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Wednesday, 22 June 2016
Horror DVD Of The Week: The Forest (2016)
Like way too many modern horror movies, The Forest takes a great set-up and an interesting premise then pisses it all away.
American Sara (Natalie Dormer) flies to Japan to try and find her missing twin sister, Jess (also Natalie Dormer), an English teacher who wandered into the world-famous Aokigahara Forest, at the foot of Mount Fuji, and never returned.
The forest is known as a place where people go to commit suicide, and everyone - except Sara - believes this is what her tearaway and troubled sister has done.
The family has a history in this regard, her father killed her mother then took his own life, and Jess has tried to kill herself twice before, but Sara is adamant that, through her "twin bond", she knows Jess is still alive.
At her hotel, Sara meets travel journalist Aidan (Taylor Kinney), who is fascinated by Sara's story - and the fact that she looks like Natalie Dormer, which certainly helps in these situations - and finds a local guide, Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa), willing to take them both into the forest.
Eventually, they stumble upon Jess's tent, but when it comes time to head out of the forest (for safety reasons, as night is coming) Sara wants to stay and wait for Jess to return. Aiden agrees to stay with her, much to Michi's frustration.
And that's when the forest's ghosts - yūrei - start to mess with Sara's head.
Once in the forest, the film does a great job of capturing Sara's rapid descent into paranoid madness, as she misreads Aiden's attempts to help her (or does she?) and starts seeing hallucinations (or ghosts?) within the disorientating panoply of Aokigahara's seemingly never-ending trees.
The creepy atmosphere, unfortunately, is frequently undermined by cheesy attempts at jump scares, as though director Jason Zada isn't confident enough in the oppressive sense of isolation he's conjuring up.
There are enticing plot threads, such as Sara's unwillingness to address what happened to her parents, but - except in the most basic manner - these aren't really tackled on a psychological level, yet that's where the film is at its strongest.
The Forest is an easily digestible hour-and-half, but could have done with shaving some time off the build-up and spending longer with Sara, and her personal demons, under the cover of the trees.
I wanted, and expected, to enjoy the film more than I did. It ticked so many boxes for me, yet failed to come together in a coherent form.
Full of great moments (as well as, unfortunately, duff ones), I can't help feeling that The Forest is an intelligent horror film that has been dumbed down somewhere along the way to try and make it more accessible.
While the ending of the film is no Last Stop (thank heavens!), and certainly has a dark irony all of its own, ultimately it still feels jumbled and unsatisfactory.