Horror in the Forest

Author: Steve Stred

In the border, there is a small settlement. People who deliberately live off-the-gride and keep to themselves. They keep the old ways, and they honor the old agreements. They do not go past the clearing. They do not go into the area known as the border. And they are left alone. Until now. Until a scream in the night, followed by the discovery of a young girl’s mutilated body. Something has awoken, some ancient agreement has been broken, and it’s anyone’s guess if and where the carnage will end.

Enter the Basco PD officers. They rarely interact with the residents near the border. But a murder calls for action. Officer Brown grew up on the border and knows a bit about the residents and their ways. But this murder is no match for his small force, and instead of calling for help, he waits and tries to unravel the secrets of the cultish little settlement and how they tie into his own life, into the chilling pictures he is finding in the woods, into the strange entity that whispers in his mind and invades his home at night.

Churn the Soils starts powerfully, a folk-horror feel combined with a police procedural and elements of an action thriller. The premise is certainly there, complimented by an atmosphere of paranoia and isolation, and the creatures of the border are sufficiently different – like cannibalistic Eldritch gods. But it soon goes south, and the issue is logic.

When the Basco officers, along with Brown, arrive, called out by some mystery informer, and find the body in the clearing, they do nothing. The locals say don’t enter, don’t investigate. And so, they wait, the body left to molder. The residents say it will be gone, come morning. If not, the police can go in and do their thing. And the police agree! This is certainly not standard procedure, and while I’m not up on the dos and don’ts of real crime investigations, I know that you gather the evidence immediately instead of sitting and waiting.

Image by Sarah Richter from Pixabay

From here, the police officers continue to use faulty or missing logic. Characters come and go, wondering into the woods, nearly getting killed and then after near misses, fatalities, and injuries that they should not be able to walk away from, they go right back into the woods. It’s the old horror movie logic. The sexy blond girl in the tube top always goes into the basement, where the spooky noises are coming from, when the lights go off. She never grabs a weapon; she never calls for help. Basco PD apparently operates under the same logic. Bad, mythical monsters killing everyone? Go towards them, into their territory, at night, with no backup and no weapons. Preferably walk in. Tell no one. What could possibly go wrong?

Stepping aside from the police, wondering alone in alien forests with zero plans, lets switch to the creatures – the Forest Guards. Conceptually, they’re fascinating, but the ball gets dropped early. Are they zombies? Yes . . . but no. They also have wings. Kind of. So, they are sort of vampires. But also, not, because they are kind of giants. Except when they aren’t. It’s hard to get a bead on just what these creatures are and what they look like. The descriptions are contradictory and fleeting. We never form a picture of what’s stalking through the night.

And finally, the reveal all, the answer for all the baddies . . . is so, so dumb.


It turns out that it’s all Brown’s father, a man forced to drop his life and marry the woman he got pregnant at a long-ago party. For this, he wants revenge on his son and raises an evil army because simply walking out would make WAYYYYY to much sense. We need an evil plan here, and so, here it is, in all its illogical stupidity, the sloppy icing on this falling cake.


Churn the Soil had so much potential – a good atmosphere, adequate writing, that isolated folk-horror feel. I wanted to love it. In the beginning, I did, but there are too many logical issues to ignore, and soon the B-horror aspects of poor plotting, unwarranted and unnecessarily dangerous character actions, and a villain who complicates things for absolutely no reason at all, destroys the potential. Not recommended.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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