THE SECOND feature film shown at TripleSix Festival was Forest of the Lost Souls, a beautifully shot Portuguese film from director Jose Pedro Lopes that is as thoughtful and melancholic as it is tense and violent.

Forest of the Lost Souls is not a film that can be easily described. What starts off as a kind of mesmerisingly tranquil drama about suicide, when an older man, Ricardo (Jorge Mota) meets a younger girl, Carolina (Daniela Love) in the so-called ‘forest of the lost souls’ or ‘A floresta das almas perdidas’, both contemplating suicide for reasons we come to learn.

The scenes towards the beginning of the film with these two characters are hugely intriguing both in the thought-provoking dialogue as well as in the stylistic choices made by the filmmaker. The low-contrast black and white brings a softness to the film, appropriate for the delicate subject at hand and only adds to the melancholic beauty of it.

Where Forest of the Lost Souls truly becomes itself though is in the latter half when you discover the true nature of Carolina. The film becomes much more of a horror in its second half, the tension is ramped up, helped from a wonderful score by Emanuel Gracio and you are sat feeling hugely disturbed and completely satisfied.

The narrative structure of the film is also worth noting; it does not explain who the characters are and their relationships to one another until just the right time to hit the hardest.

Death and grief are huge aspects within Forest of the Lost Souls and the film shows how difficult death, especially suicide, can be to a family. It’s no lie to say this is a rather bleak film but it is the melancholia within that makes it rather appealing. The film does not condemn suicide, nor does it glorify it. It treats the subject in a very realistic way and for that, it has to be applauded.

The fact that this film can be focussed on such a topic yet still have elements of tense, almost slasher horror and merge them both so well is also something pretty special. In the ‘slasher’ scenes, the black and white acts as eerily as you would expect it to and is completely justified in its use.

The film was preceded by the (very) short film, Starf***ker, directed by Emilie Flory and inspired by the Italian ‘giallo’ films of the likes of Dario Argento and Mario Bava and incorporated all those elements of ‘giallo’ films that horror fans love: the neon lighting, the good amount of blood and most importantly, the shock value.

Forest of the Lost Souls may not have mass appeal to it but is well worth seeking out. It’s merging of a more serious drama with a twisted slasher really gives this one an interesting edge that will satisfy anyone who has the pleasure of watching it.

Keep a look out for more content from TripleSix Horror Festival in the next couple of days!

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