The Forest (2016)

A woman goes into Japan’s Suicide Forest to find her twin sister, and confronts supernatural terror. 

Starring Natalie Dormer x2, Eoin Macken
Directed by Jason Zada

Out this coming weekend in the UK is The Forest, the first noteworthy feature effort from Director Jason Zada. Known more for his relatively fledgling career in shorts as Writer, Director and even Actor, this is (quite literally) new territory for him.
The territory featured here is the rather grisly Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mount Fuji, at least so we’re told, although it would appear that in actuality, the Tara National Park in Serbia features most prominently as the Japanese forest’s understudy, who seemingly couldn’t get its face on and got all camera shy when it came right down to it. The reasons for this are not clear, but given the real history of the forest, as highlighted, you could understand the Japanese Tourist Board wouldn’t be too enthusiastic about its use, or the crews’ potential appetite to visit, for that matter.
Also known as the Suicide Forest, Aokigahara is a seemingly popular attraction for those intending to do away with themselves for whatever reason. However, it is believed that the spirits of those that do shrug off this mortal coil here, come back and haunt the area and those foolhardy enough to stray from its path, and what’s more, these never-realm undead-types are proper pissed about it too.

So we’re introduced to Sara, one half of two identical twins, both played by Natalie Dormer (Game Of Thrones) who has come to Japan to locate her missing sibling, Jess, believing her to be in the titular forest because, as we are probably reminded too often to allow for proper closure later, she had always been the one that got into trouble and Sara was always the one that had gotten her out of it. In this modern age of independent women doing it for themselves, she decided not to ask her boyfriend to accompany her on the trip, which might have saved us all alot of trouble on reflection, but instead chooses to investigate the matter on her own, though quickly comes into contact with a travelling writer, Aiden (Taylor Kinney) who with the added benefit of fluency, agrees to help her out in return for writing a story on Sara’s adventure.

What follows is disappointingly underwhelming, if we’re honest, with much of the action (and certainly the most relevant) already presented in the trailer. Dormer proves the theory that so many have in the past, from Eisenberg and beyond, that playing two characters in one movie is not a piece of cake and really fails to convince the audience of either with any kind of surety. The jump scares are uninspired and way too simple and cliched, underpinned by a score lacking vibrancy. The performances are not dreadful, but the script delivered by the players feels flat and lifeless, much like the most interesting of the characters emanating from the forest, which we don’t ever get to see enough of nor understand.

Decent horror, like this aspires to be, has invention and tension, swathed in foreboding malice. It should give you the creeps in abundance, if it is so lacking in everything else. For the purist, this is cannon fodder and will no doubt be remembered as such.

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