2016’s first horror film ‘The Forest’ teases an interesting concept however falls flat in execution.
The Horror genre, which saw resurgence in recent years with the likes of The Conjuring (2013) and It Follows (2014), returned to rock bottom in 2015 with films like The Visit and Sinister 2. 2016 unfortunately hasn’t gotten off to a good start, with Jason Zada’s The Forest tells the story of Sara Price (Natalie Dormer), an American who travels to Aokigahara Forest to find her missing twin sister (also Natalie Dormer) with the help of shifty reporter Aiden (Taylor Kinney).
The most interesting aspect of the film is it’s concept, Aokigahara Forest is a real place in Japan, notorious for being the location where people go to commit suicide, which is strongly linked ghosts of the dead from Japanese mythology known as “yurei”. The movie draws from this material plentiful, but it unfortunately fails to adapt it into something scary or compelling.
Regarding The Forest’s narrative, some aspects are rock solid, while some fall completely flat. We never question Sara’s motives in the film, her sister has gone missing in another country and she’s determined to find her like any sibling would. She travels to Japan, seemingly totally unprepared for such a journey she meets Aiden in a hotel bar, a dodgy reporter who’s adamant to assist her journey while recording the tale for a juicy story. They journey into the forest, Sara’s determination becoming rather more foolish than heroic as Aiden and Sara stay overnight. Sara’s been warned of the forests ghosts, she knows of the effect the forest seemingly has on people, but her naivety endures, and the relationship between herself and Aiden begins to deteriorate in a dreadful and fatal way.
The Forest was intended to be the breakout feature film performance for Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer. The English native continues to electrify as Margaery Tyrell in the hit HBO series. Thankfully Dormer and Kinney make a half decent effort from a below par script, Taylor Kinney is a sure fire star in the making, with a steely stare and certain aura that every leading male needs. Dormer also puts in a good shift, playing both twins in the film and bringing her wit and charm she’s known so well for in Westeros.
However unfortunately a couple of good-looking actors cannot save an entire film, the script is filled with exposition, the narrative riddled with plot holes and a highly questionable ending which seems to be a recurring theme in below average horror pictures these day. Overall, The Forest missed out in creating a gripping tale from a fascinating real life story; the direction and editing made it lose all momentum with only a few jump scares to note. Where the horror genre is heading next is anyone’s guess, but if filmmakers don’t start putting a greater effort into the whole filmmaking process as a whole, we will continue to be presented with these below par excuses for scary movies.
Director: Jason Zada
Cast: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Eoin Macken
Runtime: 93 minutes
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