The Forest is a 2016 supernatural horror film directed by Jason Zada, and starring Natalie Dormer.
Being the first wide-release horror film of 2016, I was modestly excited for it, though I kept my expectations in check. The film has a capable cast and a unique concept, but that doesn’t mean diddlysquat. Mainstream horror is occasionally given a good chunk of meat, but more often than not, we settle for small table-scraps. (January is often ‘bad’ for films as well)
Does The Forest offer healthy nourishment?
The story for The Forest is set in the Aokigahara Forest, other-wise known as the Suicide Forest, and follows a woman named Sara Price trying to find her sister who went missing after entering the sea of trees.
As you’d find from the name, the site is a popular location for those looking to off themselves. In real life, a sign can be seen at the entrance that encourages visitors to ‘think about their families’ and ‘contact a suicide prevention association’. Japanese mythology connects the whole thing with ghosts, and as you can see from the trailers for this film, The Forest derives itself from those myths.
The Forest follows a white woman that comes to Japan to find her sister and there, she meets a nice white man to befriend. I am not saying the film white-washed anything, but when you look at it that way, it’s kind-of funny, isn’t it?
Natalie Dormer makes the best out of her character, and by that, I mean, she does averagely, because that’s about all you could do with so little. Taylor Kinney was described as “wooden” by some other other critics, but I don’t think he did terrible, but I wouldn’t laud him for his efforts either. I feel like the whole lot of them could have done better with more and that the fault lies in the hands of the script and lack of inspiration.
Everything’s subjective and derived from perspective, but I’ve always found supernatural films to be one of the biggest cheats in the genre. (Slashers are likely the biggest, but I love them) Films like Exorcist and Conjuring and this and that, they come along and find an enormous audience, and from there, others make attempts at the same concept. You can make a supernatural film on a shoe-string budget, and the return on investment will be enormous. And this fact is exploited.
Some justify it with a “less is more” mentality, but that isn’t always accurate. Sometimes, in-fact, more is more and less is less, and in the moments when it’s not, it needs to be made for certain one has at least something in their minimalist agenda.
If you give less and fail at making it mean something, you are left with a big film of nothingness.
The Forest has no scares in it, aside the cheap jump scares, and even worse, it has no visual identity, aside from one or two instances throughout the whole film.
You have a whole forest that’s haunted, and this is what you come up with? I know this isn’t a Japanese film, but with all the derivations from Japan, I wish they would’ve stole a page from Ring or Ju-On‘s when it comes to atmosphere.
Formulaic is the best way to describe The Forest. It feels like a million other films you’ve seen, and it criminally undermines the potential a story in the Aokigahara Forest would have. It’s a bare-bone film that goes through the motions until an acceptable run-time. You’ll find The Forest for $3.74 new at Walmart in a couple years, wait until then.