ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, SEPT. 30, 2004
Joseph Ruben delivered one of the finest Hollywood thrillers of the ’80s with The Stepfather, a domestic chiller that starred Terry O’Quinn as Jerry Blake, a creepy stepdad who was more than willing to kill for the ideal American family. Cheerfully charming a neighbour one minute then skillfully bashing a therapist to death with a two-by-four the next, O’Quinn’s unhinged take on Ward Cleaver with a cleaver was a golden moment in the horror canon.
Ruben tried to match The Stepfather‘s effectiveness in the ’90s with more psycho-in-the-family entries like Sleeping With the Enemy and The Good Son, but neither managed to hit the mark so well. Now Ruben is back on track with The Forgotten, a tearjerking sci-fi thriller that–although incredibly corny at times–manages to keep you compelled by its B-movie shenanigans.
The consistently strong Julianne Moore stars as Telly Paretta, a Brooklyn book editor grieving over the death of her nine-year-old son, Sam, who perished in a plane crash 14 months earlier. But according to her psychiatrist (Gary Sinise) and husband (ER‘s Anthony Edwards), Paretta never actually had a child–it was lost in a miscarriage that nearly took her life. They tell her that the posttraumatic stress has caused her mind to create false memories of a boy who never was; their case is strengthened when all records of his existence vanish.
But Paretta rails against that notion with all her being, and she soon confronts neighbour Ash Correll (Dominic West), a former New York Ranger whose daughter was Sam’s friend and who was on the plane with him when it went down (or so the memories go). At first, the now-alcoholic Correll repels the anguished woman’s claim that he ever had a child, but when she finally helps him remember (“Say her name!”), the two join forces to elude shadowy (and shockingly inept) federal agents and find out what really happened to their loved ones.
There are some nice, well-timed jolts, and the scenes where select people are sucked up into the sky are pretty freaky. Plenty of silliness arises in the main plot device, but the vulnerability of Moore (and, to a lesser extent, West) keeps things rooted in enough emotional reality that you can enjoy the cosmic tale without feeling like too much of a chump.
At risk of sounding like a total suck, I mostly liked The Forgotten because it made me want to hurry home and hug my kids.