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The Forest Review

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At the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan exists Aokighara, a dense, 35-sq-kilometre forest that has become a notorious site for suicides. With it’s morbid history and it's association with the mythological yĆ«rei, vengeful spirits kept from a peaceful afterlife, crafting a horror movie around this particular place is something of a no brainer. This brings us to The Forest, which sees Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer falling victim to angry ghosts and numerous J-horror tropes. However, considering the mess that is the final product, she should have stayed in Westeros.


Dormer pulls double duty as Sara and Jess, twin sisters who share an almost supernatural bond. When Jess, working in Japan as a school teacher, goes missing and is last seen entering Aokighara, Sara drops everything and travels to Tokyo. Adamant her sister is still alive, she journeys deep into the forest, but soon discovers leaving isn’t as easy as entering.

With the eerie setting, the rich mythology surrounding Aokighara, and the hints of deep psychological trauma plaguing our heroine, The Forest does show a lot of promise. Unfortunately, all that is dropped early on and the movie lurches forward, falling back on generic jump scares and the same old cliches we’ve seen time and time again. The main problem is that The Forest just isn’t scary, thanks to a cringe worthy and predictable plot that will have you guessing the final outcome before we’ve said good bye to the first act. Dormer at least is trying to make the most of what she has, putting in a fine performance as the token scream queen, and making a good effort of making Jess and Sara feel like two separate characters. Unfortunately, everyone else fails to make anything approaching an impression, especially Taylor Kinney, whose character could have been plucked from any other generic horror movie.


Blame should also be laid at the feet of director Jason Zada, making his feature debut, for not making the most of the movie’s creepy setting. Tons of atmosphere and tension could have been wrung from the dark corners and trails of Aokighara, but Zada is more concerned with trying, and failing spectacularly, to the scare the audience with disembodied voices and the obligatory creepy Japanese schoolgirl. The narrative outstays its welcome by the middle of the second act, and then stumbles time and time again to pull an ending together that feels like a slap in the face to those watching, who, as I’ve said before, saw it coming almost an hour earlier.

Despite having the chance of playing around with the rich lore of Aokighara, The Forest settles for being just another by the numbers horror movie with little to no scares.






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The Movie Bit: The Forest Review
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