The Video Nasties #89 – Forest of Fear (1980, Charles McCrann)

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‘Holy shit, it’s a woman!’

Oh brother, this is one hell of a dull movie. Despite a sure-fire premise (bloodthirsty hippies!), writer-director-producer-editor-lead actor Charles McCrann fails to do anything interesting with it. In fact, the whole idea was done much better ten years prior in the 1970 film I Drink Your Blood, which had rabies-infected hippies wreaking havoc on a small town.

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We at least get off on the right foot with a cheap-ass Mellotron score soundtracking a topless hippy girl being shot in the throat by the world’s most unlikely ‘federal agents’.

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These agents are themselves despatched by more hippies seconds later to hide their crop of marijuana. However, the government orders an experimental crop dust to be sprayed over the area, which turns the hippies into homicidal blood freaks. The film’s sole good idea is having the dust remain on the zombies, giving them an eerie all-white appearance, at least for a few minutes anyway.

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I was sad to see John Amplas slumming it as one of the government agents. Amplas played the titular character in George Romero’s Martin, one of the finest films of the 70s and here is reduced to laughable tough guy posturing and stilted line deliveries. They decide to use the experimental spray for the same reason the hippies chose to grow drugs there – because, as we are told, the area is deserted. Though for a deserted area, there seem to be an awful lot of folk kicking about. A park ranger, his wife and his half-brother are there fishing. There’s also a vacationing family, an old hermit, a creep in a pick-up truck etc.

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The holidaymakers are a particular favourite. There’s the dad, who in a genuine comedic moment actually knocks over his wife in an attempt to escape the zombies. As for the kids, just…wow. There’s Jimmy, wearing dungarees and described by his father as ‘retarded’, as well as young Amy, who’s meant to be no more than 16 but is played by 36-year-old Judy Brown!

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There are some occasional bursts of feeble gore, but it’s mostly of the blood-splashing-on-rock variety, and lots and lots and lots and lots of walking through the woods. There’s a funny scene where the zombies are trying to get into a car which sees them punching the roof, the doors, everything except the windows. Then it turns out the door wasn’t even locked in the first place! Later, our imbecilic heroes get a flat tyre, and instead of just following the road all the way home, wander off into the forest to, ummm, look for the road! Guys, you were just standing on it. Like, two seconds ago! Jeez, some people deserve to be eaten by zombie hippies.

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It’s such a dull film. By simply going outside and wandering through your local woods, you could experience about 90% of what Forest of Fear has to offer and get some fresh air while you’re at it.

Just be sure to watch out for hippies.

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