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The Forest (2016) Movie Review

I've Been A Film Enthusiast as Long as I can remember. I Suffer from the Same Disease Leonard did in Memento.

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MPAA Rating

PG-13

Running Time

93 minutes

Director

Jason Zada

Writers

Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell, and Ben Ketai

During the cinematic graveyard month of January we expect nothing good and we get nothing good. It’s the comedown after the Oscar hopefuls and fizzing about Star Wars.

I remember seeing the trailer to The Forest and thinking “This is a January release and I totally left that lady‘s baby on top of the car.” Sure enough, its release date made it the 1st official wide release of 2016, while award contenders like The Revenant and Anomalisa expand. Hopefully a white person tries real hard not to shoot up the theater.

Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, the only thing memorable about the mediocre Forest, is that it is the first release of ‘16 and that it’ll disappear from theaters long before the month is over.

The movie’s bad but not terrible as there are worse ways you could spend 90 minutes of your life. Then again, I really didn’t have high expectations going in, so in that regard, I wasn’t disappointed . I felt worse after sitting through 2.5 hours of that flaccid James Bond movie last November.

Synopsis

The Forest marks the first major starring role for Game of Thrones actor Natalie Dormer and let’s hope she pocketed enough money as this movie’s not going to do her career any favors. It’s not her fault, but we’ll get to that later.

This tale of two sisters opens with Sarah Price (Dormer, last seen holding a video camera in Mockingjay) on a trip to Japan. Why? It turns out her sister Jess (Dormer again, but it darker hair color- movie magic at its finest) is missing, and not in a good way.

Jess has been teaching ESL classes to Japanese girls who dress exactly how Japanese girls are supposed to dress in J-Horror films. Jess has emotional problems and it’s been Sarah’s pattern to always bail her sister out of trouble ever since their parents died in a car crash when they were kids right outside their garage door.

Yes it sounds lame, but we’re supposed to take it seriously so quit your smirking.

Anyway, Jess has been mopey so she’s gone into the forest. the forest has a Japanese name, with like, 7 syllables and the movie’s not good enough to warrant me looking it up so we’re just going to call it the Suicide Forest.

Why? Because people have gone there and haven’t come out. Because they’ve killed themselves. Probably because they got a ‘B+’ on a test or something. This is Japan, after all.

She's looking to the future where better movies await...

She's looking to the future where better movies await...

Jess has gone into the Suicide Forest and there’s a good possibility that she’s dead. Sarah doesn’t buy it because they’re twins and she would know if her sister is dead.

Sarah.
Jessica.

Presumably there’s a 3rd sister named Parker.

Side Note- I did think it was nice that one could just take off and leave for Japan on a whim. You know, like in real life. In a movie involving a haunted forest, this was the least plausible part.

Now Sarah’s in Japan and presumably she’s going to walk around Japan and ask for directions until she finds the Suicide Forest because Japanese citizens are so eager to help a white girl and then she’s going find Jess and everything is going to be okay.

Not really, but what she does find in the bar is a nice white travel reporter named Aiden (Taylor Kinney) who just happens to speak fluent Japanese and who just happens to be writing an article on the Suicide Forest and who just happens have a guide on retainer who just happens to be going to the forest the next day and before you can say weird tentacle porn, Sarah is set up to tag along to look for Jess the next morning.

Convenient.

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Things Sarah has learned about the Suicide Forest.

  • Phones don’t work. Hope that doesn’t come into play later.
  • You shouldn’t enter the forest if you have sadness in your heart.
  • You may see things that are disturbing, but you have to remember that they’re all in your head or really second rate special effects.
  • There are ghosts in the forest as well as a ghost in the machine.
  • Never, ever feed the forest after midnight


Sarah, Aiden, and Japanese guide go into the forest. They see someone who has hung himself which is good because at least they know they are in the correct forest.

After some pointless walking around, Sarah finds Jess’ tent, but there is no Jess to be found. Jess left her tent open, which is disturbing in itself because you know, bugs.
Everyone calls for Jess. Jess doesn’t answer.

Japanese guide suggests they go back to the hotel as it’s going to get be dark soon and it’s not a good idea to be in the Suicide Forest at night because you know, bugs. And some things in the forest can and will kill you.

Sarah says that she’ll stay and wait for Jess. Japanese guide thinks that’s a bad idea but Sarah will not be swayed.

A white girl alone in a forest where a bunch of people kill themselves. What could possibly go wrong?

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What Works with The Forest Awakens

  • Natalie Dormer proves herself worthy of more lead roles as she’s the only reason you’re not as bored as you should be. Her performance is better than the movie deserves. You get that she’s terrified, even if no one else in the audience is. Then again, she was almost married to Joffrey,
  • There are numerous shots of Japanese schoolgirls in uniforms with knee-high socks. This should appeal to the very specific demographic if white businessmen who lie to their wives and spend an inordinate amount of money at vending machines just to sniff Japanese girls’ underwear.
  • Now that I think about it, there isn’t a shot of a Japanese Girl that isn’t in a school uniform.

What Doesn't Work With The Forest

  • All of the attempts at being scary are pedestrian at best, in portion due to the PG-13 rating. You’d think with 3 writers in tow they would have realized we’ve seen every cheap Foley scare in every single “horror” movie aimed at an audience who can’t even drive. You shrug a lot more than you shudder.
  • A climax that could have saved the movie is staged by director Jason Zada so sloppily that it takes the audience a couple of beats to actually realize what is happening. It’s muddy to the point of film-school carelessness with the only saving grace being that by this time the audience has abandoned all hope that the movie will be good . Or maybe they’ve already died of despair before the end credits roll.
  • Nice that every Japanese person speaks perfect English because f*ck subtitles. This is America.
  • A deathly dull exposition-filled first act has the audience wishing they were watching Leonardo DiCaprio violated by a bear. There were people looking at their phones wondering how long it would be before Sarah actually got into the forest, considering the title of the movie. 30 minutes. That’s how long it is before it’s confirmed that you’re not watching the duller outtakes of Lost in Translation.
This movie is bad, not scary. That's why you close your eyes.

This movie is bad, not scary. That's why you close your eyes.

Overall

It would be better if you go into the suicide forest than actually watch The Forest. Or just watch The Revenant, which involves an even cooler forest, and actual thrills.

But hey, in two weeks there’s that doll horror movie with the girl from The Walking Dead. So that should be good, right?

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