If a ghost goes boo in a forest does anybody care? Hollywood has made several remakes of various Japanese horror films over the years, but surprisingly enough this movie, though it takes place in Japan, is not an American remake of Japanese movie. The Forest is bad all on its own. After watching this film I think the people involved should go back to ripping off the Japanese as this thing contains little originality and even less scares.
The story deals with American Sara Price (Natalie Dormer) who gets a call from the Japanese police telling her that they think her sister has committed suicide. She was last seen entering Aokigahara Forest, which also known as Suicide Forest, and so beyond filing a missing person’s report the authorities plan on doing nothing. Sara is sure her sister is alive because they are identical twins and so she would know if she was dead. Dropping everything Sara flies to Japan to begin her search, leaving behind concerned and instantly forgettable boyfriend, and while visiting a nearby bar she encounters travel writer Aiden (Taylor Kinney) who is intrigued with her story and offers to let her tag along with his forest ranger guide the next day.
Director Jason Zada and writers Ben Ketai, Nick Antosca, and Sarah Cornwell fail on almost every level with this film, and that it took three people to write this thing is the true horror here. The writing is clunky and unbelievable; Sara repeatedly explains to people that her and her identical twin look alike as if people might not understand what the word “identical” means. The film also almost relies completely on jump scares; they trot out the “scare that turns out to be a dream” cliché as well as the “fake out scare” where something that is thought to be a threat turns out to be just the cat or in this case a harmless elderly Japanese woman wandering the halls at night. When Sara, Aiden and their guide Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa) eventually do go into “The Forest” it’s mostly a lot of walking around through the trees, making one think of The Blair Witch Project, but while the documentary feel for that movie brought a sense of realism to the film and increased the scare quotient, The Forest was just boring.
Sara is warned by Michi that the forest will try and deceive her, that if she sees something distressing it is probably not real. This tidbit of advice she completely ignores and thus spends the remainder of the movie fleeing from one fake scare to another. When they find her sisters campsite, but no sign of the girl, Michi wants to leave and he suggest they leave a note and come back the next day to continue the search. Sara refuses to leave and the noble Aiden stays with her. Later that night, after another one of those “It was only a dream scares” Sara wanders off into the dark woods and encounters a Japanese schoolgirl who warns her not to trust Aiden.
Is Aiden responsible for the disappearance of Sara’s sister, or are the evil spirts screwing with her? Are there actually evil spirits in the Aokigahara Forest, or are these vision caused by the hallucinatory properties of the flora and fauna? Does Sara even have a twin? Is she actually hunting her own split personality? Okay, the last one isn’t really a thing, but if that had turned out to be the case it would have been more interesting than what we got. Simply put The Forest is tedious story with characters we couldn’t give to shits for. Natalie Dormer is doing her best with what she is given but there is only so much one can do with the drivel put into this script. She was certainly trying harder than her co-star Taylor Kinney who looked about as bored as I felt. And someone needs to inform director Jason Zada that just putting creepy figures in the frame does not equal scary. You actually have to build suspense first.
This film was released in January, which is the notorious dumping grounds for bad horror movie, and though sometimes a movie can be so bad that is entertainingly so, that is not the case here. The Forest is about as exciting as camping in your own backyard. If you come across this movie one night while flipping channels just keep flipping.