Synopsis: A young woman searches for her twin sister in a Japanese forest only to find herself surrounded by paranormal forces.
Release Date: January 8, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
The director of The Forest is Jason Zada, the guy behind that creepy little Facebook app Take This Lollipop. For those who are unfamiliar with it, Take This Lollipop was an interactive plugin that accessed the user’s Facebook profile, then placed the photos and information into a three minute short film that made it seem as if the user had a stalker. It was a pretty inventive and unsettling experience. It’s too bad that Zada couldn’t parlay some of that creativity into The Forest.
The Forest is about a young woman named Sara Price (Natalie Dormer from “Game of Thrones”) who travels to Japan in search of her twin sister, Jess (also played by Dormer), who has gone missing. Jess, an English teacher at a girls’ school, was last seen going into the forest of Aokigahara on a field trip. Since Aokigahara is a popular suicide destination, it is assumed that Jess is dead, but Sara knows in her gut that her sister is alive and in trouble. In Japan, Sara meets a reporter named Aiden (Taylor Kinney from “Chicago Fire”) who wants to do a story on her and her search for her sister, and agrees to introduce her to Michi (The Hidden Blade‘s Yukiyoshi Ozawa), a guide who knows the forest well due to his frequent “suicide patrols.” The three go into the woods searching for answers, but they find more than they bargained for within the haunted woods.
For the record, Aokigahara is a real place. A very real and frightening place where hundreds of Japanese people go to end their lives every year. It’s made even more horrifying by the fact that, because of the density of the forest and the frequency of the incidents, the government can’t keep up with the body retrieval, so the suicide victims’ remains will sometimes stay hidden in the woods for weeks or longer. It’s a terrifying place. With all that backstory, it just begs for a good horror movie to be made about it. Unfortunately, Jason Zada and the writing team of Nick Antosca (“Hannibal”), Ben Ketai (“Chosen”), and Sarah Cornwell (a novelist who makes her screenwriting debut with The Forest) can’t quite find the right story.
The Forest is dull. It schizophrenically alternates being about the sisters’ pasts, the mistrust between the main trio of characters, and the paranormal entities in the woods themselves, but doesn’t flesh out any of the different subplots cleanly enough to make the movie coherent. All that’s left is a movie that, despite an abundance of on-the-nose exposition and way-too-wordy explanation, is a muddled mess of confusion and turmoil. Maybe it’s because there were too many cooks working on the screenplay, but The Forest severely lacks focus.
There is a point in The Forest – about an hour or so in – where it seems like it may be getting good, when it looks like the audience’s patience is about to pay off and they are about to be rewarded for sticking around. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that, at that point, The Forest almost becomes a completely different movie that is much more engaging. The key word there is almost. Just as quickly as it gets good, it settles down again, revealing that the plot twist was not actually a plot twist but a fluke. A trap. A red herring.
January is a month that is notorious for its bad movies, and it appears as if The Forest has gotten there first this year. Which is a shame, because between the creativity of Jason Zada’s previous work and the absolutely horrifying subject matter of Aokigahara, The Forest was set up to be a hit. Instead, it misses. Badly.
Just the mere setting of The Forest would seem to make the movie scary, but there’s only so much that a paranormally charged forest can do. The eeriness factor in the movie is pretty high, with the woods being full of “what was that?” and “did you see?” images, but horror movies are not built on mood alone, and The Forest has a distinct lack of scares. It tries to startle to viewer with some sudden jump scares here and there, but with one exception, they’re pretty ineffective – and even the one that does work was done better in Insidious. The Forest is good for a little creep out, but as far as being scary goes, not so much.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Jason Zada
- Producer(s): David S. GoyerDavid LindeTory Metzger
- Screenwriter(s): Nick AntoscaSarah CornwellBen Ketai
- Cast: Natalie Dormer (Sara/Jess Price)Taylor Kinney (Aiden)Yukiyoshi Ozawa (Michi) Eoin Macken (Rob)
- Editor(s): Jim Flynn
- Cinematographer: Mattias Troelstrup
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Bojana Nikitovic
- Casting Director(s): Elaine Grainger
- Music Score: Bear McCreary
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA