(dir. Jason Zada)
*First time viewing
A woman travels to Japan’s suicide forest to find her twin sister who has recently gone missing there.
The Forest had the potential be one of those surprise January horror films that actually worked. After all, it’s based on an ever-popular piece of lore and features rising star Natalie Dormer. Unfortunately, The Forest never manages to use either the history of the Aokigahara Forest or Dormer to its advantage. The Forest is listless, entirely lacking of personality. Tokyo isn’t given any sense of cultural flavor despite filming there, and the forest itself could be any wooded area in western America—there’s no sense of production design in this movie. Since filming is actual Aokigahara forest is illegal, those scenes were shot partly in Serbia and partly in a warehouse, but given how little sense of space there is in this movie, I would assume that most of it was shot in a warehouse. I’m quite taken by the idea of using the forest to showcase a character’s position of feeling lost inside their own grief and mental illness, but the visuals never match the intent of the story…nor does the acting. Dormer seems at a loss in this movie, not simply because her character is constantly in a state of search and confusion, but because the script does little to give her any personality. Sara is given so few important actions that it never seems like she’s actually achieving anything another that passing time. Even with pulling double duty as Sara’s twin Jess, Dormer is never given a chance to put her impressive acting chops to use.
There are images in the film that taken alone work well. There’s a scene in a hotel hallway early on and a scene in a cave later in the movie that both show Zada’s ability to deliver scares when not bogged down by the laziest of jump noises. Even the film’s twist, achieved through its earlier use of flashbacks provides the film with an interesting theme, but it’s just delivered so flatly and surrounded by a film utterly lacking a pulse that it’s all a bit of a shrug. What’s frustrating about The Forest is that it doesn’t feel like a complete misfire. There are some truly good ideas hidden in this film, and in broad strokes there’s a worthwhile story searching to get out. Another draft of this script and a visionary direction could have really made The Forest something memorable.
Scare Factor:1/5 The Forest is reminiscent of the American J-horror remakes in the mid-2000s, only this time there’s no better-made, original version for me to recommend to you so the best I can do is suggest you skip this one.
**Available to rent at Redbox