The Forgotten is proof that to make a horror movie you don’t need a massive budget, gaudy make up or lashings of CGI – you need simply need a compelling chilling story, some lighting and some judiciously used sound effects. This low-budget British movie from first time director Oliver Frampton is a deceptively creepy treat.
Shy young lad Tommy (Clem Tibber) has been taken to live with his father after his mother’s nervous breakdown. His father Mark, a grim but resolute character excellently played by Shaun Dingwall, is squatting in a block of council flats due for demolition. With no electricity and no facilities they are camping in a dark, boarded up flat, with only lanterns for company. What begins as a straightforward fish-out-of-water domestic drama, with Tommy lost in the new world he is suddenly forced to inhabit while wanting to know what’s happened to his mother (played by Lyndsay Marshall), soon becomes a skin-scrawling and very spooky shocker.
Awakened by noises in the supposedly empty flat next door would be creepy enough for Tommy in a normal domestic situation (especially with the kind of oddly rhythmic scratching the sounds are making) but combined with the unusual living arrangements the effect is magnified tenfold. He awakes in a darkened room, with a lantern which only illuminates a very small radius. In essence all but a few feet around him remains in constant darkness.
When Tommy befriends Carmen, the waitress in the local cafe played by Elarica Gallacher, he finds someone with whom he can investigate what’s happening in the flat next door. Of course there is a far deeper backstory to what’s causing the noises than it at first appears, and when the pair go exploring into the neighbouring flat it’s fair to say things don’t go well.
Using simple lighting and sound effects The Forgotten is far scarier than other films with greater resources – and this is mainly because of the simple rule that not being able to see something but knowing it is there is a great deal more terrifying than showing it on screen. The audience has to create that unseen horror for themselves. The imagination of the audience is the greatest asset a horror film maker has. As a result the idea of setting the film in boarded up flats is a masterstroke, as suddenly it doesn’t matter whether it is day or night outside the setting for all of those interior scenes are shrouded in permanent darkness.
What starts as an urban drama becomes creepier the longer it goes on, and if things seem a little too neatly wrapped up with a little too much reliance on co-incidence, it doesn’t matter. The film is an old fashioned campfire ghost story brought right up to date. Oliver Frampton and James Hall’s script is very nicely put together. As a film it’s surprising, spooky, beautifully acted and has enough jump moments to be properly scary.
The Forgotten is a great low-key but effective bit of film making. It’s out on DVD now and if you like plenty of scares with your horror, is definitely worth a look.