Quick Hit: A film that takes an ambitious subject, Japan’s Suicide Forest, and utterly fails with it by universally subscribing to modern horror movie hijinks.
The film The Forest opens unexplained in a forest with a woman running through. Not a bad start for most horror films. But, quickly, the film devolves into a mess of confusion. We meet Sarah, one of Natalie Dormer’s two characters (twin sisters). She has a feeling that something bad has happened to her sister. After an unexplained call to an unexplained character, it turns out that her sister has gone missing in Japan’s famous Suicide Forest.
From here, the movie continues to go downhill. The story itself isn’t terrible (I myself find the twin connection between the two sisters rather interesting, as twins themselves can be inherently creepy), but oh Lord. The dialogue. Often delivered in monotonous tones by its two leads, it drives the film flat and loses all suspense that is gained by the shots of the forest. Indeed, there is a scene that is oddly reminiscent of a scene from The Lost World (Jurassic Park II) where the side characters are tromping through the forest yelling “Sarah!! Sarah!!” You would expect a dinosaur to jump out from behind a tree any moment.
If the film has any redeeming qualities, one is definitely some of the views of the forest, and other lingering shots of things like snails, moss, lichen, or even Dormer’s eyes. These shots lend a suspense that the dialogue is adept at quickly disarming. Dormer is adequate in the role, but she is a shell of the actress that portrays a much stronger Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones. Some of her best scenes are not of Sarah, but of Jess, the twin sister that has gone missing. And unfortunately, those scenes make up maybe eight to ten minutes of the movie’s 90 minute run time.
One of the other problems I had with the film was the consistent repetition of horror movie clichés. It almost seems like the script writers took out a check box of well-worn tropes and went down the list. Nightmare scenes? Check. Creepy child with outlandish screaming mouth? Check. Jump scare from old creepster that has nothing to do with the film? Check. An older sage woman (who unfortunately never makes another appearance, she was creepy as hell) who provides sane advice to a stupid American tourist… that our heroine quickly ignores.
There were also characterization problems. The character of Rob, played by Eoin Macken, claims to be from Australia… but there is no hint of an accent. He claims to be a reporter, a writer of some sort, but his motivations are as muddled and confusing as the rest of the film. Why is there a hotel/bar/restaurant (I couldn’t figure out what these different places were, or if they were indeed the same place) that has bodies in the basement? Surely that is a health code violation of some sort!
I tried hard to like this movie. As I stated previously, I think the source material is ripe for the taking (Another movie about the same place, The Sea of Trees, tackled it at Cannes last year). And I really like Natalie Dormer! But… I just can’t recommend this movie. I give it a D+, and the only reason it is that high is the source material. What did you think about The Forest? Let us know below in the comment section.
Check out IMDB for more information on this film.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"