Written by: Tera Kirk
Directed by: Till Hastreiter
Cast: Peter Gadiot, Jytte-Merle Böhrnsen, Klaus Tange, Jeanette Hain, Marc Bischoff
Watching The Forbidden Girl, I expected a straight horror flick—more-or-less discrete scares, maybe a mystery, a traditional plot structure. Such a state of mind is absolutely the wrong way to watch this movie. Director Till Hastreiter is more interested in crafting an eerie-but-somehow-magical atmosphere than he is in resolving plot threads.
What is the plot, exactly? A preacher forbids his son from falling in love, lest he mate with an evil force and bring disaster on the world. Six hours later, the son, Toby McClift (Peter Gadiot), meets his girlfriend for a nightly rondezvous which ends with his father dead and her whisked away by a shadowy creature. Maybe.
Six years later (there’s an arc here), Toby is released from a mental institution to start his new job tutoring a young woman called Laura (played by Jytte-Merle Böhrnsen with childlike innocence and adult sexuality in equal measure), who looks suspiciously like his kidnapped girlfriend. She lives with a sickly old woman who gets younger and younger as the film progresses and Mortimer, the gruff, creepy servant who is very protective of Laura. One reason he’s so vigilant is because Laura has a condition where sunlight burns her skin–and Toby must make sure no light is let into the house. Naturally, Mortimer doesn’t trust Toby one bit. And considering how quickly and deeply Toby obsesses over her, I don’t blame him.
When you expect all this stuff to lead somewhere neat and tidy, the special effects are terrible. Smoky shadows stick out from the rest of the environment and the creature who kidnaps Toby’s girlfriend is “dude in a rubber suit” levels of realistic. But now that I know the visuals and mood are the focus, the blue filters for the night scenes and the fire superimposed over Laura’s hands add an otherworldly cast—one which makes total sense in light of the ending.
An even bigger contribution to The Forbidden Girl’s creepy atmosphere is the Victorian-style house it’s filmed in. The house both magical and formidable, with its huge empty spaces that promise secrets and bank vault-style doors. Watching Toby explore it is my favorite thing about the movie.
I appreciate The Forbidden Girl more now that I understand its focus is on ambience. Ultimately, though, I wasn’t fond of a lot of the stylistic choices that were made. It’s just not my cup of tea.
About the Author: Tera Kirk has loved horror movies since before her mom allowed her to watch most of them. (One of her fondest childhood memories is being terrified of the trailer for Stuart Gordon’s Dolls.) She has written for Monsters At Play, and reviews video games for GameCritics.com. Her more-or-less personal website is Sweet Perdition.