Movie Review // The Forest Hills
Movie Review // The Forest Hills

Movie Review // The Forest Hills

“The Forest Hills” is a bizarre, uncomfortable watch– in the best way possible. The story follows a man named Rico, played by the enigmatic Chiko Mendez, who longs to be understood and is tormented by a series of visions after a head injury in the Catskill Mountains. The Director, Scott Goldberg, made a phone call in to the screening of the film at the Salem Horror Fest on the final weekend of the festival. He spoke of being inspired by horror directors Stanley Kubrick and John Carpenter. Reminiscent of some of those directors’ works, this story is a slow burn. It’s nonlinear in a way that spirals, touching on the same moments over and over until they suddenly shift into focus. Even then, it leaves a few lingering questions at the end.

“The Forest Hills” is not a perfect movie. Some of the editing choices were questionable such as a sudden shift from daylight to dark. The actors were giving it their all, but at points it seemed as if they might not have even been in the same room together when the scenes were filmed. The music was lacking in inspiration and didn’t do much to drive the narrative. The audience laughed at times when it seemed as if the moments were meant to have gravity. The most raucous laughter came during a sponge bath scene that was inexplicably taking place outdoors on a riverbank.

Mendez held his own as Rico and put forth a compelling performance despite the problems the film faced. A bright light in the production was Dee Wallace (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) who made the audience laugh with her constant string of curse words and tough demeanor. The young therapist played by Caitlyn Classey was believable as someone who felt compassion but was bound within the bureaucracy of the mental healthcare system. Edward Furlong put in a strong performance as Rico’s strange friend Billy. Shelley Duvall’s triumphant return for an opening cameo, after a 20 plus year hiatus from acting, was far too brief yet effortlessly acted.

Set in the Catskills, the filming locations were idyllic. Lots of scenes took place with a sunny, green ambiance. Except for a campfire scene, the film was well lit, which can be rare in a horror film of this genre and was refreshing. The practical effects were minimal but to great effect with copious amounts of blood. There were occasional jump scares throughout that helped build the tension. At the film’s heart was a rather realistic depiction of what it’s like to navigate the mental health care system while suffering from a seeming mental break as both the patient and the patient’s family.

The audience didn’t seem to love the movie as a whole judging by the lack of applause at the end and some comments in the lobby. This was the Director’s Cut however, so hopefully the version that gets released has a few tweaks done to maximize the film’s impact. Whatever they decide to do, I suggest losing the sponge bath scene. The Forest Hills has real potential to make a lasting impact with its message and jarring imagery.

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