending is great. “Forest Monster” is not to be missed, and will surely be among the few low budget indies that makes it into the festivals, video stores, and DVD players this year.