The Forlorned (Is that actually a word? I don’t think it is…) is a haunted house movie set in Nova Scotia and filmed in Montana. It’s based on the novel of the same name by Angela Townsend, who co-wrote the screenplay with Ryan Reed and director Andrew Wiest. It’s a fairly low-budget affair that makes excellent use of just a couple of settings and a limited number of actors to pull off an interesting little haunting.
The film tells the tale of Tom Doherty (Colton Christensen), who takes a job renovating an old abandoned lighthouse (not that he ever actually gets around to doing any renovating) after no locals would take the job. It seems the island is haunted and after a few historical murder suicides and contemporary ghost sightings everybody in town knows better than to take up residence.
Tom isn’t totally alone, though, with barkeep Murphy (Cory Dangerfield) and local, um, guy Tough (Robert Bear), he struggles to maintain his sanity long enough to, um, he’s not really sure at first. It isn’t until the arrival of Amy Garrity (Elizabeth Mouton) – and the appearance of Leo the friendly ghost (Larry Laverty) – when all the secrets of the island are revealed and the real danger begins.
To be honest, as far as low-budget horror goes, The Forlorned (Nope, checked. Not a word.) looks pretty good and manages to bring a few nice scares to the screen without a reliance on jump scares and cheap tricks. It also wastes no time getting down to business, which is something I greatly appreciated. There’s no hesitation on the part of the filmmakers. They know what they want and the go for it.
Part of the reason for this is that the film has no loftier aspirations. It’s a haunted house story. The events are tied to an historical incident on the island. Boom. The characters aren’t very complex, although Tom is hiding a secret – not sure why, but he is. Murphy has some layers that are probably more attributable to Dangerfield’s performance than the script and Tough ends up being more of a moral support than the potential troublemaker he could have been.
I have to admit that until Mouton shows up as Amy, I wasn’t particularly engaged with the film. It was solid with a few good scares but, perhaps due to budgetary restraints, there’s not a lot going on beyond sound effects – which are creepy as hell sometimes, I admit. Christensen makes Tom very likeable, but there’s a lack of engagement with his actual story. He arrives. He gets haunted. He drinks. He sleeps. Repeat. His decent into borderline madness could have a few more twists and turns, giving his storyline a bit more depth and tension.
Similarly, Mouton’s Amy has an intriguing backstory but appears a bit abruptly, serving more as an exposition device than a fully fleshed character. That’s a bit harsh, but while the character’s history is interesting and Mouton’s performance is pitch-perfect, the character doesn’t really have much purpose beyond serving the plot.
Wiest’s direction is confident and successful. He does a fantastic job, given this was a month-long, mostly night shoot in December in Montana. The visual effects create a few beautiful establishing shots that hint at something more that could have been. The music is unfortunately pedestrian and tended to be more of a distraction than an enhancement of some of the potentially scarier moments.
All in all, The Forlorned (still not a word) is an entertaining, if slight, haunted house film that hits a number of the expected notes but then slips in a few twists of its own to help it stand out from the crowd.