The Forgotten Review
Of late, mainstream horror filmmaking has seen an interesting separation of focus. Recent years have seen a gradual division of the genre into two distinct categories: the primal, overtly violent types that trade in extreme gore and aggressive shocks, as in Haute Tension and Wrong Turn, and the slower, more psychological efforts championed (although not, as some would have you believe, created) by M. Night Shyamalan and his ilk. The Forgotten fits squarely into the latter category. Clearly eager to play up the Shyamalan connection, the DVD cover is emblazoned with a quote proclaiming it to be "the biggest jaw-dropper since The Sixth Sense". I must confess that my jaw did drop on several occasions; the reason, however, was that I was on the verge of nodding off.
The plot itself is actually pretty interesting. Telly (Julianne Moore) is struggling to come to terms with the death of her young son, Sam, in a plane crash. One day, however, when looking at a family photograph, she discovers that Sam has disappeared from it. Confusion turns to horror as she searches desperately for any sort of sign that he ever existed, her husband Jim (Anthony Edwards) denying that they ever had a son. Gaining no cooperation from either Jim or her therapist, Dr. Munce (Gary Sinise), she confronts Ash (Dominic West), who lost his daughter in the same plane crash, and is baffled to discover that he too has no recollection of ever having a child. A chance discovery at his apartment, however, clues him into the truth, and the pair find themselves on the run from a group of government officials determined to make sure that the truth remains hidden.
It is at this point that the film starts to unravel as Gerald Di Pego's script disintegrates into a tangled web of vaguely thought-out conspiracies, endless chaces and eyebrow-raising acts of improbability. As the film progresses, the events become more and more baffling, but instead of building towards a resolution, much is left unexplained. For instance, why does Telly remember the children when no-one else does? Where did the children actually disappear to? The truth, I suspect, is that Di Pego doesn't actually know, and passes this off as "mystery" rather than actually attempting to confront the film's plot-holes. This is a real shame because, as previously mentioned, the actual concept is a potent one: few things are scarier than the idea of everyone believing you to be crazy.
Luckily, a number of elements conspire to make The Forgotten something more than a completely wasted endeavour. For a start, Julianne Moore is, as always, exceptional. The script doesn't exactly give her much of an opportunity to show off her impressive range - she spends most of the running time on the verge of a nervous breakdown - but she handles the role capably and prevents the film from becoming too tedious. Dominic West is also solid in his role as bereaved father Ash, but like Moore he is given little to do, and I suspect that he was only included as a sounding board for Telly: he achieves very little in his own right, and more often than not has to make do with listening to her pouring out her heart. The film's look and feel are also top-notch, with beautifully evocative, blue-tinted photography courtesy of Anastas M. Michos (whose previous credits, including Duplex and Keeping the Faith, have hardly been visual knock-outs), a moody score by James Horner and a generally ominous mood. Acting and execution alone can't make a film, however, and it is the screenplay - the very backbone of the piece - that lets it all down. The Forgotten, therefore, is a pretty piece of work, but ultimately pretty vacant.
Note regarding the extended cut:
Via seamless branching, this DVD includes two different cuts of the film: the original theatrical cut, and an extended cut that incorporates a handful of previously removed scenes, as well as a slightly different ending. This is a nice idea in theory, but in practice, the execution is less than satisfactory. There are only actually two additional sequences, and they prove to be fairly vacuous to say the least. Also, the ending, while executed in a slightly less idiotic manner than the version that exists in the theatrical cut, is fundamentally the same idea and only differs in a few minor details. Worst of all, however, is the quality of these scenes. On most DVDs, the deleted scenes look inferior to the actual film itself, but for the most part this is a non-issue because they are not integrated into the feature presentation. Here, however, there is a jarring drop in quality whenever a deleted scene is inserted, and given that the packaging makes a fairly big deal out of the fact that it allows you to watch both cuts of the film, I would have expected them to put a little more effort into sourcing better quality materials. As such, I would actually recommend watching the theatrical vut instead of this extended version.
Presented anamorphically in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, The Forgotten looks reasonably good but could have been a lot better. Much like the recent release of Léon: The Professional (also a Columbia Tristar release), it looks over-processed, without much fine detail and exhibiting some fairly harsh edge enhancement (at its absolute worst in the opening titles). The disc is well-encoded for the most part, although at times the digital manipulation causes the natural grain of the film stock to look like video noise. I used to consider Columbia Tristar to be the best of the mainstream DVD distributors in terms of image quality, but I'm rapidly beginning to think I should reassess my stance on this matter. Compare this with the likes of the Unrated Extended Cut of Underworld (R1), or the original bare-bones release of Panic Room (R2): the difference is glaring. Of course, no doubt a Superbit version will be released a few months down the line, boasting less filtering and edge enhancement, but there really is absolutely no excuse for this.
There are no problems with the film's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, which is subdued but effective, with no distortions or problems with clarity. Surround effects are put to occasional (and powerful) use, but for the most part rear action is limited to augmenting the score. French and (bizarrely) Thai 5.1 tracks are also provided, in addition to English, French, Chinese, Korean and Thai subtitles for the film. Korean subtitles are also provided for all the extras except the commentary and trailers.
In addition to the afforementioned extended cut, Columbia Tristar have included a number of bonus features. The first is an Audio Commentary with writer Gerald Di Pego and director Joseph Ruben, and it proves to be a remarkably dry affair, focusing mainly on the script and story concept but failing to inject any sort of life into it. Also, while I certainly appreciate the fact that these two were clearly passionate about the film, listening to them praising the supposed depth and complexity of the script eventually becomes annoying in the extreme.
Remembering The Forgotten is a reasonably substantial 20-minute look at the making of the film, focusing mainly on the script and therefore being primarily comprised of interview footage with Di Pego, but also discussing the actors, shooting process and special effects, with comments from Ruben, the producers and various members of the cast. It's well put together, but suffers from the fact that a great deal of the material featured here was already discussed in the commentary.
On the Set: The Making of The Forgotten is a more standard EPK-style affair, running for 15 minutes and featuring brief interview snippets and an over-abundance of clips from the finished film. Everyone praises everyone else, we learn about how amazing the film is, and so on.
A selection of Previews completes the package, including the teaser and theatrical trailer for The Forgotten, as well as trailers for Hitch, House of Flying Daggers, Are We There Yet?, Guess Who, The Grudge, Spanglish, Boogeyman and the Ultimate Edition of The Fifth Element. A handful of these trailers also play when you insert the disc and must be skipped, and bizarrely, on my PC with PowerDVD 6, these were the only trailers that would actually play. On my stand-alone DVD player, however, they all worked properly.
Featuring a mediocre film with average bonus features and a reasonable audio-visual presentation, this DVD release of The Forgotten could have been a lot better, but for the most part does the film justice. This film is probably more of a candidate for a rental than a blind purchase, but if you've already seen it and enjoyed it, then this release should be adequate.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 09:53:27