I hear people complain all the time about foreign films because they can’t be bothered to read subtitles. Those people are missing out. Foreign horror films have a special place in my heart. I’m telling you this because I’m here to discuss THE FOREST OF THE LOST SOULS, which is the first feature length film from writer/director José Pedro Lopes and it is in Portuguese. THE FOREST OF THE LOST SOULS is also in black and white and I’m sure someone out there will complain about that as well, but I personally think the fact that it is in black and white makes it even more interesting to experience. This is without a doubt one of the most unusual and intriguing films I’ve ever seen.

THE FOREST OF THE LOST SOULS begins in a fictional forest in Portugal where people go to commit suicide, much like Aokigahara forest in Japan which has been the subject of several horror movies. A young woman in a white dress roams sullenly through the forest until she reaches the shore of a lake, drinks from a small bottle that one would assume is poison, and disappears into the water. The sequences in the forest are visually stunning, even in black and white. The cinematography is so striking in this film that I found myself trying to take in every single detail of almost every scene.

An older man named Ricardo (Jorge Mota) has come to the forest to take his life and seemingly accidentally meets a young woman named Carolina (Daniela Love) who strikes up a conversation with him. Carolina is dressed in black from head to toe and is awfully curious about why Ricardo wants to kill himself. She tells him she has come to the forest to commit suicide many times, but she always finds a reason not to do it. Ricardo reluctantly tells Carolina that he feels like a failure in life, especially in his relationships with his wife and daughter. As the two of them are walking through the forest and getting to know one another, they come across corpses and personal items left behind by the people who came to the forest and never left. Carolina takes out a camera and begins snapping photos. Ricardo finds this to be very strange and tells Carolina she is being disrespectful. She responds to almost everything Ricardo says with a witty one-liner and quotes from books she’s read. The back and forth banter between the two is engaging and I found the dialogue in this film to be very well written.

I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but THE FOREST OF THE LOST SOULS takes such a sharp and unexpected turn after Ricardo and Carolina meet in the forest that I wasn’t completely sure how I felt about the story for a couple of days after seeing the film. This movie isn’t just about suicide. It turns out that the young woman who walked into the lake in the beginning of the film was Ricardo’s daughter, Irene (Lília Lopes) and her suicide has a lot to do with why he feels like a failure. It is also revealed that Carolina and Irene have met each other. This is not a horror film that relies on jump scares or gore. The atmosphere created by the story and the setting give it a mystical quality that is very appealing.

The surprise twist in the story is so shocking that I absolutely recommend not reading anything about this film other than what I’ve already told you. I believe that the fact the film was shot in black and white and also the use of the colors black and white specifically in the film are meant to symbolize important points in the story. If death was an actual person, would you recognize him when you met him? I think the answer is probably not. Ultimately, THE FOREST OF THE LOST SOULS reaches a very dark, but satisfying conclusion and tells a unique and unsettling story along the way. This film is so incredibly creative. I can’t wait to see what director José Pedro Lopes does next.

THE FOREST OF LOST SOULS will open theatrically August 3 in L.A. and other cities.

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