NEW TO VOD! The first ten minutes, or so, of director Sam Mason-Bell’s Terror At Black Tree Forest are pretty rough. The remake of Dustin Ferguson’s feature-length debut from 2010 begins with a couple just about to graduate college, walking through the titular woods. Gillian (Will Jones) seems nervous, and the reason for that becomes clear soon enough: he proposes to Jackie (Cassandre Wallace). But the happy moment is ended when a crazed killer descends upon Gillian and Jackie, murdering them both.
In theory, this opening should work. There’s decent character development in a short amount of time (Jackie says no to the proposal), set up for the main characters and why they’re camping, and two solid kills/scares. Everything one might want in the cold opening to a fright flick. Well, everything that is aside from good acting. Wallace and Jones are not good or convincing, making it very difficult to buy into the situation. Will Jones had a role in the recent Mycho slasher Pandamonium and did well there. Maybe it’s their lack of chemistry or perhaps an off day, but no matter the reason, these two, as these characters, don’t work. Until the murderer shows up, they are the only ones on screen, which of course, means the film does not grab viewers instantaneously as intended.
“…[a] murderer lurking in the woods.”
But, once the meat and potatoes of Terror At Black Tree Forest, written by Mason-Bell and Jackson Batchelor (the duo behind the impeccable Monstrous Disunion), things uptick considerably. Jane (Annabella Rich), Caroline (Amanda Bourne), Molly (Ella Palmer), Simon (Omar Mahmood Lagares), and Will (Max Pill) head into Black Tree Forest for a camping getaway intending to meet up with the dead couple from earlier. After pitching tents, building a campfire, and eating, Simon and Will tell the story of the murderer lurking in the woods.
Their campfire tale freaks out Jane so severely that she begins to cry and storms off to cool down. Caroline goes after her to calm Jane down, only for them to discover that the scary story is more than some urban legend. Now, their lives, and their friends’ lives, are all in grave danger. Could the killer be the strange hermit, ‘andsome Hartford (Martin W. Payne)? Or is it someone else? Will anyone survive long enough to find out?
Running a lean 74 minutes, Terror At Black Forest has nary a scrap of fat to be found. Even the less than stellar beginning serves a practical purpose, establishing the killer and camping trip in one fell swoop. Of course, this means that some side characters are only there to raise the body count and not much else. Aside from laying out the horrifying legend, Simon does precious little throughout the narrative. But, this also allows for plenty of fodder for the slasher to take out without feeling bloated, so the good of this outweighs the very minor bad.
"…a slasher is really only as strong as its killer..."