In “Theaters” Now – The Forest

Look at that, I’m actually following through with my promise to keep posting on my blog. In fact, in order to motivate myself to keep posting a friend and I went to see The Forest. You all owe me… a lot…

First things first, I was actually looking forward to this one. The preview made me believe that this was going to be a thinking-person’s horror movie… heavy on the suspense and creepiness, light on the jump-scares… nothing could be further from the truth (well, saying that this movie has some worth might be further from the truth). There were many, many problems with this film… but after thinking about it (more like stewing about it) for the last couple of days I think it’s major failing is that it’s just plain boring. There was a moment in the film (the filmmakers (written by three people (that’s never a good sign) and directed by Jason Zada (his first feature, as far as I could find)) would call it the climax of the film… but that would suggest an exciting development occurred) where I made a conscious decision to take a micro-nap (mind you, I had a full eight hours of sleep the night before). Luckily, after checking with my movie-going companion to verify, I missed absolutely nothing. Even with this nap, I left the movie exhausted.

So, what’s the plot of the movie… oh, who cares? I honestly wish I could just walk away from this part of the review, but anyone who has read this blog, knows that I can’t… I have to… I’m compelled to at least write a one-sentence summary of the movie. Here it is: A woman goes in search of her missing twin (both played by a single woman (Natalie Dormer)… so, get ready for some over-the-shoulder shots and bad wigs) who is teaching English in Japan. The rub? She was last seen walking in Aokigahara Forest, known for it’s high rate of suicides. This is normally the part of the summary where I would quip “mayhem ensues”, but in reality, very little ensues.

I’m going to start with the good since… well, to be honest, it’s easier to form a coherent thought about the good in this film since it is singular. Really, the only thing this movie has going for it is that it has a foot (well, maybe a toe… the pinky toe) in reality. The titular forest is real as well as the mythos surrounding it. I actually remember hearing about the use of the forest for suicides in a podcast (though, I can’t quite recall which podcast it was… I’m thinking it was Radiolab (which, you should be listening to (if you aren’t already)). I’m a big fan of using truth as a starting point in horror movies… it adds a level of authenticity, which can, if used properly, up the tension and fear (I remembered being terrified of Return of the Living Dead when I first saw it because it starts with a disclaimer that it was based on actual events (it also might have been because I saw it when I was 11 (man, it’s no wonder I have a thing about zombies))). In many ways, though, this is also one of the biggest weaknesses of this film. I found myself getting angrier and angrier as the movie progressed. What a waste of a premise… and I really do mean a waste… there is a good (potentially amazing) movie in this premise, and now the filmmakers have claimed it, shot it in the head, and buried it in a shallow-grave (metaphorically and hyperbolically speaking). No one else can touch it… at least, not for some time.

I think I hit on the major issues with the movie in the above paragraphs: wasted premise + boring plot = bad movie. That being said, there are several other variables in this equation that actually makes it add up to being a terrible movie. First, the filmmakers cheat… or at least ignores the major conceit of the film. I won’t ruin it for you but trust me, if you spend at least a modicum of brain power on the supernatural element of the film, you will end up extremely frustrated with its “resolution”. Second, the acting is just plain bad… which, is weird since the main actor (Natalie Dormer) is pretty great on Game of Thrones. Okay, to be fair, she does a serviceable job for 99% of the film… when it comes to her playing terrified though… let’s just say she does not have a calling as a scream queen. Speaking of being terrified, this leads to another issue with the film… it relies far too much on jump scares. You all know my feeling about this… so, I’ll be quick… when you rely 100% on jump scares nothing from your movie will stay with the audience… and, seriously, what’s event he point of making your movie. Also, the five-minute segment of ethnocentrism is problematic… at best. I know I had other problems with the film, but its fluffy nature has caused its memory to drift almost completely out of my head… thank god…

This movie was so bad that it’s actually making me look forward to seeing The Boy.

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