The last few years every October became Horrortober for me. I challenged myself to watch thirty or more horror movies in October. This year I’m upping the challenge. I turned forty last week. So my challenge this year is to watch forty horror movies in six weeks, closing it off with the new Halloween movie on November 1st. It’s going to be quite the undertaking. I managed to get loads of new movies for this purpose. I will watch movies like The Fly, Sleepaway Camp and most of the Hellraiser movies (shudder). While it isn’t October yet, you can’t start soon enough with Horrortober. To kick off my challenge I watched the 2016 movie The Forest on my birthday.
So what’s the movie about, from Rotten Tomatoes:
Against the backdrop of Japan’s Aokigahara forest, where people go to end their lives, an American woman braves the mysterious, uncharted terrain to search for her missing sister.
As I mentioned in my review of The Ritual, forests are scary places, especially at night. This movie is set in Aokigahara forest, known as the suicide forest. So this must be extra scary? Plus, Natalie Dormer of Game of Thrones is in it. This has to be at least a decent movie. Right?
Natalie Dormer stars as both Sara and Jesse Price. Sara flies to Tokyo to find out what happened to her sister after a phone call from the Tokyo police. In the hotel, she meets a reporter named Aiden, who is willing to help her. He gets in contact with Michi, a local who regularly goes into Aokigahara forest. The three of them go into Aokigahara forest.
Even though it is not actually filmed in Aokigahara forest, any forest can be a great setting for scary movies. A few examples are the Blair Witch Project and The Ritual. But the movie just doesn’t get really scary. There is maybe one successful jump scare. For the rest, it feels more like people camping and hiking in the woods. It’s like the tent part of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, but shorter and with more paranoia, and the occasional ghost and some shocks/gore from a trauma in Sara/Jesse’s past.
Natalie Dormer is the sole reason the movie isn’t complete garbage. Without spoiling too much, she pulls off her double role quite well. This is about the only saving grace for this movie.
There were elements available for a great scary movie. Too bad none of them really worked.
The director tried to make The Forest scary in three different ways:
- The supernatural part of the forest
- The growing paranoia between the characters
- The traumatic events in Sara/Jesse’s youth
The movie just doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, which is often a recipe for disaster. I couldn’t get immersed into the story, simply because I wasn’t sure about the direction the movie took.
The director got inspired by the Vice documentary about Aokigahara forest. I highly suggest watching that instead of this movie. The documentary is very unsettling and the cliché is true; Sometimes real life is stranger than fiction.