How bad can a movie be that it takes an amazing concept, location, real-world thing & completely screw it up? There are plenty of bad horror movies out there but terrible horror movies are rare. I like to think I can find something I like about a horror movie & it is not often I think something is irredeemable. Well, here it is…one of the worst movies I have ever seen.
It’s so bad that I think it might be worse then The Wicker Man remake….
Set in Japan & based around the infamous ‘Suicide Forest’…Aokigahara or the ‘Sea of Trees’ is a huge expanse of forest land that lies at the base of Mount Fuji.
The tress are so densely packed together that there is no wind & virtually no wildlife, it is said to be eerily quiet. The forest is a suicide hot-spot with 247 people attempting it in 2010 alone. Deaths & suicides have been reported there as far back as the 1960’s & is no considered to be a very haunted place.
Perfect for a nice ghost story using traditional Japanese elements mixed with modern story-telling…yeah, right.
The first thing you’ll notice is the heavy American cast…it’s kind of explained as the movie starts in a school. This does fall apart later in the movie as almost no-one but the main lead can read Japanese & she can barely understand it when it is spoken.
So we have Maiko, the lead who is on a mission to find the body of her birth mother who has committed suicide in Aokigahara. She knows this because she was sent a picture of her mother’s suicide spot as well as some of her jewellery. Oh & she is having vivid dreams (even when she is driving) of her playing with her mother. I know, that makes no sense & it doesn’t get any more clear. You see, Maiko hasn’t seen her mother since she was a kid…she was adopted for reasons that aren’t explained.
This happens a lot in the movie…it leaves things deliberately unclear so it can set up a stupid ‘twist’ ending.
So Maiko wants to bury her mother & set her spirit free. She is being aided by Amber & Terry who are going to film it for Amber’s school project. They’ve also enlisted the aid of Kyle, a stranger who is really willing to help for no reason at all. Nope, don’t get suspicious…it’s totally pointless as he actually is just some stranger who wants to help.
Anyway, our foursome get into it with the 3 ‘pranksters’ at the school who joke about what Maiko is going to do. They love playing pranks & love winding people up….hint, hint.
Fast-forward & our group are now heading into the forest but not before checking out a clearly abandoned car by the road. It is implied whoever it belonged too has been gone a while. Bear in mind now that the film has been running for 12 minutes…I stopped to specifically to check the time. 12 minutes in & subtly goes out the window in one up close & un-missable ‘scary’ bit.
It’s not scary in the slightest…subtly has gone out the window already & the film never recovers from it. To be fair it never really tries either…within 5 minutes of entering the woods they are stumbling across bodies as if it’s a freakin’ graveyard. Oh look…an old Japanese man has shown up out of the blue & keeps talking about respecting the dead…that’s not going to be significant at any point now is it?
I could write pages on just how bad this movie so I’ll bullet point some of the worst moments/plot holes:
• They claim to be lost while clearly standing on a path. Paths lead places…
• The forest that is supposed to be deathly quiet is really noisy & wildlife is heard all around them.
• You’re studying in Japan yet are so ignorant to their culture & beliefs.
• Why did her mother want her to come to the forest? To finish what she started? But if she only killed herself 2 months before why didn’t she hunt Maiko down while alive?
• Who sent the jewellery & picture? It feels like there was supposed to be a sub-plot that got abandoned.
• Why is the handheld camera footage the exact same picture quality as the films cameras? The only difference is the timer.
• Why is the little girl in the forest when she didn’t die there?
I’m struggling to find anything positive & it obvious from the first moment that her mother isn’t quite normal. Seriously, the dream sequences show her mother in a pretty messed up state. That was a big clue…
The film is littered with clichés…characters walk off on their own, they split up at random times, see ghosts in the distance that aren’t there when the others look etc. It’s been done to death & lacks all originality. The attempt to mesh an Asian style horror (white robes, long back hair style ghosts) with Japanese folklore & Western horror was a nice idea that back-fired incredibly. It’s laughable at times just how desperately the cast try to make the situation seem darker then it is.
At no stage did I ever believe they were actually lost which was proven time after time throughout. It’s embarrassing just how stupid the characters are.
I think though the most frustrating thing about this movie is how it could have been at least creepy but instead tries to beat you over the head with a ‘look, ghosts’ bat. Every time something subtle happens it is instantly followed up by an attempted jump scare. The 3 pranksters rob a tent & take a watch inside that probably belonged to a dead person. They walk off & the camera focuses on the tents open door. A gust of wind blows the door…that’s’ it, stop there…Aokigahara has little wind because of the density of the trees. There is your subtle scare, but no…Straight after we get a face pushing itself against the material of the tent. It’s a piss-poor attempt of a scare & might make the odd person react. Seasoned horror fans will laugh like I did.
So what was good? The fat kid gets his arm ripped off & another gets a stick through the throat. A few nasty deaths amuse but do little to improve the overall quality. By time the ending comes all you’ll want is every single person dead including those off-screen involved in this travesty.
Finally as if one twist wasn’t enough the film throws a final curve-ball at you with a confusing & nonsensical ending that just made me angrier. Ghosts can drive cars now…
Yep, it’s getting a 1/10… I hated it from the first few minutes. It never improved upon the opening dream sequence & every scene opened up another plot hole that by the end left me feeling like I was trying to unravel a movie on par with Inception.