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Saturday, October 14, 2017

THE FORLORNED -- Movie Review by Porfle

It seems as though ghost stories are one of the hardest kinds of movies to make, or at least make scary.  Most are lucky if they manage to be scary half the time, usually starting out strong before fizzling out toward the end. 

In these cases, a bunch of spooky peripheral glimpses and some nerve-jangling jump scares keep us on edge until the story gets in the way and things start being a little too literal and on-the-nose expository. 

THE FORLORNED (2017) suffers from this problem, but fortunately it doesn't suffer too terribly much.  Why?  Because it's such a likable effort and builds up so much goodwill in the first half that we're willing to go along with it to the end even when it isn't creeping us out.  That first half, while not exactly heart-attack-inducing, is all goosebumpy, Halloween-style fun.   

The setting is a big old mansion on a remote, fog-swept island in New England (the movie was filmed on location--in Montana) next to an abandoned lighthouse.  Bad, and I mean VERY bad things are said to have happened on that island, dating back to the War of 1812 when some really horrible atrocities took place.  Since then, anyone setting foot on the island has terrifying ghostly experiences that are whispered about in reverent awe by the townsfolk.

Tom Doherty (Colton Christensen), a young carpenter desperately in need of money, sets foot big time by getting hired to stay in the house by himself for several weeks doing renovations. He's one of those "ha ha, I don't believe in that kind of stuff" types until colorfully grizzled old local Murphy (Cory Dangerfield), who owns a pub on the mainland, helpfully lets him in on all of the island's terrifying ghostly history in graphic detail.

Thus the stage is set for that first half of THE FORLORNED that keeps us all giddy and tingly as Tom experiences all sorts of noises, fleeting glimpses, an old radio that keeps coming on by itself, and electrical failures that must be remedied at the breaker box located in--you guessed it--the basement, into which Tom must venture in pitch dark as we're thinking, " Just no."  And I haven't even mentioned the man-eating ghost warthog.

It's ideal entertainment for that eerie Halloween mood, even throwing in a couple of effective gross-outs (chocolate cake with maggot filling, a flashback of early 1800's sailors turning into ravaging flesh-eaters) and the kind of queasy haunted-house stuff that makes certain people recall films such as THE CHANGELING and THE OTHERS so fondly.  (This big, creepy old house, by the way, is an ideal setting for the film, aided by some effective CGI-generated environs.)

Eventually, Tom is joined by Amy Garrity (Elizabeth Mouton), a plucky young woman who lived in the house as a little girl and is back seeking closure for the mysterious death of her father and disappearance of her mother.  She's a good character and we like her, but it's right about here that the film starts to get less scary and more talky, especially when Tom's body gets "occupied" by a surprise guest ghost and Colton Christensen's previously understated performance becomes big and theatrical, as though the final scenes were part of a broad dinner theater play. 

Still, by this time we're pretty invested in the story and don't really mind that it's no longer all that blood-curdling.  It all comes to a mostly satisfying conclusion and leaves us feeling as though we've just heard a particularly effective sleepover story.  And if that's what THE FORLORNED was aiming for, then it pretty much succeeded. 


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