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By Brent Moore | August 2, 2006

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A group of attractive twenty-somethings load up into a run down van to go on a road trip through the woods. Along the way they are forced to pull into a shady deserted gas station where a crazy old man tells them that they are in danger. After fleeing the scene their car breaks down and they immediately determine that the best course of action would be to split up and find help.

So yeah, “Forest of the Damned” isn’t going to earn any originality points but then again the horror genre itself suffers from a lack of new ideas. The one thing this movie does that veers from the well-beaten path is casting its villains not as inbred mutated rednecks or some other conventional monster, but as seductive vampires. Well, not vampires exactly. Sure they have a tendency to go from normal, if a bit pale, looking humans to fanged bloodsuckers in an instant but we are meant to believe they are angels that have been cast down from heaven. And what else would fallen angels do but wander nakedly through the woods, engaging in some Sapphic heavy petting to pass the time until some innocent human comes along to fall prey to their advances.

As expected, our group of unlucky travelers soon become victims to the angels’ siren song. If only they had a make-up effects legend there to help them out. Enter Tom Savini. Savini lives all by himself in a decrepit house in the woods. He knows all about the vampire angels; his parents were killed by them. You would think he would be on a mission of revenge but instead he just wants to see the angels again. Savini’s character could have been useful. He could have been a much needed source of exposition or a way to fight back against the monsters, but he tells us nothing new and for some unknown reason tries to trap and kill the kids instead of save them. You could have cut him out completely and the movie would not have suffered because of it. Of course, then you would be missing your horror celebrity cameo.

We actually never really learn anything about the film’s villains. They’re just fallen angels doing their best impressions of Mathilda May in “Lifeforce”. Our protagonists are paper thin as well. We are given only the most basic of information about them before they are sent out to die, so when their time comes we couldn’t care less.

Visually the movie is very hit and miss. There are some stylish sequences here but the director has a tendency to change to shaky, unattractive night vision shots when trying to convey something frightening. These shots are not helped by the grating soundtrack which is all pounding bass and high pitch screeches. It’s like the movie is not confident enough in its scares so it has to beat you into submission with unpleasant noises.

All these are complaints that could be made about any number of other horror films, and that’s the main problem with “Forest of the Damned”. It sticks too closely to the book of horror clichés. We’ve seen this movie countless times before and no matter how many breasts they throw up on screen, there is no reason to watch it again.

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