Tweetable Takeaway: The only things planted in The Forest are horror clichés and an awful ending. Tweet
What location is better suited to horror movies than a forest? From projects about the Blair Witch to thousands of attractive teenagers flocking to their family cabins or summer camps, to awful computer-animated deer attacking in The Ring 2, the dark, scary woods of the movies have swallowed a small country’s population by now. With the release of a movie simply called THE FOREST, one would expect this to be the definitive horror film that takes place amongst the scary trees, right? One would think even more so when this particular film’s forest is a famous Japanese one in which people go to commit suicide. After suffering through a walk in this forest, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Forest provides two single chilling moments early on, a smattering of jump scares throughout, and a whole heap of clichés before reaching its infuriatingly terrible ending.
Natalie Dormer stars as twin sisters Sara and Jess. Helpful to the audience, Sara (our main protagonist) has blonde hair while Jess has dark hair and eyeliner. She also dresses in black clothing, and of course, is the one who’s always getting into trouble. The movie’s central and cringe-worthy artifice at play is the psychic twin connection Sara and Jess share. Lazy and existing only as a convenience to the plot, once Sara hears Jess has gone missing in Japan, she’s certain Jess is alive due to this connection. She’d just know if Jess had died, whenever something bad happens to one of them, the other can feel it. Does this include paper cuts, a hangnail, or getting hiccups? We can only assume. Once in Japan Sara learns Jess was last seen venturing into Aokigahara Forest. Because this is a horror movie in Japan, we need creepy Japanese schoolgirls to pop in at this point. One such schoolgirl tells Sara about the evil spirits that reside within the forest. Not to be so easily deterred, it’s full steam ahead for Sara. If the audience couldn’t already see everything coming in the film, they most certainly do at this point.
Just outside the Aokigahara Forest, Sara finds some hope, as a kind woman insists she has Jess down in her creepy basement. The sequence that follows also gives moviegoers a glimmer of hope too, because it’s actually quite effective as far as chills go. That’s right, The Forest does contain at least one halfway decent fright. It’s over far too soon, and we’re back to the meat of the movie. Most of which consists of guides and hunky Americans named Aiden (played by Taylor Kinney) warning Sara not to do things before she subsequently does them. They warn her to stay away from the woods. Sara goes into the woods. They tell her to stay on the path. Sara goes off the path. She’s warned that the spirits in there will try and trick her. Sara listens to the spirits and tells herself they aren’t real before letting them trick her. Few movies foreshadow their own plot points ten minutes in the future worse than The Forest does. By the movie’s halfway point, Sara becomes completely unlikable with every bad decision she continues to make, and even the terrible jump scares, something horror movies normally over-rely on, only come about once every twenty minutes.
The small amount of goodwill the movie stored away in its first third is mostly done away with in the second two-thirds, but if any of it still managed to survive out there, the ending of this film chucks it farther than an apple thrown by a talking tree in The Wizard of Oz. Few endings are more insulting than the one in The Forest. Anything the film had attempted to build up to makes no sense when confronted by the events in the end. It’s clear the filmmakers were attempting a shock ending, but the ending they chose made absolutely no sense in the context of the rest of the film. And of all the various endings the film could have chosen, the one it’s left with is as lazy and predictable as much of the rest of the film. Hardcore horror fans will find a few bits to like in the film’s moody first third, everyone else should skip the scenic route and stay away from this particular forest.
I give The Forest 1.5 angry trees out of 5
Score: 1.5 out of 5
Wil Loper | Contributor