I want to get this out of the way before diving into the the main meat of the impressions, there was a lot of controversy with this film. Many people felt that the movie mishandled both the way it represented Japanese people, as well as how it handled suicide and depression. I can see where people are coming from with these arguments, however it’s not something I feel comfortable speaking on as I am not expert.
The Forest is features Natalie Dormer stepping into the role of identical twins Sara and Jess. Many people were curious because they feel Dormer has been untested outside of Game of Thrones and this would be a chance to see what she could do with not one but two roles. Aside from Dormer the actual plot of the film seemed fairly interesting to many. However, with all said and done what is the take away?
Jess and Sara are identical twins, with Jess always being the more problematic of the sisters. Jess moves to Japan and goes missing on a class trip, to Aokigahara Forest. Sara believes Jess is still alive due to a special connection they share as twins. Sara goes to Japan to search for Jess, and meets writer Aiden who agrees to take her into the forest with a guide, Michi. While there Sara begins to be taunted by her own inner sadness, her need to find Jess, and the spirits in the forest themselves.
I try not to start these pieces being overly negative, but there is not a lot I can say positively about this movie. It’s boring. Not bad, not gross, not over the top, boring. It sets up predictable jumps scares that fall flat, has no tension, and completely fails to bring any suspense. A movie about two people isolated in a forest (a forest known for suicide or not) should be really scary. Add in one of the characters going a little mad, and you should have a slam dunk. Instead The Forest is just flat.
The foundation is solid. As I said an isolation piece can be very effective, as can dealing with madness. It attempts to build tension by the location chosen, a place known for suicide, and deals heavily with the idea of what’s real or not. So with all the good ideas it’s rather surprising that nothing comes out of it. I struggle to put my finger on what exactly goes wrong, and the best I can guess at is it tries too hard.
When dealing with the idea of what’s real and what’s not there is no possibility of anything being real. It’s so clear that the things tormenting Sara are fake, so you never really start to wonder if she’s going crazy or not, you just know she is. Her story is also too much. It keeps trying to add on layer after layer after layer to give reasoning for why Sara and Jess would be susceptible to depression (and thus The Forest) when the reality is only one or two of those layers are needed. It also just keeps banging the audience over the head with it being “the suicide forest”. The movie just ends up adding too much, and drowns in it. Taking away multiple elements and scenes would still leave the movie overloaded and it would still end up drowning itself. It never has a chance to execute because it just tries too hard. Also again it’s boring.
I will say that Dormer does a solid job. Given the weakness of the script she doesn’t shine, but the fact that she also doesn’t do horrible in such a bad movie says something. I would love to see her in a movie that succeeds in the tension and suspense this film is attempting.
Unless you are just very curious, skip this movie. It’s predictable, overworked, and not in the least bit scary.