Director: Jason Zada.
Producer(s): Tory Metzger, David S. Goyer
Starring: Natalie Dormer Taylor Kinney Yukiyoshi Ozawa Eoin Macken. USA. 1h 39m
After Goyer realised that no film has been made about the famed Aokigahara forest, or Suicide Forest in Japan, he soon put together an outline and the Forest was born. And with the premise of telling a story based in one of the most haunted and protected areas in the world, the film held a lot of potential for being one of the top horrors of 2016…
Sara Price (Natalie Dormer), a young American, receives a phone a phone call from the police concerned that her twin sister has gone into the forest to commit suicide, but convinced that she would “feel” it as they are closely connected, she sets out to Japan to find her missing twin in the Suicide Forest. While staying at the same hotel as her sister she meets a reporter named Aiden (Kinney) who insists on going with her as he may have met her sister. Even though she doesn’t fully trust him the company is welcomed.
A local forest guide takes them into the forest but assures them that the twin must be dead as she has been missing for some time and the forest is prone to making people depressed enough that they want to take their own lives and soon after he departs to safety but the pair carry on and eventually find a tent and belongings that Sara recognises as her sisters equipment. Things begin to get tangled as Sara starts seeing Hoshiko, a “yurei” who tells her not to trust Aiden, but despite her ghostly appearance and tendency to flee and vanish, Sara is determined to find her sister as the horrors within the forest become more terrifying and danger comes in many guises and dredges up suppressed memories from the past, it’s soon .
Considering that this film is set in Japan I’d have expected to have seen a stronger Japanese cast, but the forest does hold great significance within their traditions and culture that they don’t fuck around with it, the film crew weren’t allowed to actually film within the forest itself and has to film nearby and certain parts had to be finalised in Serbia.
Early on it becomes quite apparent the film is being dragged out, it takes forever to warm up and the action doesn’t start until waaaaay into the second half of the film. There’s some good acting throughout, and Dormer does a decent and convincing job as a lost foreigner, but as the film builds up it also starts to unravel and does Dormer, through no fault of her own the film and her dialogue becomes incredibly repetitive, before the big payoff which ends the film with a whimper.
Many have criticised the film for not taking the history of the forest into consideration or paying tributes to the hundreds of lives that have been lost there. Considering the dark mysterious nature of the forest and thousands of witness accounts of spirits both of the dead and from other origins, none of this is really shown in the film. It gives the impression that the Americans did take over and it could easily be any forest in the world, once the initial introductions are made then it just becomes a “in the woods film”.
While the movie suffers from not drawing more from the rich culture that it’s set in, it does give a fairly good twist by the bitter end, but the lead into this pivotal moment is just too much and makes the film incredibly hard to re watch, but I made it through at least once and that’s enough, so much potential died in this film…
R – The Woods (2006), The Hallow (2015), The Village (2004), The Barrens (2012), Oltre il guado/Across the River (2013), Deep in the woods (2000)
L – A-Z of Japanese Films, Forest Films, Horror in the Woods
A – If you go down to the woods today – a brief history of horror films set in the deep dark woods.