Written by: Cody Hiner
Director: Jason Zada
Cast: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa
There’s something singularly frustrating about mediocre horror. When a decent idea is squandered and doesn’t live up to its potential, nobody wins. The Forest had about as solid of a premise as you could want: A woman travels to Japan to find her twin sister, and ventures after her into a place known as The Suicide Forest. While it does have its moments of beautiful cinematography, creepy backdrops of ghastly figures just out of focus in the background, or a scene in a cave that implies the worst is about to happen, this movie does more wrong that it does right. Natalie Dormer delivers an unimpressive performance playing both twins, Sara and Jess, though Aiden (played by Taylor Kinney) is more interesting in his screen time.
The story stumbles on itself at several points, first the reveal early on (if you catch it) of Sara/Jess’s parents death early on in the film. If you listen closely, Sara is telling Aiden about a car crash in the front yard, while the film shows us a flashback where you clearly hear a gunshot, a body fall to the floor, reloading, and another gunshot, then the children and grandmother going downstairs into a basement to find the bodies. The reveal isn’t a problem, but because it comes so early in the movie and is thrown in so nonchalantly, later when Sara finds a childhood toy and sees the flashback for what it was, a murder suicide, there is no emotional weight to it, because the audience has known for nearly an hour at this point. It’s not a twist anymore, it’s not a surprise, the value of the idea has been lost.
The second series of stumbles for me is the cheap use of Halloween Horror Nights type of scares. The ghosts standing still at a distance has been done to death, and is a tired and overused horror trope. Between Sara running away from Aiden several times, running into what is very clearly a ghost disguised as a young Japanese schoolgirl and following her anyway, and separating herself from Aiden even though she’s clearly just losing it, these just add up to make her character dumb and impossible to sympathize for. I lose all respect and hope for a character when they literally run deep into a haunted forest at night, I mean seriously? When a movie just becomes frustrating to watch, it’s no longer enjoyable. There was a particular scene in a cave Sara falls into, that reveals the Japanese schoolgirl to be a ghastly apparition, but who the hell is surprised by this? Who didn’t see this for what it was immediately?
Now despite this review being completely negative so far, there are a few redeemable aspects to this movie, so let’s touch on those. The visuals are pretty damn good, from the wide shots of the forest itself, to the brief glimpse we get of Japan when Sara arrives, there are some good things done here with the camera. All of the ghouls are done well enough, though none are really exceptional. For some reason a lot of the people committing suicide in this forest decide to wear sacks over their heads before killing themselves? Probably just an idea the prop guy had to make them seem scarier, it feels a little out of place but prop guy was right, it does add a bit more of an effect to them. The movie runs at a brisk 93 minutes, so there’s not too much in the way of superfluous scenes or anything that ran too long and could have been cut.
Overall, The Forest isn’t very impressive, in any real aspect. The visuals are a plus, and a short run time keeps you from feeling like you completely wasted your time. Shallow characters, dumb decisions, and its attempted plot twists that fall short weigh this movie down. It’s not the worst movie out there, but it certainly shouldn’t be very high on just about anybodys list either. I’m stamping The Forest with a 5/10 rating. Enter The Forest at your own risk, but the time you could have spent watching a better movie will be the only thing that haunts you.