REVIEW: The Forlorned
– By MovieCritic NextDoor
Lighthouses seem to encourage hauntings, and it’s no surprise. They’re isolated, often reachable only by water, and have a certain air of mystery about them even when they happen to lack any ghosts. The lighthouse in The Forlorned, though, perched on a small rocky island off the coast of Nova Scotia, is “haunted to the rafters,” in the words of local pub owner Murphy (Cory Dangerfield).
For the first time in twenty years, someone will soon be living in the old keeper’s house: one Tom Doherty (Colton Christensen), who’s been hired to make necessary repairs to the lighthouse and outbuildings. It’s a big job for one person, but Tom needs the money. Strange things start happening almost instantly, and it doesn’t help that Murphy and a barfly called Tough (Robert Bear) tell him all sorts of tall ghost stories about the place, but Tom sets to work determinedly.
Certainly there’s no shortage of ghosts. One keeper, Leo (Larry Laverty), died horribly some time ago but hasn’t left yet, nor has his wife, who according to legend went mad and threw herself from the top of the lighthouse. The last keeper, Harry Garrity (Luke Dowler), died in the sitting room, leaving behind a daughter, Amy (Elizabeth Mouton), and an apparently possessed radio. And a man named Captain Weston (Robert Milo Andrus), once did something evil on the island, something that’s left its mark to this day.
As if the ghosts and bad vibes weren’t enough, there’s something very solid lurking outside that seems determined to kill Tom outright. Murph and Tough talk about demons roaming the island, or more prosaically maybe feral pigs (which would be bad enough, since there’s a fine line between feral pig and wild boar), but even this seemingly more normal threat is pretty alarming. Poor Tom hardly gets a moment’s peace.
As ghost stories go, it’s got an unusual approach — despite being clearly freaked out, Tom does his best to be polite to the ghosts, which I thought was strangely sweet and very Canadian. The script also isn’t afraid to poke a little fun at some horror movie tropes, and did so skilfully. While the last part of the film goes pretty far over the top, somehow that was all right — as with Cold Moon it’s almost bizarre enough to make you giggle, but too creepy to let you laugh, and Christensen’s performance makes it work well despite a bit of a deus ex machina feel to the final scenes. It’s a quirky, compelling film despite some rough edges, and a worthy addition to the long tradition of lighthouses and their unquiet spirits.