A newly positioned lighthouse caretaker is haunted by a dark force and mysterious presence. Unlikely assistance is given to bring justice to the dark forces that lie within the lighthouse grounds
Yes and no.
The recent release of The Forlorned, based on the novel by Angela Townsend (she co-penned the screenplay adaptation) – has a lot of promise, but so very little of it was able to come to fruition. And yes – this film has a typo in the opening credits character quote.
Tom Doherty (Colton Christensen) has taken a caretaker/handyman job at an island off the coast of New England. He’s running away from something, and perhaps this isolation (there is no one else on the island – or is there?) will help him find peace. It’s a grand old house, with a decrepit and no longer operating/no longer manned lighthouse next door. He receives warnings about the place from locals on the mainland (namely Murphy, played by Cory Dangerfield) and immediately begins to hear and see things on the property. As the mystery unravels and the dark history of the island is unveiled (through several flashbacks) followed by the arrival of a woman (Amy Garrity played by Elizabeth Mouton) with ties to the island – Tom will face his own demons as well as those which inhabit the island.
The film really missed the mark as far as which character should be the central focus. Amy shows up for the third act, and with a quick (too quick) history of her time on the island, you’ll wish that this character would have been the driving narrative in the film. The fact that she returns to the island with something of a score to settle – makes it a far more interesting take on the island’s power.
We do get a little bit of background on Tom – but it’s late in the game, and by then, you’ll be thinking the same thing as I did: “too little, too late”. I never cared for Tom. And it didn’t help matters that the pacing is extremely slow, and that Christensen’s performance was severely lacking.
With that said – I am actually having a tough time wrangling my thoughts on Christensen’s lead performance. Up until the very end of the film (and frankly, a decent climax) – his acting work is simply not good. Had there been glimpses of the actor’s abilities earlier (rather than when something drastic occurs to his character in the end), the film might have been a bit more tolerable.
Most of the first two acts in the film – rely so much on Tom’s reactions to the wild things happening around him. I will pull from past reviews and qualify his work (again – in the first two acts of the film only) as inspired by the work of Mark Wahlberg. I generally don’t enjoy the acting work of Wahlberg – as I feel like he has one single reaction in his acting bag of tricks – a furrowed brow matched with a confused look. For Christensen – it’s not that particular look. Instead, he uses a wide-eyed, almost psycho look as he reacts to every single frightening or mysterious thing which crosses his character’s path. And that’s basically it.
So again, when he knocks the performance out of the park in the film’s final reels – you’re left wondering why such boring and plain choices were made for the rest of the film – resulting in zero sympathy for the character’s plight and zero investment from the audience. I don’t get it.
As Murphy, the local barkeep, it’s a pretty strong supporting performance from Dangerfield. He’s appropriately sea-weathered, with unkempt looks and tall tales of the island and the surrounding sea. It’s a good time when he’s on-screen.
There are a couple of decent “boo” moments, but the film never manages to build any suspense or anticipation – again, owing a lot to the fact that we never care about Tom.
I found it odd that the story never took the audience into the lighthouse – which is so central to the island and the stories about the place. And like the theory that the film would have been stronger with the character of Amy at its center – it feels like this is another missed opportunity to never enter that foreboding lighthouse.
Speaking of the lighthouse, there are some good visual effects – particularly in the engaging final moments.
I’m not sure what the inspiration was (aside from the novel on which it’s based) for the film – but if you watch carefully, you’ll see a whole heckuva lot of Kubrick’s The Shining. Themes of isolation. The idea that a place can basically possess you and drive you mad. Random spectres offering insights and histories about the location. And the idea that maybe a character has been here before and perhaps belongs there?
I think at the core of the film, there are kernels of a good story. If it were re-structured (again, to make Amy the central focus) and put in the hands of better performers – it could be something far more memorable. The story told in flashbacks of the soldiers in the War of 1812 is interesting for sure, and the development of the film’s main villain is certainly intriguing.
As is – with not so great performances, enough cliches to fill up an actual lighthouse, far too many pacing problems and missed opportunities – I can’t go much higher than a solid 2-star rating.
And for the record, the aforementioned quote is from one of the characters in the film – by the name of Joseph Sparry. But the quote in the opening credits shows him as “Jospeh Sparry”. The devil’s in the details, folks. For goodness sakes, spell-check.
The Forlorned is now available on DVD and on several on-demand services.