The Forest – Review

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When travelling abroad – particularly alone – there’s an overwhelming sense of anxiety that supplements the excitement, as you adjust to a new culture and way of living. Jason Zada has explored this notion in his latest picture The Forest, using this disquieting factor as a means of evoking suspense and discomfort in the viewer, adopting tropes of the horror genre in the process. Regrettably, this is one of very few positive aspects to this underwhelming endeavour.

When Sara (Natalie Dormer) finds out that her twin sister Jess (also played by the British actress) has gone missing in Japan while over there teaching, she sets off to Asia to help find her. It transpires that Jess had been spotted going to the Aokigahara Forest, near Mount Fuji, a place associated with death and despair as a popular suicide spot. Folklore says that the demons of the dead remain in the forest, and prey on anybody with any depressive thoughts or sadness, and that the spirits encourage susceptible individuals to kill themselves. But Sara is not buying it, adamant her sister is still alive – and so sets into the forest, alongside travel writer Aiden (Taylor Kinney) to bring her twin back home.

Dormer turns in an accomplished display, and though the contrasting colour of hair is a rather clear indicator as to which twin she is portraying, her performances differ in a very subtle way, as she captures the sensibilities of both characters. Sara remains the only character of real note however, as a film devoid of any significant, fully-realised supporting cast members, as even the likes of Aiden are severely underwritten and without any palpable character development or nuances. Thankfully we do get distracted somewhat by the beguiling landscape, and while not shot on location, the greenery of the environment and sheer serenity of it all works as a brilliant antidote to the chilling, unforgiving elements that play out in front of it.

On paper, The Forest is an intriguing concept; this notion that anybody with any sadness within them finds themselves naturally drawn to this particular place is an unsettling one, but Zada presents this tale in all-too generic fashion, drifting carelessly away from any sense of innovation, abiding so frustratingly to the tropes of the genre at hand. Here’s a film that thrives so predominantly in the set-up, and it’s during the pay-off where the tedium kicks in – and there’s no going back from there on.

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About Stefan Pape

Stefan Pape is a film critic and interviewer who spends most of his time in dark rooms, sipping on filter coffee and becoming perilously embroiled in the lives of others. He adores the work of Billy Wilder and Woody Allen, and won’t have a bad word said against Paul Giamatti.

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