New Release Review - THE FOREST

An American heads to Japan in search of her missing twin.

Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Jason Zada

Starring: Natalie Dormer, Eoin Macken, Stephanie Vogt, Taylor Kinney



Using a location synonymous with real life suffering for a horror movie is the height of bad taste. Hollywood seems to think tragedy is fine once it doesn't effect Americans. Try pitching a horror movie featuring the ghosts of those who died in the Twin Towers or Hurricane Katrina and see how far it gets you.



At the foot of Japan's Mount Fuji lies the Aokigahara forest, a stretch of woodland that's become known as 'The Suicide Forest', as it's that country's most popular destination for those wishing to take their own lives. Local legend has it that the forest is haunted by the spirits of those who make it their final resting place.
Over the past few years we've seen Aokigahara provide the setting for several movies. 2010's crassly titled Forest of the Living Dead saw a model return to enact revenge on her enemies after taking her life in the forest. In 2013, a SyFy Channel original, Grave Halloween, had a documentary crew enter the woods. Gus Van Sant's latest, the still awaiting distribution The Sea of Trees, features Matthew McConaughey as an American who travels to the forest with suicide on his mind. And now we have The Forest, a movie as bland as its title is uninspired.
American Sara (Natalie Dormer) learns that her twin sister Jess (also Dormer) disappeared into Aokigahara and so heads off to Japan, convinced her sis is still alive. "Twins can sense these things," she repeats to many a doubting stranger. At a nearby hotel, Sara meets American reporter Aiden (Taylor Kinney), who agrees to accompany her into the forest, along with a local guide, in exchange for allowing him to write her story. The next morning, the three set off into the woods.
What follows is a succession of post J-Horror jump scares and apparitions of dead Japanese schoolgirls. None of the 'scares' work, simply because they're so formulaic it's impossible not to see them coming. More interesting is a mishandled subplot about Aiden's true intentions in getting Sara alone in the forest, which suggests the movie may have worked more effectively as a psychological thriller, had the supernatural elements been shorn.
Dormer is miscast and lacks the vulnerability required for a horror lead; there's something too tough and capable about the actress for us to ever doubt she can take care of herself. The scenes in which she appears as both twins are laughably unconvincing; don't expect anything like The Social Network's Winklevoss Twins here.
Using a location synonymous with real life suffering for a horror movie is the height of bad taste. We saw this a few years ago in the equally distasteful Chernobyl Diaries. Hollywood seems to think tragedy is fine once it doesn't effect Americans. Try pitching a horror movie featuring the ghosts of those who died in the Twin Towers or Hurricane Katrina and see how far it gets you.
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