The first official movie of 2016 is The Forest starring Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones, The Tudors, my dreams). A horror flick being released with little fanfare is something to worry about, as is the fact that it’s being released so early in the year.
Let’s take a walk into The Forest to see if there’s anything to be afraid of.
Sara (Natalie Dormer) is a twin that feels everything her sister experiences. So, when she’s awoken to the vision of her sister Jess running for her life, she seeks her out. Sara tracks her down to the Aokigahara Forest that sits beneath Mount Fuji in Japan. In real life and in the movie, this forest has a reputation. It is known as the “Sea of Trees” or “Suicide Forest.” Locals warn Sara to stay on the path and never deviate, as angry ghosts called Yurei, will haunt her.
This PG-13 tame horror flick feels like it would have fit right alongside J-horror movies, The Ring and The Grudge in the early 2000s. The sad thing is, it’s now 13 years beyond those movies’ expiration dates and The Forest seems a bit dated, especially in terms of CG.
Also, the movie takes so long to get off the ground, and tries to give exposition through bad dialogue and out-of-sequence storytelling. Seriously, the first 20 minutes will have you cringing and ready to make for the exit.
However, something happened while Sara got lost in the woods. I found myself liking the movie. I go easy on horror flicks to be sure, but I think that first-time director, Jason Zada, had a few decent tricks up his sleeve. Even with jump scares telegraphed for minutes beforehand, still had me jumping at least twice. It seems pointless to use bad CG jump scares when a haggard old lady works just fine.
Low expectations are key if you want to enjoy The Forest. It made me want to research the actual forest and makes me wish the movie utilized more traditional Japanese spirits of folklore, rather than a standard hangman.
Essentially, the cliches are present, the acting is stiff and there’s a reliance on jump scares, but the madness brought on by the Forest makes you reconsider character motives while in the woods. In that way, and because I jumped twice, the movie succeeded. Not a great start to the year, but not a bad one either. It’s right in the middle with a C.