2004's The Forgotten has to be one of the most horribly marketed films I've seen in quite some time. I completely side-stepped this movie when it was originally released because its ad campaign suggested it was another in a long line of "Sixth Sense" rip-offs. It's a shame, because had it been presented as the suspenseful sci-fi thriller that it actually was, I think it could have been the sleeper hit of the year, and a welcome return to the classic paranoid sci-fi thrillers I was weaned on.
Julianne Moore stars as Telly Paretta, a shattered mother who has been finding it more and more difficult to accept the death of her young son Sam, who died in a plane crash over a year ago. Telly's psychologist (Sinise) thinks that she needs to move on with her life, while her husband, Jim (Edwards), just wants his wife back after fourteen months of grieving. So it's no surprise to Telly when she discovers that her cherished photos and videos of Sam have turned up doctored, or blank, or missing altogether. It's obviously a tactic to get her to "forget" her son, and, when she confronts Jim about it, he calls in Telly's doctor to tell her the truth.
Her son Sam didn't die.
In fact, he never existed at all.
And thus Telly begins her quest to find Sam, a child she is told was a product of her imagination, but her instincts tell her otherwise. Her search leads her to Ash (West), the father of a young girl who was also on that ill-fated flight; except he has no recollection of ever having a daughter. However, when Telly tears down the new wallpaper in his office, revealing the wall scrawling and paintings of a girl's bedroom, Ash's memories come back to him, and the two parents of children "who never were" are now the target of the police, the N.S.A., and a mysterious, unstoppable man who holds the key to everything.
The Forgotten is a really good piece of crackling sci-fi horror, with enough solid jolts to rattle anyone's cage, and a very touching human drama at its core. While the alien/conspiracy thing is fairly well weathered, it's handled with a lot of grace here, and features an original spin that is satisfying and very entertaining. The film also features some pretty nifty effects, including a method of abduction that had me jumping in my chair more often than most straight-out horror flicks. Julianne Moore turns in a strong performance as the beleaguered Telly, and Dominic West makes for a charismatic and somewhat tragic ally in the hard drinking Ash. It's actually a damned fine cast altogether, with Sinise, Edwards, and Alfre Woodard rounding out an impressive roster of talent that inhabit director Joseph Ruben's dark and dreamy New York.
The DVD from Columbia Tristar features two cuts of the film; the theatrical version, and the extended edition, which features a few more minutes of footage, as well as an alternate ending. I watched both, and I think the theatrical version is the better of the two, as I found the alternate ending a bit too precious, and just felt the theatrical version's leaner running time made it a more efficient film. There's also a commentary track, a making of featurette, and trailers.
While The Forgotten doesn't exactly break new ground as far as sci-fi conspiracy thrillers go, it does offer a reasonably fresh take on the genre, and is well worth checking out.