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The Forest

Coming Soon

If you’ve paid any attention to advertisements over the last few weeks you’ve undoubtedly seen a commercial or two for the newly released horror movie, The Forest. The brief images shown appear chilling enough to evoke feelings of curiosity and dare I say hope for those who are fans of the genre. For marketing, this feature gets kudos right off the bat for finding different creative ways to make these events feel real to viewers. Hop onto Twitter and search #TheForestIsReal and you’ll quickly see the impact on social media. That’s a lot of build up for a movie most would expect to be middle of the road at best. Is this an obvious oversell or might there actually be something here to get excited about. Your answer is a short read away.
The Forest stars Natalie Dormer who plays identical twins Sara and Jess Price. Even though the sisters are the same in many ways, one tragic event from their childhood sent them in different directions emotionally. The event that occurred was the sudden death of their parents. Since that point, Jess had become more of a free spirited person throwing caution to the wind while trying to suppress the physiological impact of the past tragedy. Sara, on the other hand, has become more of the caregiver of the two. She’s always there to bail her sister out of trouble. Now that time has come once again when Jess goes missing while living in Japan. Sara drops everything to head abroad only to find that the last place her sister was seen was entering a place called Aokigahara, or “Suicide Forest”, where people go to die according to legend.
The runtime for The Forest is only 95 minutes. The reason this is being mentioned is because in that time, director Jason Zada attempts to squeeze in a lot information in order to give a proper backstory in the hopes that audiences care about these troubled sisters. Then there’s Aokigahara itself. In order to have a locale that is feared, you kind of want more than a “well because the legend says so”. Unfortunately when it comes to the Suicide Forest that’s exactly what we have to settle for. It would have been nice for that aspect to not have been so arbitrarily glazed over. As for the Sara and Jess, their character building moments were mostly told through flashbacks as the plot progresses, revealing a little at a time. This approach also feels rushed or hurried, but having said that, at least Jason Zada was cognizant of idea that a horror movie shouldn’t be overly long in terms of the runtime. Points for that.
The acting was average at best. I have not seen enough of Natalie Dormer personally to emphatically say one way or the other, but I’m leaning towards her almost “soap opera-ish” demeanor was by instruction. The double-edged sword of wanting to focus on identical twins is that often times they’re made to act like they have nothing in common with the other when it comes to behavior. Heaven forbid you have twins that act alike and look alike. I guess that doesn’t make for good entertainment so let’s drastically change the hair color and makeup style. Wait, let’s also make their personalities polar opposites as well. These stark differences seem forced. The Forest features two other supporting actors that get more than a couple of lines. Taylor Kinney is Aiden, who is a seemingly nice, yet mysterious writer living in Japan. The second actor who garners adequate screen time is Yukiyoshi Ozawa who plays an experienced guide named Michi that has a lot of familiarity with this “Suicide Forest” and its perilous secrets.
Hopefully life doesn’t imitate art here, because audiences will feel like they’re dying a slow death in their seats while awaiting a grand payoff. There are just too many questions left unanswered to make this an overall enjoyable experience. The effort is there but the execution is lacking. Now that you’ve been warned and still decide to rush out to see it, one might say that you’re committing a form of cinema suicide. The Forest is definitely one of those movies that are best enjoyed at home on a quiet evening with zero expectations. On the plus side, 2016 can only get better, right? The Forest isn’t a BAD movie, it just isn’t one that will have you telling your friends that they just have to see this now.

The Forest is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Carl Wheeler

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