#TheForestIsReal but we really wish it wasn’t.
When her twin sister disappears in Japan, a young American named Sara (Natalie Dormer) becomes determined to find out what happened to her. Sara’s investigation leads her to the legendary Aokigahara Forest, located at the base of Mount Fuji. Accompanied by expatriate Aiden, she enters the mysterious wilderness after being warned to “stay on the path.” Her investigation plunges her into a dark world where the angry and tormented souls of the dead prey on those who dare to explore the forest.
It’s no secret that January has become the digital dumping ground for studios just looking to reap some semblance of profit from films that just can’t compete with the hustle and bustle of the summer. January is essentially the Monday of months at this point, and when it comes to movies, it’s a graveyard of perpetual disappointment. Just thinking about January 2015, which brought us such gems as Seventh Son and Jupiter Ascending, is depressing. So we enter the new year, not with hope for what is on the horizon in the “Monday of months” but instead with uncompromising negativity regarding the array of garbage we will have to consume until the next Superhero film releases. This leads us to The Forest, a horror film that is opening in January. That can’t be good sign right? Right. The Forest brings with it an impressively eerie atmosphere, and a promising premise, but fails to make anything from its concepts.
Horror films have become inherently lazy. There was a time when tension and atmosphere was the foundation on which this genre stood, unfortunately that time has long since passed. We are now left with monotonous and unintelligible drivel that relies solely on loud noises and bold objects or creatures leaping at you from the shadows. The idea behind this January horror The Forest is built upon the original concept that made horror a staple in cinema, but it makes little use of it’s backdrop, opting for cheap thrills instead. You can often learn where horror films are going by measuring the amount of time it takes them to effectively sell out. Measuring the moment the film opens to the first time something jumps out a you, will essentially tell you what you’re in for from then on. The Forest wastes no time asserting it’s apathy on the audience, opening the film with a jump scare and never looking back.
What’s particularly egregious about The Forest’s shortcomings as a film, is the fact that it completely wastes a perfectly terrifying setting. The Aokigahara forest in Japan, is easily one of the creepiest places on the planet, providing an utterly perfect setting for good genre horror. The region comes complete with legends and lore that would terrify the most secure non believer. So how can this film fail so epically? It’s shameful, the way the filmmakers failed to make anything of the setting that should have been a central character. Instead what we get is an incoherent series of images and contrivances that provide no real tension or fright on any level.
The performances here are as stale as you would have expected. Natalie Dormer, of Game of Thrones fame, does not carry her charisma from her stint on TV with her here. She is content phoning it in and providing an ostensibly wooden and lackluster performance. She resigns to forcing petrified facial expressions and loud high pitched screams that leave you counting the minutes until this snooze fest rolls credits. Along side Dormer is Taylor Kinney, whom also cut his teeth on TV in Chicago Fire. Kinney follows suit bringing no personality or mystery whatsoever. The cast is done no favors with this script. A series of generic lines and monologues gives these poor souls little to chew on, and as a result neither lead seems to be all that invested in what’s transpiring, begging the question, how can the audience care what happens when it doesn’t appear the actors do? The answer is, they can’t and the studio doesn’t care either.
The Forest may not be a complete wash. There are a few moments that actually begin to provide some essence of horror. Unfortunately those moments are few and far between, and boring, predictable, and lazy garbage fills the dead space. This film is little more than white noise, meant to give movie goers some variety when headed to the theater, in case Star Wars is sold out. It’s counter programming, low budget, cash grab junk. This is the type of movie that takes it audience for fools, thinking they’re not bright enough to know when the studio, director, and writers, are too lazy to come up with anything truly interesting, so they try to force feed us a bag of feces, glammed up with fancy hashtags and ghostly images. The tagline on the poster is “everyone comes here, looking for a way out.” If only the studio understood just how true that statement really is.
0.5/5 Not Cool Bro