The Forest Review

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At the base of Mount Fuji is Japan’s Aokigahara Forest or as it’s alternatively called, the Suicide Forest. It’s a location that’s infamously known for the inordinate number of people who go to kill themselves. It’s a very sensitive place to many Japanese people, but to Westerners, it becomes a very chic tourist destination for brave travelers. For filmmakers, the Suicide Forest provides a gold mine of material that they can use for their horror film — sensitivity be damned. But is The Forest the creepy horror film that it suggests, or is it just another run-of-the-mill horror film released during a time where movies go to die?

Despite its eerie location and great leads, The Forest is just another bland horror film that relies heavily on jump scares to terrify audiences. It’s not good when the actual story behind the Suicide Forest is more haunting than the film itself.

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The Forest follows Sara Price (Natalie Dormer) as she travels to Japan in search of her twin sister, Jess, who’s lost in the famed Aokigahara Forest. While others believe she’s dead or has committed suicide, Sara knows that Jess is still alive and will do whatever it takes to find her sister and get her out of the Suicide Forest alive.

Much of the scare factor revolves around the forest itself. It’s dark, it’s creepy, and at the same time beautiful to look at. First-time director Jason Zada does a great job using the environment to create a chilling environment for our hero to journey through. Never seen this chilling use of a forest since The Blair Witch Project. However, Zada clumsily tries to make a psychological thriller with plenty of twists and turns.

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The Forest has a very slow but methodical setup, but when the forest begins to exploit Sara’s emotions then the film begins to escalate. Sara’s told by a guide that anything she sees in the forest is all in her head. As we get deeper into the forest, we’re left imagining whether or not whether what we see on screen is real or in Sara’s imagination. It’s the type of psychological terror that could’ve played well, but that psychological terror of the film is undone by its incredibly predictable jump scares. You can catch a lot of the visual and audio cues for any jump scare that’s about to come. The ghostly figures look incredibly cheesy too since the CGI ghost faces are poorly rendered so it also adds to the cheap scares.

Taylor Kinney does a really good job in his first horror role. He plays Aiden with a sense of mystery to him. As Sara’s madness begins to grow, Aiden’s character begins to get questioned. Kinney’s performance is great as you begin to question whether he’s the good guy or bad guy. Unfortunately, the talented Natalie Dormer put her all into her two roles even though the script barely bothers to build both. In fact, when we hit the film’s climax, there isn’t enough emotional substance to make us feel anything for Dormer’s characters.

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Despite the main leads best efforts to create a different type of supernatural thriller, it ultimately ends up falling short. The problem with The Forest lies with the reliance on cheap scares rather than building on its psychological terror. The film was much more interesting as we journey through Sara’s madness and questioning whether Aiden is a bad guy or not. However, what it does right is creating the Suicide Forest as such an eerie place that it could make you think twice about heading to a regular forest.

Rating: 2.5/5 atoms
NR 2_5 Atoms - C-

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1505 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.