Within 10 minutes The Forest has a jump scare…yep, it’s that kind of movie.
Aokigahara Forest (also known as the Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees) is situated at the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan. The forest is incredibly dense & has become a hotspot for people wishing to commit suicide. It is beautiful but a place tinged with sadness. A sign sits at the entrance of the forest urging people considering suicide to reconsider, think of their families & contact a suicide prevention hotline.
The forest is also thought to be haunted by Yūrei, a type of Ghost in Japanese mythology. Similar to Western beliefs Yūrei are spirits that have died under violent circumstances & driven by the desire they last had. Many J-horror movies utilise the legends surrounding Yūrei although they can take many different forms.
This is the concept behind The Forest, something that shouldn’t be possible to screw up yet The Forest works very hard to make it a chore to watch & is incredibly uninspired with its delivery.
I need to point out that this story has been done quite recently, in 2013 a straight to TV movie called Grave Halloween also dealt with the subject of Aokigahara Forest & the Yūrei that are said to haunt it. It was an awful movie & you can read my review here.
So the story…Sarah receives a call from the Japanese police who tell her that her twin sister, Jess was seen going into Aokigahara Forest & hasn’t been seen since. Sarah, unconvinced that her sister is dead decides to fly to Japan to find her.
Arriving at the Forest she meets Aiden, a mysterious Australian magazine writer who agrees to help her provided he can make it a story. She agrees so he arranges it so they can travel with a local guide the next day who checks for bodies & tries to help those considering suicide.
Naturally he is unsure about taking her into the Forest, she has sadness in her heart & he is concerned that this could be taken advantage of by the Yūrei. Having sympathy for her situation he agrees to help but gives her & Aiden warnings about not believing what they see & staying together.
At this point I stopped caring about either Sarah or Aiden as the pair disrespect not only their guide but Japanese cultural beliefs. We get it, you don’t believe in Ghosts but they do…respect that, don’t make crazy signs with your hands & eyes. In fact, from the moment Sarah arrives in Japan she treats almost everyone she meets as if they are below her & scoffs at every far-fetched belief thrown her way.
She tells stories to Aiden about her sister Jess implying that she was a pain in the ass most of the time & after seeming shocked that she might have considered suicide, she tells Aiden about two previous times Jess did attempt to kill herself!
So she has a bloody history…
So how does she know she is still alive? Twin feelings…gods damn it.
After finding Jess’s empty tent Saran decides to stay & wait for her return regardless of how often her guide says, we can’t stay here overnight, it’s dangerous. Aiden agrees to stay with her & the pair bed down for the night…
So starts the spooky things. Ha, I kid…there is nothing spooky in this movie. The lack of tension or build towards another jump scare is pathetic. It’s constant, predictable & always backed up by ‘LOUD NOISES!!’
One such scare sees Sarah looking through a child’s viewfinder seeing pictures of her troubled childhood. As she reaches the final slide what do we get…a man’s zombie face jumping up at the screen. Absolutely no effort put in.
The acting isn’t the worst…Natalie Dormer (of Game of Thrones fame, don’t you know!?) does a serviceable job of looking scared but she is so unlikable that I didn’t care if she lived or died (at certain points I would have happily seen her fall off a cliff). Being twins she also plays the part of Jess which made it hard to care about her too. Not that it really matters as she has such a minor role in the movie.
Attempts to create some kind of connection with the sisters are made through a backstory regarding their parents but the movie spoils that reveal itself early on. I’m not kidding, pay attention to what is heard & seen in the flashback about the car crash. It’s all there in plain sight & the only way you’d miss it is if the movie has put you to sleep which may actually happen.
Boring, a word that should never ever be used to describe a horror film. The Forest is a boring jump-scare-a-thon that frustrates more than anything. Such a waste of good source material.