A compelling setting and solid cast aren’t nearly enough to make this moldy horror jaunt worth your time, resulting in a thoroughly forgettable directorial debut for Jason Zada.
Japan’s Aokigahara Forest (aka the Suicide Forest) is a popular destination for lost souls to commit suicide, and when Sara Price (Natalie Dormer) learns that her twin sister Jess was last seen heading into the forest, she heads there herself in the hope of saving her. Teaming with park guide Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa) and reporter Aiden (Taylor Kinney), the trio must keep a clear head in the face of mounting evidence that a supernatural threat looms in the forest’s midst.
If The Forest is commended for any one thing, it’s the undeniably terrific location the filmmakers have found for their generic ghost story to unfold. Though not actually shot on location at the forest, its eerily serene nature is still well conveyed through some solid cinematography, when the movie’s not too busy fielding out tired jump scares and lifeless exposition.
Performances on the whole also deserve better; despite some early woodenness, Game of Thrones’ Dormer is decent enough as the dual lead, though her character’s general idiocy and subsequent unlikeability do her zero favours. Kinney meanwhile has a natural charm that drips off the screen, and boasts an easy chemistry with Dormer.
Still, the pic’s biggest problem is that it’s simply not scary; genre aficionados will see every jump coming a mile off, and the uninspired nature of the plot work only undermines the locale’s inherent creep factor. Then there’s a twist ending a large chunk of viewers will predict because the movie telegraphs it time and time again in the previous 80 minutes, resulting in a groan-worthy finale that clearly thinks it’s a lot smarter than it actually is.
A lazy squandering of a solid enough concept, The Forest is quintessential low-effort dump month horror fare. It’s already made its budget back three-fold, so its job is done, and nobody involved probably cares much whether you see it or not now.
The Forest is in US cinemas now and UK cinemas February 26th