Take a Drink: every time someone warns Sarah of the forest’s power
Take a Drink: every time Sarah gives in to a fantasy
Take a Drink: every time Aiden proves he’s a strange creep… Seriously, who doesn’t react to the sight of a dead body?
Take a Drink: for every cool macro shot
Do a Shot: for every suspicious look someone gives Sarah.
Do a Shot: every time a cell phone saves the day or ruins a moment.
By: The Cinephiliac (Four Beers) –
Forests possess a magical quality. They are filled with placid serenity and quaint repose. The forest is where I love to go for inspiration or to simply re-center myself in mind, body, and spirit during turbulent times. Under the charming canopy of a forest the world comes alive once again, ringing out its longstanding reminder that we are all one under a thinly veiled protective sheet in our atmosphere. Nevertheless, this all gets revealed in the daytime when the rays of the sun are present to guide you through a maze of trees and foliage.
Nighttime in a forest is a much different story. When the moon is your only ally peaking through dark looming structures overhead, the forest can be a terrifying place. In those moments all of your fears seem to easily find their way to the forefront of your mind, making every snap of a branch or moan from the wind a certain omen that death is creeping in. Jason Zada plays on this aspect of horror in the darkness of woods in the aptly, yet lazily titled film, The Forest. In it Sarah Price (Natalie Dromer) is an American that goes to Tokyo to find her missing twin sister, Jess, who was last seen walking into the infamous Aokigahara forest, a real life place that is the unfortunate hotbed of the highest suicide rates in Japan and some of the highest in the world. Sarah is determined to find her sister despite the repeated warnings of the forest’s grisly reputation of leading those who visit to peril.
“Nope, nothing creepy about walking in Suicide Forest by myself… nothing at all.”
Zada is keenly aware of the beauty and darkness that a forest can hold and uses the camera to retroactively capture both. There are some amazingly beautiful aerial shots of the forest that expose the simplistic geometric patterns of tree growth. Throughout The Forest the phantasm of nature is shown in its positive and negative glory. Zada incorporates tight close ups that double as macro shots that reveal the detail of moss and branches and the concerned fear in Sarah’s eyes. Zada captures the illustrious quality of the Aokigahara Forest and also its haunting features. The Aokigahara forest alone isn’t the only landscape given great attention as the beauty of Japan itself is showcased in full view, including the astounding greatness of Mount Fuji.
Games of Thrones fans will recognize Natalie Dormer taking on double duty by playing both Jess and Sarah. Dormer is fantastic in Game of Thrones, turning Margaery Tyrell, the slightly untrustworthy strategizing Queen regent, into a lovable, intelligent sweetheart. However, in The Forest Dormer takes all that charisma and stomps it to the ground, instead embodying one of the most annoying on-screen leads I’ve seen in a while. This isn’t necessarily Dormer’s fault. The fault is largely on the heads of the trio of screenplay writers: Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell, and Ben Ketai. However, Dormer chose the role so the responsibility lies in her corner too. And dear god Sarah is an annoying brat of a character . Her ignorance caused the patrons in my theater to loudly groan and shamelessly shout obscenities at the screen throughout most of the film.
The Forest’s story is an intriguing one, but the execution is about as weak a sapling after a thunder storm. The story relies too much on Sarah’s bratty arrogance and blatant disrespect for the advice she is given. She’s a typical stereotype of a traveling American. She constantly asks locals of the area about the forest itself and no matter how much they stress the dangers of walking it alone in sadness and to stay on the path, she thinks she knows better and scoffs at the advice given to her. Also, she doesn’t even attempt to speak Japanese at any point.
Likewise, the plot device that uses twin telepathy on some ethereal level is old and overdone in films. It may be true, and I have no doubt that siblings that close experience some type of extraordinary connection with each other. However, using this as a plot device to explain why Sarah just knows her sister is alive is cheap. The screenplay uses this excuse to show why Sarah is willing to go into uncharted territory with no prior knowledge of the forest, nor any camping skills or food to take on the path with her. The lesson not to develop a story plot that is loosely reliant on twin bonding should have been learned after the terrible excuse of a film I Know Who Killed Me.
Spoiler alert, it was the piano teacher. There, I saved you from watching this awful movie.
When Sarah isn’t being a complete ass hat and giving into visions that she has been warned against giving in to, audiences are treated to some poorly placed jump scares. Don’t get me wrong, for a mediocre horror film The Forest can get truly creepy and may spark some heart palpitations if you’re a horror movie lightweight. However, these moments are few and far between. Most of the film is Sarah being an asshole, tension building, cheap jump scares, and then Sarah being an even bigger asshole.
Despite it all I didn’t completely hate The Forest. In fact, I only rolled my eyes in annoyance when the credits popped on screen as opposed to yelling an obscenity at it per my usual reaction to “bad” movie. The Forest hosts an interesting story and a slightly sinister enough atmosphere all while keeping its run time short and sweet to stay slightly focused, even if the trees are the most interesting aspects of the film in some parts. At least they are beautiful trees to see.