‘The Forest’ Movie Review

Natalie Dormer in The Forest
Natalie Dormer stars in ‘The Forest’ (Photo Credit : James Dittiger / Gramercy Pictures)

“Look, people sometimes see things in the forest. Important to remember if you see anything bad, anything strange…it is not real, okay? It’s not there – it’s here,” says Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa) as he points to his head while he warns Sara (Natalie Dormer) of the dangers of the forest they’ve just entered in the horror film The Forest.

Sara Price leaves her home, husband, and country to go to Japan when she finds out that her twin sister, Jess (also portrayed by Natalie Dormer), went camping in what’s known as Japan’s suicide forest, Aokigahara, and has been missing since. The authorities tell Sara they gave up looking for Jess after two or three days and assume she followed through with ending her life, but Sara insists that Jess is alive because being a twin she can feel her.

After spending a few days trying to unsuccessfully hire a guide to take her into the forest, Sara meets Aiden (Taylor Kinney), a writer for an Australian magazine. Aiden will try to convince Michi, the unofficial guide who goes through the forest and finds the bodies of the dead and marks them for the rangers, to let her come on his next search as long as he gets to write about it for his magazine. Deal struck, Sara, Aiden, and Michi enter the ominous forest to see if they can find Jess, with Michi reminding them that the forest is dangerous and to never leave the path.

Unoriginal and lacking any good scares, The Forest is a forgettable ghost film that borrows most of its tone and images from other scary films such as The Ring and The Grudge. The writing and character development is weak, never giving any of the characters any depth or personality.

Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) delivers an acceptable but surface performance as Sara, the sad and responsible sister determined to find her twin and save her from certain doom. Her best scene is in the bar when she first meets and starts to get to know the reporter Aiden. It’s the only scene where she comes off natural and believable.

The film’s pacing, camera work, and attempts to generate goosebumps are telegraphed by the overdone use by the director of the classic ‘jump scare’ tactic, which fails after the first attempt. The Forest fails almost every time to generate or build up any real tension or suspense. The only scene that’s effective in creating some heebie-jeebies is the one where Sara is taken down to the basement of the cabin just outside of the forest where the dead bodies are kept after being retrieved from the forest. Sara begins to look to see if one of the bodies covered by a sheet is her sister and…no, I won’t reveal here what happens but it’s one of the film’s true scary moments.

With only two genuine scares and almost zero character development, The Forest is a boring, frightless ghost film that even horror fans should skip seeing.

GRADE: D+

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and images

Running Time: 95 minutes

Release Date: January 8, 2016