At first glance, The Forest doesn’t seem like a movie that would be too scary until you find out there really is a forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan where people go to commit suicide. The real-life forest is called Aokigahara, also known as the Sea of Trees or the “Suicide Forest.” What’s truly horrifying is that many people do go there to kill themselves.
Natalie Dormer, best known for her roles in Game of Thrones and Mockingjay, stars in The Forest as a woman named Sarah who receives a phone call regarding the mysterious disappearance of her twin sister, Jess, who taught school in rural Japan.
Local authorities firmly believe Jess is dead because she went into the forest and has not been seen since. If someone goes into the forest and isn’t seen after a couple of days, that person is assumed to have gone through with his or her plans of suicide.
Dormer’s character, however, refuses to believe her twin sister has committed suicide because her “twin sense” tells her she’s still alive. She flies to Japan and meets a man, played by Chicago Fire’s Taylor Kinney, who promises he can take her into the forest to search for her sister.
— The Forest (@theforestisreal) December 21, 2015
With a promising plot based on a real-life location, there was hope The Forest would frighten audiences; however, this didn’t end up being the case. It could also be argued the location chosen for the movie might be horrifying in a different way.
The Forest starts out slowly, and though the pace picks up towards the middle of the movie, there remained plenty of scenes that moved too slowly. While there’s no doubt Dormer is a talented actress, she wasn’t given a lot to work with in terms of character strength and even dialogue.
While the plot had a lot of potential, unfortunately The Forest relied on too many jump scares throughout the entire movie. Jump scares have been done so many times before in so many movies that it’s hard to understand why director Jason Zada chose to rely so heavily on this tactic to try keeping the audience on their toes. Perhaps because this was his first feature film as a director?
According to Slate, a horror movie like The Babadook used jump scares effectively to build tension and mess with the heads of the audience, but The Forest never managed to use its jump scares in such a manner.
The Forest did manage to pull off a palpable creep factor with some scenes that were unsettling. When Dormer’s character was in the forest, there were moments where it wasn’t clear whether the events happening were actually happening. What seemed up was down and vice versa and did keep the audience guessing. What was real and what was in the character’s head is up for debate.
— The Forest (@theforestisreal) December 13, 2015
Slate points out horror movies that come out in January are usually forgettable, and studios know this and hope to turn “a tidy profit.” The Woman in Black: Angel of Death, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, and The Devil Inside were cited by Slate as examples of terrible horrible movies that have premiered in January over the past few years.
As mentioned earlier, the Aokigahara forest is a real place where many people go to kill themselves. Bustle reports in 2010, at least 247 people tried to commit suicide in the forest, and 54 people went through with it. In 2002, 75 dead bodies were found in the forest, and in 2003, 105 bodies were found.
The Atlantic says the movie fails to portray the Aokigahara forest in a respectful and sensitive manner. Perhaps the knowledge that the forest is real ended up being a hangup for me.
If you’re okay with seeing a movie based on a real-life location known for sadness and tragedy, then I recommend giving The Forest a try.
[Image via Twitter]