Starring Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Eoin Macken
There are plenty of films like The Mothman Prophecies, The Conjuring even The Exorcism of Emily Rose, within the horror genre, that have taken real life elements and made compelling movies from them. The Forest attempts the same, using the Aokigahara Forest on the outskirts of Mt. Fuji as the setting for a horror movie starring Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer. Beyond using Japan’s most notorious suicide spot as it’s setting, don’t buy the “based on actual events” in the marketing. The studio Americanizes and whitewashes the story to an extent that they shouldn’t have bothered even setting it in Japan. Dormer’s talent on Game of Thrones as the snippy and sly Princess Margaery Tyrell is wasted as she plays troubled twin sisters lost in this ghostly forest.
Sarah (Dormer) has received word from Japanese officials that her sister Jess (Dormer) has been reported missing in Tokyo and was last spotted going into the Aokigahara Forest, where people go to take their lives. Sarah jumps on a plane and heads to Tokyo where she begins her search for Jess. She is warned not to go into the forest, especially not carrying sadness, it makes you think and feel things that are not real. She meets a journalist named Aiden (Kinney) who is eager to help locate her twin sister if she will allow him to write a story about the experience. Warnings aside, Sarah, Aiden and a local guide venture into the forest, ignoring everything and everyone telling them not to. Yet nothing can prepare Sarah for what she finds deep in the suicide forest.
Never takes itself seriously or even attempts to offer its viewer characters worth caring about.
There was a real opportunity here to explore how a beautiful forest in Japan came to be known for something so dark and disturbing. Director Jason Zada keeps The Forest focused on “gotcha” moments for the teeny bopper audience, rather than character development or historical significance. The filmmakers can’t resist mainstream horror movie stereotypes as elements insignificant to the plot jump out at the viewer on a regular basis. Enormous amounts of forest walking (or falling in most cases) eat up most of the pictures running time. Nick Antosca’s screenplay feeds the viewer an unrealized backstory that never becomes very relevant to the plot. Dormer’s performance relies more on her popularity or name, than her abilities to play twin sisters who are actually only on screen at the same time in one poorly edited flashback sequence.
The Forest might work for those looking for cheap entertainment and easily forgotten scares, but nothing shown or said on screen sticks. This film, and a string of others within the genre remind me why mature audience members avoid these films altogether. The Forest never takes itself seriously or even attempts to offer its viewer characters worth caring about. So what if this dark headed Jess girl is dead or alive out in the forest, we don’t know her. If it wasn’t for the pacing and the short running time, this would be even worse.
Gives in to stupidity rather than exploring the mythology of the Aokigahara Forest