Black Forest (2012)
Starring Ben Cross, Tinsel Korey, Claire Foster, Oliver James, Dhaffer L’Abidine
Directed by Patrick Dinhut
How many times do I have to tell you…
DON’T BRING YOUR BABY TO A BLACK MASS!
When will people learn? If you must take part in a pagan ritual, have the common sense to leave your baby in the car. You are just asking for trouble.
A young mother lacks such common sense and actually has the nerve to act horrified when the pagan ceremony in a Stonehenge-like location somewhere in the European countryside she’s taking part in ends with a blue fairy materializing before her to steal her baby in a flash of light.
Black Forest definitely deserves some kudos for being a real departure from the typical creature/disaster/fantasy flicks Syfy churns out. That this one doesn’t follow the standard formulas for these pics is most likely why the network premiered it as the first half of a fantasy-themed Saturday night double feature with the usual and more widely watched prime time timeslot going to Witchslayer Gretl, a far more traditional Syfy fantasy flick starring a bigger name celebrity (Shannen Doherty). For all its faults, Black Forest did not deserve to be unceremoniously rolled out as the opening act of a double bill with one of the worst Syfy fantasy flicks in recent memory.
Tourists visiting a small European hamlet home to the black forest where the Grimm fairy tales were written, or so they are told by an eccentric tour guide, venture into the forest to perform a solstice ritual they think is just a theatrical part of his tour. What they don’t know is that this Cazmar fellow is the literal wolf in sheep’s clothing and that the ritual is a trap he sets. One woman’s baby is snatched by a fairy and they all find themselves trapped in an alternate reality at the mercy of famous fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters come to dangerous life, such as the spiders from “Little Miss Muffet”, the troll under the bridge from “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”, and a certain witch who lives in a gingerbread house, to name a few.
The seven cannibal dwarves dressed like Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum for whatever reason was my favorite moment and a perfect example of the film’s dark humor that periodically dips into outright silliness.
No one straddles that fine line between serious scares and campy fun more so than Ben Cross (Chariots of Fire) as Cazmar, the eccentric fairy tale tour guide with evil intentions. Looking crazed and follicly disheveled, creepy in a manic sort of way; for those of you that watch the show “Once Upon a Time”, try to imagine the Rumplestiltskin character as played by Gary Busey.
Tinsel Corey of The Twilight Saga shows up as the wife of one of the tourists who mysteriously appears at the medieval inn they holed up in within this alternate dimension. She claims to want to help them find the baby and find their way home, but she might not be someone they can trust given that man’s wife has been dead for awhile.
Ben Cross described Black Forest in an online interview as being like if you took Grimm fairy tales and threw in a hand grenade; what these people are dealing with is the shrapnel from these stories being blown apart. That’s a pretty good analogy to describe how these fractured fairy tales come to life and why for all its problems this still turned out to be one of the most imaginative Syfy original movies in quite some time. The drawback, unfortunately, is that it gets to be so scattershot certain events really don’t make a whole lot of sense.
This is also one of those movies where you’ll probably find yourself wanting to throw your hands up in the air over some of the dumb decisions characters make. At least three of these tourists fit the description “too stupid too live” - and they don’t, thankfully.
I wish I could fully endorse Black Forest just because of how much more creative it was than the standard Syfy Saturday night original movie. It felt like it needed maybe one more rewrite (or maybe one less) to make it all come together. A little more budget for the production design to truly make it all seem as fantastical as it was envisioned would have helped. I certainly wouldn’t call this a bad movie. I just can’t quite call it a particularly good movie either. I can say I remained curious throughout to see where it was going next even when I wasn’t totally thrilled with where it was at the moment.
Fans of such popular new fantasy programs like “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm” might want to give Black Forest a look the next time it airs on Syfy. Just be willing to have a little patience.
And if you’re like me, when you keep seeing those big, brightly colored mushroom props on the forest green, try to overcome the sudden urge to want to play mini golf.
2 1/2 out of 5