[Warning: Spoilers below]
I honestly do not know if I enjoyed this film or not. As a skeptical fan of horror and thriller movies, and by skeptical I mean I won’t watch them unless my boyfriend tells me its good, I honestly thought this film would make me crap myself. But it didn’t.
The film, starring popular Game of Thrones actor Natalie Dormer, beginnings feeling really rushed. We have no background knowledge on the main character, Sara, or her twin sister, Jess, who she jets off to Japan in search of. I do appreciate that the director, Jason Zada, just wanted to get to the main action of the film, which obviously takes place the Aokigahara Forest, also known as the suicide forest. But I feel like I needed more time to get to know Sara before she went off in search of her sister.
The main bulk of the film was just like any other horror film and reminded me of ones I’d seen before set in a similar environment. But it didn’t really scare me. Sure I was confused by this random Japanese girl, who turned out to be a hallucination, claiming she knew were Jess was; but it really didn’t make me cover my eyes in fear. The hallucination scenes were pretty much ripped out of the film Shrooms. Of course there were jump scares which made me let out a slight squeal but the scariest part of the movie is that the forest is a real place and people really do go there and commit suicide.
Honestly, I feel like the film just went way too quick. One moment we are at the bottom of the forest walking up the path intended for hiking; the next we are watching Sara sink into the ground and becoming another spirit in the forest. Being only 93 minutes long, I felt that in order for me to be truly scared the film needed to be longer. Horror films, especially supernatural ones, usually make me wish for them to end when I’m truly scared.
The ending was a bit disappointing to say the least. Jess gets out but Sara dies in the forest. It seemed a little too easy and was exactly what is expected to happen. When Jess says “I need to go find her” after realising Sara went in looking for her, you think “Oh god, here we go again.” but instead she stops and says “Nothing. There’s nothing” referencing the twin feeling Sara mentioned throughout the film as her way of knowing Jess was alive and needed help. When it ended both my boyfriend and I looked at each other and went “Oh, was that it?”
The thing about The Forest is that it’s quite good at demonstrating claustrophobia in a seemingly open outside environment, much like the Blair Witch Project. Annoyingly, it falls short with a very generic plotline. The only thing that stands out is the twist at the end where her sister is still alive, whereas other films with a similar plot would have gone for the opposite.
The directing and camera work excel yet the story falls short and could’ve been a great horror movie had the plot been a little different. The acting of both Natalie Dormer and Taylor Kinney is average but convincing. Though this is not the first English speaking film to look at the suicide forest, the first being Grave Halloween in 2013, they still chose the same generic plot line when they could have done so much more. The way I saw it was that the film took information they found loosely from a Vice documentary, created 3 years ago, and decided to expand upon it.
The history and factual basis around Aokigahara Forest was what drew me into watching the movie in the first place. The idea that somewhere could be so contaminated with spirits that they haunt those who go there with sadness in their mind and thinking of committing suicide petrifies me. Historically, the forest was said to be a place where poor families would abandon their elderly relatives to ensure that they could provide food for the rest of the family. It has also been said that it was the place monks would go to purify themselves by starving to death. But now it has gained popularity as a suicide spot, many believe it is become of the 1960 novel Kuroi Jukai. A suicide guide, that was published in 1993, is thought of as another reason people go to the forest to die. The guide states that the forest is the perfect place as you will never be found.
Supernatural movies always play on my mind, especially after watching them and when I did turn the light out to go to sleep I was a little nervous of hearing any noises around me, just in case. This movie, though I was wary when going to sleep, didn’t cause me to have nightmares and didn’t make me think demons were after me every time a floor board creaked.
Watch the trailer here and let me know what you think of the film once you’ve seen it.