How in the hell has a place like the Aokigahara Forest existed this long and there has not been a horror movie based on it? We are talking about a forest where hundreds, if not thousands, of people have committed suicide. I am not making this up. In Japan the Aokigahara Forest is so renowned as a place for suicide that frequently a group of volunteers is gathered to comb the forest for bodies. AND! The place is notoriously haunted by the angry spirits of the deceased… Come on! This horror flick writes itself! Or at the very least a romantic comedy that takes place in the forest… The possibilities are endless! Well, it seems Hollywood finally woke up a realized there was an idea they haven’t bastardized yet. Yes, bastardizing is a made up word and sadly, that made up word is the only original and unique thing to come from The Forest.
Sara Price (Natalie Dormer) just learned that her twin sister Jess (in a move that makes Eddie Murphy jealous, both roles are played by Dormer), who was teaching english in Japan, has gone missing in Aokigahara Forest. Even though the authorities have informed her that her sister is presumed dead, Sara jumps on the first flight to Japan because twins can have some X-Men like powers to tell if the other is alive or not. Come to think of it that is not really a cool power and I should have never labeled it X-Men like. It seems every person she meets tells Sara that she should not go into the forest to find her sister because it’s grossly haunted by the 100s of suicide victims. Not to mention the forest knows if you’re sad and then takes that sadness uses it make you kill yourself. Kind of like my parents. Sara eventually hooks up with beef cake/journalist Aiden (Taylor Kinney) and head on in the forest to find her sister.Que the lame jump scares and paranoia.
So much horror greatness is squandered here. I was so excited for The Forest that it even made my top 10 most anticipated horror movies of 2015. When I first watched the trailer for it I was beyond excited for the possibilities that could be played with here and all we get is a tired horror troupes and cliché jump scares. Director Jason Zada is able to create an unsettling atmosphere with the forest environment here, sadly it takes 30 long, drawn out minutes to get there. For the first third of the movie we get a whole lot of talk about the forest or how the forest is scary or how it’s dangerous and lots of crazy interesting things happen there. You know what’s not interesting? Listening to people talk about the goddamned suicide forest, when they are standing right out the damned place is torture! It’s a movie called The Forest about a haunted forest! Give us the friggen’ forest!
Now, I know what you are thinking: All that build up must totally be worth it. Once they get in the forest some crazy shit has to go down. To that I reply: You clearly have skipped the first three paragraphs of this review. The pacing of this movie is painfully slow and even when the creepy stuff starts to kick in it still drags. This is all made worse by Dormer’s wooden performance. I have seen her (like must of us) in Game of Thrones and know she’s a capable actor, but holy hell is she phoning it in here. Seeings as she is the anchor for the entire flick, the whole movie suffers from this. While there are a few solid scares mixed in, for the most part they fall flat. Like a tree in the … woods.
My longing for an awesome movie based on the insanely creepy Aokigahara Forest will have to stay… well…long. The Forest is nothing but another in a long list of dull,tired PG-13 horror flicks that will be long forgotten by this time next year. Maybe by then Hollywood will have forgotten also and take another crack it.