95 min | 2016 | (USA) | Jason Zada
Synopsis: A young American woman named Sara Price (Dormer) travels to Japan’s Suicide Forest (Aokigahara) in search of her missing twin who has a troubled past.
Review: Slow, building horror with a cerebral bend.
If you are looking for jump scares, tons of special FX, or gore, this movie is not for you. If I had to categorize it, I would call it more of a suspenseful thriller. The Forest is like the burn in your muscles the day after a good run. While watching The Forest, it is at times difficult to tell the difference between what is real and imagined. The film’s dream-like quality leaves you as disoriented as the characters that attempt to navigate the labyrinth inside the Aokigahara Forest.
Be prepared, the Aokigahara doesn’t actually play as large of a role in the film as you might think. I won’t give away any spoilers but if you are going to enjoy this film, you have to go in with an open mind. Upon viewing trailers, one might think the whole film is about the horrors that lurk within this specific forest…not so much. The Suicide Forest is a conduit for the larger portion of the film to unfurl. In fact, I would suggest that the nebulous forest is just a means for Sara and her twin, Jess (also played by Dormer) to work out their equally ill-defined inner demons.
The amazing part about this film is that you don’t realize how well thought out it is until it ends. While the slow build up has been a point of contention by other critics, I have to disagree. Sitting in the theater, I initially thought that there was nothing overtly memorable about the film. Then the film ended and I found myself rethinking the smaller intricacies of the larger story. I believe that part of what makes a good film is when it resonates with you beyond the 95 minutes in the theater.
On a more basic continuity level…there is no way in Hell Sara’s cell phone battery lasted the whole time she is in the forest. She uses the flashlight app so frequently I was beginning to think the movie was a commercial for the app or the phone. Granted, it is inconsequential but if the film is going to point out the poor reception and probable roaming, then why didn’t anyone’s phone die in the forest?
The Nuts and Bolts: The plot builds slowly but offers a good ending. The acting by Dormer dominates the film along with a special showing from Rina Takasaki who played Hoshiko. Don’t go into it expecting to be scared witless, but rather think of it as a mystery with horrific elements. This film doesn’t bash you over the head with horror; it instead creeps in to your mind when you are not expecting it.