Movie Reviews

Movie Review: 'The Forest'

By Tay Yek KeakMovies - 14 January 2016 12:00 AM | Updated 18 January 2016

Movie Review: 'The Forest'

Our Rating

2/5 Stars

Imagine being trapped in MacRitchie Reservoir with no way of getting out?

You'll go nuts if you're not exactly a nature person.

Just like the desperate American woman stuck in the spooky woods in Japan here – Sara Price (Natalie Dormer, ‘Game of Thrones’).

Against all you-must-be-crazy-to-go-there warnings, she stubbornly enters the forbidding forest to find her missing twin sister, Jess (also played by Dormer).

“The forest very dangerous, do not leave the path,” she's reminded by the Japanese woman in charge of a rest station at the site.

Interestingly, that place has a weird makeshift basement morgue with bodies of suicidees stored in a nonchalant manner as though dead forest visitors are a dime a dozen.

I tell you, if you're an angmoh bewildered by bizarre foreign customs like this, your mind will get scrambled into a flat-out loony tune too.

You'll start to see sinister hooded figures among the trees, imagine that your very helpful guide wants to kill you, and most incredibly, think that seeing an anxious Japanese schoolgirl popping up in the dead of the night right in the middle of nowhere is a pretty normal thing.  

Okay, this is Japan.

Schoolgirls pop up everywhere, right?

So why didn't this deal play on this stranger-in-a-strange-land angle more instead of spending most its time in a featureless, indistinguishable landscape that could easily be in, I don't know, Florida or Louisiana.

Actually, the shooting locale here isn't even in Japan.

It's really a forest in faraway Serbia masquerading as the haunted Aokigahara Forest at the foot of Japan's scenic Mount Fuji.  

This famous – or infamous if you're severely depressed – location is traditionally known as the Suicide Forest because unhappy or old Japanese people actually kill themselves in its dense, isolated interior, and suicide-watch rangers, as one Japanese chap is portrayed here, really do go around looking for troubled folks to persuade them to think it over and not take the one-way-ticket route.  

You know, Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe recently starred in a drama set in the Suicide Forest too called ‘The Sea Of Trees’.  

I'm thinking, hey, isn't this place just like a stuffy, unbearable MRT train when it breaks down, but with a heckuva lot less people? 


Look, you'll dig this arboreal chiller if you're a person who loves to hike, take in lots of trees and bushes, and generally like to run around aimlessly as though you're some kind of mad eco-nut freaking out in a Bear Grylls jungle paradise.  

Otherwise, you might just kinda go a little squirrel-crazy in this what-else-is-new horror flick.  

Oh, you'll also wanna catch this show just to see who Lady Gaga is snuggling up with on a daily basis.  

Taylor Kinney, Lady Gaga's real-life fiance, plays the chummy and protective forest guide, Aiden, here.  

The dude is most known for playing a hotheaded fireman on TV's ‘Chicago Fire’.  

He's a likeable, easygoing fella but unfortunately you'll feel sorry for him because this lame flick isn't going to be the one that breaks him out of the “Mr Gaga” tag.  

You also feel bad for Dormer who is deliciously wicked as the scheming Margaery Tyrell in ‘Game Of Thrones’, and you wish for things to be really wicked and unnerving in this film instead of just the poor girl foraging helplessly amid the boring foliage like a rabbit scampering in circles in an endless cabbage patch.     

Now, the gal, Sara, is in the Aokigahara Forest because her sis, Jess, goes MIA in it and she can just feel it in her bones that Jess is still alive due to their cosmic sibling connection which is made all the more conveniently cosmic because Jess looks just like the punk version of nice, over-caring blondie Sara with black hair and eye shadow that just scream “badass”.  

At which point, you dearly wish this was a truly badass scare-fest because you want it to be maybe The Blair Witch Project tree-lined with spooky Asian people.    

I mean, any bona-fide Japanese horror-meister who's seen ‘Ju-On’ five times would nail this outdoor creep-out with all kinds of long-hair ghost thrills, right?

Alas, debut American director Jason Zada is a music video dude and while this thankfully doesn't look at all like a music video, it needs the energy of one to kick itself into gear.  

Everything that happens here, especially to an Asian audience used to serious scares, jumps and bumps in the dark, we've seen before.

 Everything that's set up here – Sara's dark past, the suspenseful bond between the sisters, the total head trip and visual tricks that ensue – we know 20 horror movies before already.  

Okay, there's actually a pretty cool twist ending which grabs you, but it's the little details unique to the Suicide Forest that are the best bits here.  

“If you bring a tent, you're not sure (about dying),” says the suicide-watch ranger about unhappy campers who aren't serious about suicide.  

Really good to know before you kill yourself out of boredom here.   

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The Forest
  • The Forest

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