By: Stephanie Shamblin Gray
It was recently brought to my attention that there is a bit of a buzz on the internet about El Torres. It seems that many people are crying foul at a couple of recent movies that have been released that have a resemblance to El Torres’s stories. Some people are even using the “P” word: Plagiarism. Because El Torres is one of my favorite comic authors I started paying attention and looking into the particular movies being discussed: “The Forest” and “The Veil”.
First up for discussion are the movie “The Forest” and the similar book in name and topic created by El Torres, “The Suicide Forest.” Here’s a quick description for the movie: “a woman goes into Japan’s Suicide Forest to find her twin sister, and confronts supernatural terror.” Here is the description of “The Suicide Forest” book: “The legend of the Aokigahara forest (which lies just outside of Tokyo) says that those who have committed suicide in the massive wilderness are cursed to have their souls trapped within its very roots. Unfortunately for Alan, his girlfriend, Masami, committed her suicide there and she’s now on a vengeful mission to ruin his life!” If you were a fan of the book like I was you may have gotten very excited about the announcement of the movie thinking it was an adaptation of El Torres’s fantastic comic. However, these are two different stories using the same creepy backdrop, i.e., the suicide forest. While the movie could have easily been inspired by the book, it is just as likely to have been inspired by any of the other books and movies that have used the Aokigahara forest as a plot point.
Then there is the second movie, “The Veil.” Both the comic and the movie have the same name…and that’s about where the big similarities end. Here is a description of the movie: “Thirty years after members of a religious cult committed mass suicide, the lone survivor returns to the scene of the tragedy with a documentary crew in tow to learn what really happened.” And the book description: “Meet Chris Luna, a cheap private eye with a client list of the dearly departed. Chris has the unique ability to sometimes pierce through The Veil between our realm and the unknown beyond. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really pay the rent. Now Chris is broke and has to return home to Maine… and face the darkness that now lurks beneath the surface of her quiet hometown.” These two have similarities in a way that many stories do, e.g., someone has a traumatic experience as a child and returns to the place and then supernatural events unfold. There is an afterlife connection here but it’s flimsy. Even though the titles are the same, I would have not thought of the book and the movie in relation to the other. I was much more inclined to think of the movie “The Sacrament” when I heard about the movie “The Veil” and not this book.
Bottom line: This doesn’t appear to be plagiarism from my perspective. In fact, these works may not even be inspired by El Torres considering the range of other books, movies, and history that is available on similar topics. I would say that El Torres is a victim of coincidence in this situation. A potentially fortunate outcome is that these situations provide a great opportunity to shine a light on El Torres and other creators that provide us with such fantastic entertainment. I would certainly encourage anyone reading this to go buy copies of El Torres’ previous books and compare for themselves. Maybe people talking about the potential for plagiarism will encourage others unfamiliar with his comics to go and discover the work of El Torres. If that happens, then the controversy of these circumstances will be worthwhile.