Film Review: The Forbidden Girl (2013)

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SYNOPSIS:

The son of a fundamentalist pastor becomes addicted to an irresistible witch. If he gives in to his temptation, he will be doomed to eternal life on the dark side.

REVIEW:

Read the blurb on this film –
“The son of a fundamentalist pastor becomes addicted to an irresistible witch. If he gives in to his temptation, he will be doomed to eternal life on the dark side.”
-and you’ll not want to watch it. At least I didn’t. Another “evil witch seducing the innocent” film. I have a whole diatribe I could go into about why I hate such films, but I’ll save that for another day.

The reason I’ll save that speech is because this isn’t what the summary said it was. Yes, it is another “evil witch seducing the innocent” film, but not in that “The Craft” kind of way. This is a German indie film, apparently originally shown in 3D. The cast are mainly actors unknown in the US mainstream cinema with a few exceptions.

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I found the style and look of the film to very similiar to the classic Hammer House of Horrors films from England in the 60s and 70s. The vibrant colors, strange angles, and simply stunning sets and locations really set the story in a fairy-tale like place. It has all the standard tropes of this genre of gothic horror, including lots of antique wooden things, dusty taxidermy, gratuitious boobie shots, and sheer, wind-blown nightgowns. It actually reminded me a lot of Dario Argentos’ Suspira in the overall feel.

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The storytelling is non-linear, that is to say it doesn’t actually proceed forward from A to B. We gets bits and pieces of the events in flashbacks. Each flashback gives a little more of the puzzle.

Our way into the story is young Toby, played by Peter Gadiot. Some may be familiar with him here in the states from his recurring role as the Genie on Once Upon A Time in Wonderland.

Our story opens with Toby’s dad, who is apparently some sort of lay preacher, giving a firey sermon on the evils of love. Is he a member of Team Rocket? I dunno. But he does appear to be completely out of his tree as he pounds the sermon home to the lone member of the congregation – his son. Seems Toby’s dad is a little…well, freakin nuts.

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The character is played by Roger Tebb, known in the US for his roles in the series Lexx and a brief appearance in the original Max Headrroom series from the 80s. Mr. Tebb really sells this one to the back row. It’s ridiculous, and scary, and so big that you can almost believe it. What do they say about truth being stranger than fiction?

I would like to mention one of his highlight scenes in the film, which is a surreal dream sequence. It gives a few clues to the ending, so I won’t go into too much detail about it, but it’s a brilliant LSD-driven psychedelic moment that really stands out for me. This scene is also the main reason I make the comparision to Suspira.

Anyway, so we find out that Toby isn’t really buying into this “love is evil” crap and has himself a secret girlfriend named Katie, the eponymous Forbidden Girl of the title. Even though dad handcuffed him to his bed, to save him from temptation or whatever, Toby has gotten pretty good at picking locks and escaping like Houdini. This skill serves him well later in the film, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Sadly, despite having done this many times to meet his girl, Toby isn’t as sneaky as he thinks he is. Dad knows all about it, and decides enough is enough and well…yea, it kicks off from there. We are catapaulted ahead in time – 6 hours, 6 weeks, then 6 years (see the theme?)- as we follow poor Toby navigating the mental health system, trying to recover from the trauma of…whatever actually happened. See, that’s the stuff we get in bits throughout the film. We only get the story as the audience as Toby starts to recover the memory of the event. This does get a bit confusing as we go along, but eventually all the pieces fit into place.

Toby has only one possession – a “Momemto Mori” of his forbidden girlfriend. I only mention this as it does become important later in the story, a fact that is all but telegraphed to us from the beginning.

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Upon his release from a mental hospital, Toby’s doctor refers him for a job as a private tutor to a strange girl in a big creepy mansion. But lo! She looks exactly like his darling Katie, but calls herself Laura. She doesn’t seem to know him, or have any memory of how she came to be in this weirdo house with weirdo people calling themselves her family.

Kate/Laura are both played the same actress, Jytte-Merle Böhrnsen, who appears to be a popular actress on German Television. The only American credit I could find for her is the tv movie 30 Something in 2006.

She is quite fun to watch in this film. The character of Laura is an eccentric, confused woman-child that alternately flirts with and hates our hero Toby. Laura seems like a lot of fun to play, and it is apparent that the actress had fun with it.

The rest of the characters are a strange sort of German Addams Family. We have the lady of the manor Lady Wallace, played by Jeanette Hain, and her paramour/bodygaurd Mortimer, played by Klaus Tange.

I was so sure I recognized Mr. Tange, but I couldn’t find any American production listed for him that I have seen. There was a series called Missing from 2012. Not sure if I’ve seen it or not.

As for Ms Hain, I saw nothing I recognized for American productions, but a lot German language dramas that I think will be worth my time to check out.
These two actors have the worst time of it. Mr Tange’s character walks a fine line between comedy and flat out creepy. I was never sure which one I would get in each scene, and was always surprised by him.

Ms Hain’s character goes back forth from old age make up to her beautiful self and varying degrees in between, with all the mannerisms of performance that go with that. She is simply mind blowing to watch. She carries her character so seamlessly through the changes to the point that I actually thought there were different actresses playing the role.

We do have a few other characters who pop in early on, such as a local sheriff (played by Tim Williams, recently seen in Valkyrie with Tom Cruise) investigating the “event”, and the mental asylum doctor(played by Jesse Inman). Both of these characters are hilarious. Seriously, not the poster children for human compassion here. I almost wonder if the writer wasn’t making a statement indicting law enforcement and the mental health industry.

Speaking of the writer Till Hastreiter (who is also the director, as is common in indie productions), apparently he is relatively new to the scene. Other than this film, he has two other listings on IMDB. Again, nothing I have heard of, but I am curious to check out his other work.

The acting is overall really good. The special effects are quite nice until the finale, which seems like a let down to have been so good until the end, then they just fall apart. And considering this was originally in 3D, there is very little of what I call the “haunted house of pancakes” moments. If you aren’t familiar with that sketch from SCTV, I’m referring to that “in and out” to the camera move, like in the original House of Wax with the carnival barker and the paddle balls.
To be honest, I really enjoyed this film. I am a huge fan of Hammer Studios and films like theirs, and this really felt that way to me. It does get a little bogged down in the details, and as such at certain points it slows to a crawl. But I’m ok with that, as these details are all clues to the ultimate truth behind what happened to Laura and the fate of our hero Toby.

This is definitely the kind of film that you either love it or hate it with no middle ground. If you are a true fan of gothic horrors, then this is definitely the film for you.
As for me, I’m giving this film 7 pentagrams.

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