An American, an Englishman, and a stoner head into the forest in search of a hidden burial ground (just wait for the punch line). Sean, the American, has his grandfather’s leather-bound journal, which details the horrific reign of Satinka, a malicious tree ghost with sharpened twigs for fingers who haunts the forest. Using the journal and the final photographs of a vanished tourist, the trio are intent on locating Satinka’s haunted tree and the sacred burial ground that lies beneath. A couple of female botany students wander into the plot, apparently to keep things interesting.
It turns out Satinka was an American Indian who was killed by some crazy white boys intent on driving out all the Injuns. She exacts her revenge by stabbing victims with wood slivers, thus marking them, and then sucking them into the ground. Despite Satinka’s Native American heritage, she looks and moves like pretty much every Asian ghost you’ve seen in J-horror movies (and their American remakes) since The Eye, black hair hanging in her face, dark eyes, crawling in stutters and jerks across the forest floor, with the sound of snapped twigs accompanying her arrival.
Cheap jump scares in Haunted Forest are epidemic, littering the film every few minutes. Is it irritating? Of course it is. But it’s also highly effective. Director Mauro Borrelli uses clever camera trickery to make his jump scenes as potent as possible, and I’d rather admit that I’d slept with Asia Argento without a condom than admit that this kind of B-level hackery actually scared me, but goddammit, it kind of did. It’s derivative as hell, totally unoriginal, an absolute J-horror rip off, like watching a Saturday Night Live skit based on a Saturday Night Live skit, but for some reason, I felt moderately entertained. Is it a crime to like Haunted Forest because it simply wasn’t all that bad? Maybe, as a dedicated horror fan, it’s at least a misdemeanor. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Haunted Forest was almost palatable. Flog me if you must.