The Signal, Severed: Forest of the Dead, & Forest of the Dead

Posted: 02/11/2012 in Movies

Zombie Movie Night: February edition was very special this year. Instead of the usual Double Header, this month there was a third contender. No extra charge. Why? Because my brother discovered that there are two movies titled: Forest of the Dead. And if you’re anything like my brother and I, there’s no way that you could rest at night knowing that you’ve only seen 50% of the Forest of the Deads in existence, never knowing if the one you’ve seen is the better of the two. But, before we could get to that debate, the first movie of the night was:

The Signal

The Signal is not a typical zombie movie. In fact, I’m sure that there is a large contingent of zombie enthusiasts who would feel that The Signal does not fulfill their criteria. I’ve always had a pretty open-door zombie policy and feel that you’ve got enough zombie elements here to make the list.

In the depressingly named city of Terminus, a mysterious signal has taken over all telephone, radio, and television transmission. Not soon after, everybody starts going a little crazy. Not complete zombie-crazy, but delusional, hallucinatory, paranoid, and homicidally-crazy. The signal affects everyone a little bit differently, and at times it’s difficult to determine who’s infected and who’s not.

THE GOOD: The Signal is told in three sections. For the most part, each one focuses on a member of a love triangle that pushes the plot. Each section is written and directed by a different person. The first section is a fairly typical outbreak scenario. People start acting increasingly strange, then start killing one another, and our heroine attempts to escape the city, away from her crazy husband and into the arms of her man-mistress. This story is effective in setting things up and creating an intense vibe. The acting is all good and it really establishes the feeling that no one is safe.

The second section is the strongest of the three. It goes for a much more wacky, dark humor vibe. It succeeds on all levels. It advances the plot, it’s really pretty funny, but also frightening as we discover that everyone is infected and at least a little bit crazy.

THE BAD: Unfortunately, the last act falls a little flat compared to the first two. It takes a “fuck with your head” type of approach, and really just gets a little sloppy and convoluted. Luckily, it’s still decent and nothing that detracts too badly from the rest of the film.

THE ZOMBIES: The zombies/crazies here are living people infected by some kind of mind-messing transmission. What really works well in this film is that even the viewer isn’t quite sure who’s infected and to what level. Some of the infected walk around killing indiscriminately, while others become more delusional and less murderous.

THE VERDICT: Despite the slight letdown of an ending, The Signal is still an excellent movie. Top notch all around. I include it as a zombie movie, but even if you don’t it’s still worth checking out because it’s just a good movie, flat-out.

Current ZMN Rank: #8 out of 68

Then the night started to go a little down hill….

Severed: Forest of the Dead

Severed: Forest of the Dead is a pretty standard zombie movie thrown into a fairly new location. On an isolated island, lumberjacks are doing their lumberjack thing and tree-hugging hippies are doing their tree-hugging hippie thing, when WHAM-O! zombies happen.

THE GOOD: I have nothing against standard zombie fare. In fact, I really like standard zombie fare. It’s why I keep coming back for more. Severed gives us pretty good zombie action. You get your typical group of survivors with some bickering based on philosophical differences, a nowhere to run environment, and an evil corporation attempting to hide the truth. It all works pretty nicely for the first 3/4 of the film…then things go a little off course.

THE BAD: The last 1/4 starts to veer off in a weird direction. The surviving survivors stumble upon another group of survivors and things just get clumsy, weird, stupid, and boring. If only Severed had ending a little bit early, it would have been average instead of below average.

THE ZOMBIES: I try to be prepared for zombies wherever they may pop up (there’s a lot of nanotechnology work being done in upstate NY, so I’m always a little on edge), so I appreciate a film that offers a new potential zombie origin…even if it’s really, really, really stupid. The zombies in Severed are a result of genetically altered trees. When the sap enters a logger’s open wound, it’s zombie time.

THE VERDICT: Severed is a decent zombie movie. It would’ve been better with an improved last act. I recommend it for zombie fans, but this one is not going to sway anyone not already in that camp.

Current ZMN Rank: #40 out 68

Then the wheels came off….

Forest of the Dead

Oh my God. Forest of the Dead is bad. I mean really bad. I mean really, unbelievably bad. It’s not good.

Forest introduces us to a cast of characters so annoying and unlikeable, anyone not on a quest to watch as many zombie films as possible will turn it off within 10 minutes. Guaranteed. This group is led by an asshat named Johnny Rebel. Also along for the ride are two dudes with groan-inducing fake French Canadian accents (for no apparent reason) and three girls with no discernible personalities. The group farts around and does nothing for about 40 minutes. Eventually, one of them becomes a zombie and then….we’re introduced to an entirely new cast of characters even more stupid and unlikeable than the first group.

THE GOOD: See that cover art up there? Pretty OK, right? ….that’s the best I can do. There is nothing good about this movie. Nothing.

THE BAD: Too much to list. There is a lot of shot-on-video zombie crap out there. Forest is the worst I’ve seen. And I’ve seen Motocross Zombies from Hell. Even the setting is wrong. A forest full of zombies might be scary. But the characters here are camping out in an area with a well-maintained basketball court, rock-climbing wall, playground, high ropes course, and working showers. They’re not in a spooky zombie forest, they’re at summer camp!

The Netflix description for Forest states that this movie sparked controversy for its allegedly offensive portrayal of gay people. If they were going for controversy, they failed at that as well. Having two characters who are gay is not inherently offensive. I’m not sure that the filmmakers understand that.

THE VERDICT: Forest of the Dead is the worst zombie movie I have ever seen, which almost automatically makes it the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Avoid at all costs.

Current ZMN Rank: #68 out of 68. Dead last, I pity myself if I ever see anything worse.

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