The Forest is characteristically weak January horror fare.
Brendan Wahl | @BrenW23
Let’s be honest, folks. Aside from films that are limited release in December and go wide in January, this is basically a “dumping month.” Most of the studios use January as a month to get rid of all their films that they quite frankly don’t have much faith in and thus any film you see this month has a strong probability of being pretty bad or forgettable at best. Now in the case of a horror film in January, it gets even more dicey. A horror film rated PG-13 in January?! Yikes. Suffice to say, I didn’t go into this one with high hopes.
The film’s plot is somewhat intriguing if not very basic and straight-forward. There are two identical twin sisters (both played by Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer) who have that tried-and-true movie thing where one can always tell what’s going on with the other. I mean, I know this exists to a point in real life but I found it to be a really silly way to initiate the film. Anyway, I digress. One of the twins, Sara, finds out that her sister, Jess, has walked into the notorious Suicide Forest located in Japan while working as a schoolteacher and hasn’t been seen for some time. Therefore, Sara takes a couple of guides into the forest to look for her sister who she doesn’t believe is dead because… again, twin telekinesis or something.
This is not a very good film. It’s not the worst I’ve ever seen but it’s not particularly well-made or even featured good acting. As for the aesthetics of the film itself, that’s probably where some of the only positives exist. The opening scenes in Japan showing the city life are quite beautiful and show the country off in a most exquisite way. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t take place in the city. Rather, the film exists in this otherworldly forest of sorts. You’d think that they would go all out on the design here and make this a terrifying locale but it basically equates to lots of trees and fog. That was rather disappointing as you would think that a horror film taking place almost entirely in a forest would actually put a lot of effort into making the forest… you know… scary.
As far as the acting goes, I really don’t have a lot to say. Natalie Dormer plays two different roles and her acting for both is almost identical. I’d say that might have something to do with the directing but I have never seen Game of Thrones so I have no idea what she is capable of doing acting-wise. She doesn’t really do a bad job per se and I guess there is a small difference in her acting. See, one of the characters has blond hair and the other one has black hair (some real range on display here, folks!) She also basically amounts to a damsel-in-distress for most of the film until one of her guides, Aiden (Taylor Kinney aka Lady Gaga’s fiancee) constantly saves her from danger. Kinney doesn’t really do anything of note either. As for everyone else, they are on-screen for such an insignificant amount of time that it doesn’t really matter either way.
This is a general complaint as well. ENOUGH with the fake jump scares! I don’t mind if a film does this a couple of times but in this movie they got ridiculous with a crazy old lady suddenly jumping out of nowhere, a guy tapping on the window for no reason whatsoever, and a bunch of other examples that just make me angry.
One thing I will say is that I liked the ending. It’s not so much a “twist” I guess but it’s a suitable one that makes sense if you pay attention early on. I just wish I was paying attention to a better film.
* ½ out of *****
Brendan Wahl is an independent movie reviewer based in Fredericton. He also reviews movies on the podcast Cinema Ramblin’.