I wish I could tell you that The Forest was a deeply unnerving experience which left me too disturbed to ever enter the woods again. Instead, all it did was make me wish for more forest fires.
The film tells the story of Sarah (Natalie Dormer), a young woman from America who travels to Japan to track down her tearaway twin sister, Jess (Dormer again) who’s gone missing in the Aokigahara Forest – a real life wood known as ‘the Suicide Forest’, as it’s infamous for a being a suicide hot spot.
Unfortunately for her, the forest is more sinister than she realises and, soon enough, the warped wood is turning her own fears and insecurities against her.
Natalie Dormer is, of course, very good and manages to imbue both sisters with completely different personalities, despite the script barely even bothering to give the pair a personality between them.
The Game of Thrones star plays the role with an incredible fragility which held the rather patchy story together and it was only her talent that stopped me from questioning some of the film’s rather confusing plot points.
The film also makes effective use of its rather grisly location, with ghouls and ghosts using the trees to play the world’s worst ever game of hide and seek with the traumatised Dormer. There’s one particularly creepy scene that does manage to be unsettling, where the ghosts are silhouetted in a way that makes them appear to be trapped and hanging from the trees.
Despite this, The Forest never manages to be anything more than a boringly average horror flick, chiefly because the film is just not scary enough. It takes far too long to actually get going and, in that time, it fails to build either suspense or dread, instead relying on cheap jump scares which come as thick and fast as the trees in the forest and left me feeling numb to the whole experience rather than frightened.
When the film does remember that it’s supposed to be scaring audiences, it pulls out the usual dead-eyed horror clichés including the ‘shitty horror film’ favourite of dropping the music… fading to silence… and then… BANG!!!!
And, if that’s wasn’t bad enough, the film uses the old Japanese schoolgirl horror staple you’ve seen done a hundred times before about a hundred times better.
Overall, casual fans of horror may find a few scares here or there in The Forest, but for those who love things that go bump in the night, this is less a trip through the forest and more a walk in the park.
Avoid if you can.