Can’t See the Forest for the Trees: The Forest (2016)

I wanted to like this movie. I really did. It had all the right ingredients for a horror flick: a spooky location, an eerie idea, it even had a competent cast, but in the end, just like an ED patient, it failed to satisfy. At best it was a “you’ll get ‘em next time, tiger” first attempt.

The story follows Sarah (Blonde Natalie Dormer), the good twin, as she goes to Japan to search for Jess (Brunette Natalie Dormer), the bad twin, who has run off to Aokigahara, the Suicide Forest. Sarah’s afraid Jess is going to commit suicide. See, Sarah and Jess have the Cosican twins’ magic feely power, which lets Sarah feel when Jess is really in trouble as opposed to her just being dark and moody.

The problem is The Forest tries to hard to get all the details right, but in doing so it completely misses the big picture, or the trees, or whatever.

Take the main characters, Sarah and Jess. The movie takes too long explaining why Sarah’s “the good one” and why Jess is “the bad one.” In this case it’s not necessary. This isn’t an in-depth character study, it’s a January release horror-flick. There doesn’t need to be a reason. Everyone has a black sheep in the family. Just get on with it already. Ultimately all the explanation in the world wouldn’t make the sisters sympathetic characters.

Then there’s the question about Sarah’s mental state and whether all the supernatural stuff that’s happening is “in her head” or really happening, i.e. the impetus of the film. The film’s attempt to juggle us between the supernatural and the psychological is clumsy and rather than build suspense it just builds tension, in the form of a headache. It’s almost as if the filmmaker and writers couldn’t decide which way to go. Their lack of commitment made me wonder if they weren’t taking the piss with the audience.

By the end I was rooting for the forest to swallow the whole lot and be done with it. Spoiler: it doesn’t. Oh well. Maybe next time.


Tagline: Everyone comes here looking for a way out

Year: 2016                  Runtime: 93 mins

Director: Jason Zada

Writer: Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell

Starring: Natalie Dormer, Eoin Maken, Stephanie Vogt


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