The Forest Hills // A movie review

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The premise of The Forest Hills is very simple. After experiencing head trauma, a man starts to have nightmarish visions. He also begins behaving very aggressively towards his support circle. It felt like it was setting the stage for a werewolf movie, and I was excited about that. While that’s not the movie we get, I do think this film might be clawing at something about mental illness. However, it gets lost in the chaos, and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to take away by the end.

Who All Is Going To Be There?
Most of us have been excited about this movie since we found out Shelley Duvall would return to the big screen for the first time in 20 years. While she doesn’t get much screen time, it was an honor to see her work her magic again. Her eyes are still giving way to this electric persona of a woman you’d like to get drinks with. She’s still able to embody these characters and shine a light on their humanity, even when there’s not much there for her to work with. Like many of us, Duvall has had her share of monsters. So this return to the acting feels like the final girl reclaiming something she held dear, once upon a time. Her signing onto this film is an inspiration for many of us who might not even know we needed it. It makes us think that maybe we can overcome our demons and get the last word too. I couldn’t help but wonder what her path could’ve been had the industry been kinder to her.

When I finished fangirling over Shelley, I was also here to see the other names rounding out this cast. Felissa Rose‘s appearance definitely got a gasp out of me. I think lots of people will also be happy to see Dee Wallace and Edward Furlong in the film. We also get appearances by Stacey Nelkin and Marianne Hagan which will send fans of the original Halloween franchise into orbit. Marc Summers even pops up to remind us of the simpler Nickelodeon game show days of our youth. However, what I’m most excited about (outside of Shelley Duvall, of course) is that we have Brown leads. 

What Goes On In This Forest?
Chiko Mendez plays our lead (Rico), and Linda Flores plays his rightfully concerned sister (Emily). We spend most of the movie with them, and while this film isn’t one I need to watch again, I’m here for POC leads in horror. I wish they could’ve had a more cohesive project but I was happy to see them both here, nonetheless.

The Forest Hill fails its cast by never letting them earn their big moments. It also never gives them time to de-escalate. This makes for moments where I laughed, which felt very inappropriate. We can go from pulling a knife on a woman to telling her to calm down when she gets the upper hand. We can randomly jump to the woods, where Rico has dialogues with himself. The movie seems based in the camp that Rico needs mental help, but we keep straying away from that thought. It’s kind of a bunch of ideas in a trench coat that leads to so much confusion on the viewers’ end. 

We kill a few people and nearly put some kids in danger, but this feels more like it’s attempting to lean more toward a dramatic thriller than the kind of horror shenanigans we might’ve sought it out for. That’s not a complaint, just a warning to taper your expectations before you go see it. Maybe save it for a rainy day when you want something random with some familiar faces.