There’s certainly nothing wrong with a simple thriller that’s light on plot, skimpy on character development, tame where the scary stuff is concerned, and familiar in every conceivable fashion — but if that’s all you’re shooting for, then you’re not likely to wow many ticket-buyers. The Forest will probably sell a decent handful of opening weekend tickets to teenagers who desperately need get out of the house and see a movie (any movie) with their pals, but it’s highly unlikely that anyone who treks into The Forest will be able to remember anything about the flick in three months. More likely three weeks.
The adorable Natalie Dormer plays Sara, a young woman who travels to Japan after her twin sister goes missing in a historically creepy forest where lots of suicides take place. (Also this forest is based on an actual place, not that this information adds all that much to the experience.) Plot-wise, that’s pretty much it: a young woman, a potentially (a.k.a. probably) untrustworthy journalist, and a reluctant guide wander into The Forest to see if they can’t figure out what happened to Sara’s missing sister. And with a plot that basic, one would hope for a decent amount of kick in the “intangibles” department, but unfortunately The Forest offers more questions than answers, more yawns than thrills, and more cheap-shot jump-scares than actual mood, style, or atmosphere.
On the plus side, there’s a typically ominous Bear McCreary score that adds a nice dash of energy to some of the forest-bound proceedings, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with the crisp, cool cinematography. It’s just that Sara’s not all that interesting to begin with, her two temporary traveling companions are paper-thin caricatures, and her plight becomes only slightly more interesting once she decides to spend the night in the highly foreboding forest. At its best moments, The Forest offers a few cheap thrills through simple sound effects, but when all is said and done, none of the scary bits seem to add up to all that much.
The Forest feels sort of like a throwback/homage to the J-horror deluge that hit the screens a few years back, in that the first half of the film is more than a little arid and starchy, and the second half is little more than a series of A) random scary moments that turn out to be dreams and B) long moments of silence punctuated by a loud bang and/or a freaky face flying towards the screen. There are only so many hallucinatory vision / fake threat moments a viewer can deal with before they start to get annoyed — although the shrieking teenagers who sat behind me certainly didn’t seem to mind.
2 out of 5 fictional burritos that are based on actual burrito forests