Starring: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Eoin Macken
Rated PG-13 for Disturbing Thematic Content and Images
Aokigahara is a densely populated forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan. It is also one of the top three places for suicides. Although it became popular as a suicide destination after the release of the novel "Black Sea of Trees" in 1960, it has a long history of death, and has long since thought to be haunted by evil spirits. To this day, bodies are still found within it. No wonder Cracked.com proclaimed it to be one of the creepiest places on Earth. It's an ideal setting for a horror movie.
Sarah (Dormer) has always been closer to her twin sister Jess (Dormer). When one of them is in trouble (usually Jess), the other can sense it. So when Sarah gets a call saying that Jess has gone missing in Aokigahara, Sarah hops on a plane to Japan. With the help of a guide named Michi (Ozawa) and a hunky writer named Aiden (Kinney), Sarah sets off to find her sister. But she soon realizes that the myths about it being haunted and having the ability to mess with your head are true.
"The Forest" seeks to be more just an ordinary teen scream. While it has the obligatory shocks and ghostly images, it explores the nature of guilt and the connection between siblings (as established by the film). The script is too weak in this regard to make it truly provocative, but for the purposes of a low-budget horror flick, it gets the job done.
The acting leaves a lot to be desired. No one gives a performance that's worth mentioning. Natalie Dormer is flat; she's coasting by on her charisma. Taylor Kinney is better, but it's not an especially good performance.
One thing a good horror movie needs is atmosphere, and that's where this film comes up short. Jason Zada, directing his first feature film, doesn't know how to utilize editing to increase the apprehension level. There were times when I thought of "The Descent," a film that did the atmosphere thing so much better.
"The Forest" is what it is. I saw it, liked it, and wasn't pissed that I wasted my time. The ending doesn't hold up and I doubt that I'll remember it for very long, but considering that this is a January release, that should be taken as a compliment.