Review: The Forest

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A Hollywood produced psychological horror set in Japan following a young American woman trying to find her sister who has become lost in the notorious “suicide forest” that actually exists on the banks of Mount Fuji. Trying to not sound too snobby, but I feel as though The Forest could have been better served as a Japanese production.

Sarah and Jess Price are identical twin sisters who lost their parents at a young age. Jess, the rebellious one (and a teacher in Japanese schools) disappears into the forest and local Police inform Sarah (Game of Thrones‘ Natalie Dormer) there is no hope in finding her; that people who go into the forest alone do so willingly and rarely return. But Sarah, guilty about the trials Jess had endured as they grew up, vows to find her…

The titular forest is the Aokigahara forest, locally known as The Sea of Trees, where people truly go to die, and while making a horror film out of it with near-supernatural occurrences might be insensitive, The Forest does make itself out as strictly a psychological horror. Using the existing notion that the Aokigahara forest is cursed and that people entering it experience fear and evil visions as a means to disturb and frighten our heroine and audiences.

But… it doesn’t work.
From the get go our heroine Sarah claims to have an extra “sense”, an attunement to her sister’s wellbeing. This is the hammered home repeatedly as it is the only plot device available to forgo that pesky demon of horror films: common sense. This leads the audience down the lines of either: Sarah is actually psychic, or is already disturbed before even going into the forest.
While this desperation of hers drives the scares, the scares themselves are so forced and without context. An old woman randomly scratching the wall in a corridor where the lights don’t work where Sarah is temporarily staying (reminding me of The Visit last year) Why? It has nothing to do with anything, not even Sarah’s own mind set.

The film feels like it is missing a trick, or perhaps lacks a more intelligent twist or theme; I left the cinema a little bemused, uncertain of what I was supposed to have taken away from it. There’s plenty of potential twists available when one analyses it, but the film does not commit to these and plays things straight.
I wonder if the producers weren’t confident in making a horror film based off the stigma of a country’s real suicide problem…

The Forest did not leave a lasting impression on me, it did not feel confident in what it was trying to achieve and when it went for scares it went for some of the biggest tropes available.

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Additional Marshmallows: Also this isn’t fair, but watching this not long after watching The Revenant proves just how awesome The Revenant’s cinematography was when shooting people traversing forests!

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