This weekend, I took in The Revenant and The Forest back-to-back. I had to laugh after when even though I'd spent most of my Saturday in a theatre, it actually felt like I'd been outdoors the whole day. But, onto business...
Sara (Natalie Dormer) travels to Japan to find her twin sister after she goes missing inside Aokigahara Forest, a place known for its high suicide rate.
The Forest was largely a mediocre affair. I guess that's what I was expecting, but this one really brought home just how reliant modern horrors (Hollywood and indie) are on the standard jump scare format. I mean, I guess it still works, as the two teens down the row jumped at almost every single one, but for me, it makes me appreciate those who go beyond that. The Forest has many of the same beats that populate mainstream horror, but I do have to admit seeing a J-horror hybrid that wasn't a remake was somewhat interesting.
The film was shot competently, and there were a few little flourishes that I dug, but they didn't ultimately add up to much. I feel like Mike Flanagan's 2013 flick Oculus covered a lot of the same ground more successfully.
Apart from its shortcomings though, I do have to admit it did deliver the two things that got me in the theatre in the first place, those being Natalie Dormer and the lore of the Aokigahara Suicide Forest. After her distressing lack of screen time on last season's Game of Thrones and the Hunger Games Mockingjay, I was very glad to see The Forest doubled down on Dormer, and had her playing twins!
|Natalie Dormer as Sara Price in The Forest|
As for the forest, director Jason Zada certainly shot the shit out of it. Government restrictions caused the production to shoot in Serbia, but you'd never know without looking it up. The idea of this place is pretty grim, and I don't know which is more unsettling; that more than fifty people a year walk in there to off themselves, or that the authorities just basically allow it. Yokiyushi Ozawa's character of Michi, a guide who treks in to find and report bodies, is an actual occupation. Except, that the “cleanout” happens annually, not regularly. Can you imagine walking around that forest in December knowing there are potentially dozens of bodies lying around? It's a thought that is so horrific that it's actually surprising to me there have only been four films on this phenomenon.
So yeah, I could harp on Zada's film for being by the numbers in the face of such potential, but I essentially got what I needed out of it. Besides, seeing this right after The Revenant, it probably would've had to have been at least a four-star horror to even make an impression.