Welcome to Horror Movie Month here at Late to the Theater! Once a year we focus on one of our absolute favorite things, horror movies! For the entire month of October we’ll review at least two movies a week, some old, some new, and usually fitting into a weekly theme. So pop the corn, pour yourself a glass of whatever, and come along for the ride! I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers!
Ironically titled entry because between the horrifying news last week and being out of town on a work trip, I sort of forgot to review The Forgotten. Apropos, considering the film’s subject matter, although the film itself definitely stuck in my mind. Shall we? Let’s!
Despite being a bit slow, I found The Forgotten refreshing because of the oblique way its story unfurled. Or maybe I was zoned out in the first ten minutes and it took me a moment to catch up. Or maybe the accents and lack of expository dialogue wasn’t clicking. I also enjoyed the lack of soundtrack; so many interesting films are ruined by poor soundtracks. I’d rather there be none than some saccharine swelling of strings every time two characters’ eyes meet.
Either way, the story is this: Tommy (Clem Tibber) is on his way to live with his father. What you don’t really pick up on is that his aunt is basically dumping him, and that none of what’s happening is about his personal welfare. Tommy is shunted from one relative to another with no say in the matter, and his situation echoes that of many children in straitened circumstances. Someone checks a box on a form that says ‘child has a roof, food, and some kind of caregiver’ and that’s that.
What sucks for Tommy is that his roof is an abandoned council flat (low-cost housing development if you aren’t familiar), his food is whatever he can scrounge, and his caregiver is a father who is actually squatting in the abandoned flats so he can strip it of valuable copper at night and get into other trouble during the day. Tommy has essentially been thrown away. His Dad doesn’t seem all right, and there are frightening noises at night in the flat next door. Shy and passive, Tommy is not exactly looking at a bright future.
While Tommy is hanging out at the crap playground drawing, some local kids hassle him. Enter a true future star, Elarica Johnson as Carmen. She easily foils the bullies and drives them off, all before clocking in at the diner where she works. As a strong-willed and secure person, she draws Tommy (without meaning to) into her gravity.
While it’s clear that Tommy likes Carmen romantically, the latter only seems to care for him out of a sense of basic human decency since he’s basically homeless and living with a lunatic caregiver. Although she’s far from wealthy, her recognizes that her stable home life and supportive parent is a privilege Tommy doesn’t enjoy–giving her a great deal more character depth than you normally see of women in horror movies. The two become friends and attempt to solve the mystery of the noises in the room next door. The narrative explores some complex social issues too; child abandonment; poverty; adoption; and the fates of children whose parents are unfit.
Ultimately The Forgotten let me down, but I won’t spoil why. Suffice to say it fell into an unfortunate horror movie habit while still making an excellent point and staying true to its premise. And although the story is on the thin side, it unrolls at a beautifully slow pace. Exterior shots are long and full of the placid emptiness one finds in abandoned urban areas, with plenty of open space that echoes Tommy’s bland, almost mute mannerisms. Interior shots, by contrast, are close, dark, chaotic, and lit only by the slats in boarded-up windows or cold white lanterns. There are no candles and thus none of the warmth that yellow-gold candlelight brings, a shrewd lighting choice on the part of the filmmakers.
So that is The Forgotten! Apologies for missing last week, I was traveling for work and thought I could manage an entry after work one night. The more fool me!