The Forest, 2016.
Directed by Jason Zada.
Starring Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Eoin Macken, Stephanie Vogt and Yuho Yamashita.
A woman heads into Japan’s notorious Suicide Forest to find her missing twin sister, only to find herself confronted by supernatural terror.
The first real horror film of the year is something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, Jason Zada’s debut feature can be seen as an effective chiller with dashes of Blair Witch; on the other, it’s an unsubtle and lazily constructed jump thriller that keeps trying to be something it’s not. Or keeps trying not to be something it is. I’m not sure which.
Natalie Dormer isn’t really commanding enough in the lead role; her turn as Queen Margaery in Game Of Thrones has always been solid but rarely noteworthy, and it’s a similar situation here. There’s nothing ostensibly wrong with the performance, it just doesn’t have enough heft or emotional nuance to make us care very much about her plight. But it’s more pressingly an issue of inconsistency. The first twenty minutes does this weird flashback thing that reeks of a desperation to be some kind of profound character drama rooted in a horror, before descending into overt jump scares where spooky things leap at the screen over loud bangs. Perhaps if it had kept the non-linear flashback idea going it would have felt more natural and something interesting could have been done with it, but as it is, the film sadly feels like it’s not really sure what it wants to be.
That being said, The Forest isn’t as bad as the reviews would lead you to believe, and it absolutely isn’t without creepy moments which, as always, is the deal breaker in horror. While it never really scares us to that point of feeling unsafe, where we want to glance over our shoulders just to be sure, it does just about enough to raise a few hairs on the back of the neck. When Sarah (Dormer) crawls through a dank, dark hole haunted by malevolent spirits we can’t help but think of The Descent and how terrifying the idea of being trapped underground with anything is, let alone ghosts; or when she gradually begins to lose trust in the seemingly chivalrous journalist who agrees to chaperone her through the forest, well, it may be more The Perfect Getaway than Shadow of a Doubt, but there’s an unnerving idea there that’s plotted out quite effectively.
The Forest is unspectacular and forgettable, but kind of worth a go. The big screen might be too much for it to handle, but it’s probably good for Friday night with a couple of beers and a bag of popcorn.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Edward Gardiner – Follow me on Twitter