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Natalie Dormer stars as twins Sarah and Jess in this, (allegedly) atmospheric, psychological horror. Go away if you don’t want spoilers.

Jess has gone missing in  Aokigahara, Japan’s premier tourist destination  and suicide forest on the edge of Mt. Fuji. Jess is the edgy twin, you can tell because she has dark hair and too much eye makeup. Sarah is well-adjusted twin, you can tell because she has a boyfriend and an apartment. Jess is edgy because she saw her parents bodies after daddy got over excited with a double-barreled shot gun. For no explored reason at all. Sarah sets out to find Jess and along the way confronts some painfully over-stated analogies regarding letting go of the past and survivor guilt.

I have to give Jason Zada credit for sucking all of the creepiness out of a real-life suicide forest. I genuinely have no idea how he managed it. Possibly by spending half of the movie in the long and tedious build up to actually arriving at the forest (and for a film that runs just shy of 90 minutes, that’s impressive, no?)

He added some jump scares. The kind that might as well have a neon timer in the top right of the screen counting down to ‘insert jump scare here.’ I’ll admit that one got me. Just one. And it was a cheap shot too. The cinema equivalent of a shock video. That was a cheap move Mr Zada.

I didn’t like The Forest very much. It felt like something thrown together very quickly after the writers (Jesus, this took three of you?) watched a few too many Youtube videos on Aokigahara. The story is very lackluster. Insert a family tragedy which serves as the underpinning of the entire plot – but don’t explore it at all. Come up with a couple of analogies and present them with the skill and subtlety of a hippopotamus on stilts. Oh, is Sarah freeing herself from her father’s grasp supposed to symbolise releasing herself from the negative influence he has inflicted across their lives? I think it is! Subtle guys, really.

Oh – and thanks for the depressing ending. What was the point exactly? Sarah has freed her sister but at the price of her own death? Really? Because all the way through the film the point seemed to be that she was an ignorant westerner ignoring the advice of the locals. I’m quite happy with a depressing ending when it adds something to the plot – but you just did it for the sake of it here, didn’t you? Trying to be edgy, were we?

Well fuck that. Having Sarah go to prison for murdering Aidan or having to live with the guilt of what she’d done would have been a much better ending in my opinion. And her sister should have shared the responsibility – always running off and leaving her sister to clear up the mess. But no. Instead she’s looking wistful and smug in the back of an ambulance at the end of the movie. Big deal.

It took three writers to craft two characters with any semblance of personality – but they totally failed on that score too. Sarah is a pushy American who throws money at things to fix them (pretty standard horror movie trope right there). And she’s a twin who “feels” responsible for her sister. Who “feels” what’s happening to her sister. Because she “feels” more than everyone else. Yawn-o-rama. It’s not the 70s anymore. Can we cut the ESP crap out of our horror now please?

The other main “character” is Aiden, but he doesn’t really have a character, beyond being attracted to Sarah and being a journalist. It’s hinted that he might have some sinister ulterior motives, and Sarah persists in this delusion, even after the creepy Japanese school girl who put these thoughts into her head turns out to be a creepy Japanese demon. But Sarah has gone nuts at this point – so she can’t be held responsible for stabbing an innocent man to death.

So for the first 30 minutes of the movie we see Sarah doing very little. And for at least the last 45 minutes she’s clearly insane. That leaves barely 10 minutes of Sarah being sane and actually doing anything interesting. Please excuse me if I don’t feel ANY emotional investment in this character at all. She’s stupid. Her stupid decisions drive the plot and that is LAZY, SLOPPY writing. We should be past this by now – but no. Same old shit.

That’s the best summary I can come up with for The Forest. Same old shit. But more boring. In Japan.

Go watch some youtube documentaries about  Aokigahara, they’re much more atmospheric. And less boring.