It was no accident that I skipped The Forgotten in theatrical release. It looked terrible. No matter how badly my wife wanted to see it, I always found an excuse to see something else. Now it’s on DVD, and I’m out of excuses.
Marketed as a bad horror/thriller, The Forgotten is actually more of a bad sci-fi/thriller, with a few jump out and scare you moments substituted as thrills. If you haven’t seen the movie and want to go in completely unspoiled, consider staying away from this review. I’m going to discuss a few things that are minor spoilers, stuff you wouldn’t know from the trailers, but that’s integral to discussing the film. Just skip on down to the DISC review section of this review if that frightens you.
This is an alien abduction film. The trailers make it seem like it might be something more interesting; government conspiracy, time travel, strange radiation, kidnapping, whatever. That’s not this film. This is a movie about aliens abducting kids with a super space vacuum and then using their mysterious powers to make everyone who knows the children forget they ever existed. Julianne Moore did not forget.
Moore plays Telly Paretta, a terminally unlikable soccer mom who can’t get over the loss of her son. He died a few months ago in a plane crash. Or so she thinks. Actually, her husband claims they’ve never had a son and that she’s making the kid and the plane crash up. This naturally tends to piss Telly off, even though this notion is supported by her therapist (Gary Sinese). You have to wonder if Telly’s maiden name might be Phone, or Tubby. Parents can be so cruel.
Certain of her own sanity, Telly runs off in a psychotic, mindless flurry of confusion and rage, determined to prove she had a son named Sam. In her place, I’d have simply assumed I was completely mad. Perhaps I give up to easily. She runs into Ash (Dominic West), whose daughter was a friend of Sam’s, and killed in the same plane crash. Ash doesn’t remember his daughter. Telly destroys his hockey trophies, pulls all the cheap paper off his walls, and suddenly he does (though I’m open to the possibility that he’s only pretending to remember as a means to get in her pants). Convinced there’s a conspiracy afoot and believing their kids may still be alive, the pair start digging. Of course, someone doesn’t want them to remember. They find themselves being chased by the FBI and stalked by that super space vacuum I mentioned earlier. The rest of the movie may suck, but that space vacuum is pretty cool.
In fact, that’s really the only place The Forgotten shines. We never truly see the god aliens from Mars, Pluto, or wherever. But we do see them at work. Each time it’s a huge shock, the sort of shock that automatically elicits a vocal response, usually in the form of “Whoa, what the hell?!” The Forgotten is great at shocking your pants off with carefully placed, sparsely used, big effects moments. If those three or four shocks justify it as a thriller, then I guess it’s an effective one.
But the plot is weak and unforgivable. Telly is unsympathetic as a heroine and undeveloped as a character. There’s little to her beyond this unreasoning, lunatic façade of mother. She’s incapable of any emotion beyond the maternal, a trait which not only makes her annoying, but stupid as well. Whether Moore is to blame or whether it is the script is up for grabs, but the deleted scenes included on this DVD hint at a romantic subplot of the sort might have at least made inroads into helping us identify with her as a well rounded character.
The bright spots of The Forgotten are all effects driven, though this isn’t an effects heavy film. I loved the space vacuum. I didn’t like the rest. I suppose this would be a good place to make a witty quip about how quickly this movie will be unremembered, but I think you get the message.
Welcome back to those of you dodging spoilers. Say what you will about the quality of the film itself, the DVD release is fairly well done. The movie looks crisp and clear of course, and the sound is its clarity equal. There’s no excuse for modern films to look anything less than perfect on the format. Pretty standard fare.
Standard fare for a very standard, yet solid release. It’s not a special edition, so you can’t exactly demand ten hours of extra material, but The Forgotten makes a pretty strong showing. They’ve done the little things right, by including for instance, the film’s original theatrical trailer. It should be a given, but more often than not it isn’t. Of course some other movie trailers are also included, but that’s just studio cross-promotion, and irrelevant to this discussion.
The trailers are incredibly easy to get to. In fact they’re on the menu twice. The same cannot be said of the commentary track, which for some reason didn’t start the first couple of times I selected it. Eventually it did, and what I got was commentary with director Joseph Ruben and writer Gerald Di Pego. As with any non-cast commentary, it’s a little dry. Ruben’s voice in particular has a sort of soothing stoner quality that might tend to lull you to sleep. Still, it’s director/writer commentary, if you’ve heard any similar commentary, you have a good idea of what to expect. Details, which I guess is what you want if you’re a fan of this film.
The discs other features can be accessed via a weird little “>” stuck haphazardly below the commentary interface. If you click the greater than sign, you’ll find “Remembering the Forgotten”, a catchy name for what’s basically a mid-length making of documentary. Included are interviews with cast and crew. The Julianne Moore ass kissing made me nauseous.
Next up on the feature list is “On the Set – The Making of The Forgotten”. Skip it. It’s an extended advertisement for the film masquerading as a feature. You know the type, made for TV, promising big reveals about the movie, but delivering pretty much nothing. Instead, go right past it to the “Deleted Scenes” where you’ll get to choose between three scenes not seen in the film, and a handy PLAY ALL function. Just hit PLAY ALL. They aren’t very long and you’ve got the time. The Alternate Ending can also be viewed as part of the movie. You’ll see that as an option when you get around to playing the feature.
As a regular, non-special edition, non-director’s cut release, The Forgotten is fairly well put together. Kudos to Columbia Tristar for not slapping the SE label on it. Most DVD distributors would have done so. As a special edition, the disc would be a disappointment, as a plain-jane release, it’s fairly satisfying… even if the movie isn’t.