The Forest 

 

Half

 

 

When Sara’s identical twin sister disappears in Japan’s ‘Suicide Forest’, she ignores all the warnings and enters the spooky undergrowth herself….


 

You don’t see a film about a haunted forest for aeons and then four arrive at once. Yes, four. This particular haunted forest, Aokigahara, is actually a real one, and nestles at the base of Mount Fuji. It’s become something of an attraction for the terminally depressed, who go there to end their lives, thus clogging up the terrain with no end of dissatisfied spirits. First out of the cinematic bushes was the 2010 horror film Forest of the Living Dead, followed by the Canadian TV movie Grave Halloween (2013), last year’s Matthew McConaughey drama The Sea of Trees and now this one, starring Natalie Dormer.

 

Forest, The

The trees of death: Natalie Dormer

 

Ms Dormer plays identical twins, Sara and Jess Price. When Jess goes missing during a visit to Japan, Sara drops everything to go looking for her. Once there, she’s informed by the local police that Jess has probably taken her life as she was last seen in the Aokigahara Forest, which is where the troubled go to die. And Jess is certainly troubled. However, Sara senses that her twin is still among the land of the living and ignoring the admonishments of one and all, she goes into the forest, accompanied by an Australian journalist, Aiden (Taylor Kinney). He reckons there’s a story here, she needs him for his knowledge of the woods…

 

With a creditable turn from Natalie Dormer and some nice cultural flourishes, The Forest unduly elevates one’s initial expectations. Interesting, too, is the potential subtext involving identical twins and a neat twist to Sara’s backstory. However, once the narrative ushers us into them thar woods, all the old conventions come hurtling out of the thicket: it’s impossible to make out the wood for the trees. We suspect that much of what Sara sees is in her imagination – in spite of her grounded American rationale – but as the logical blends with the illusory, first-time director Jason Zada has more fun in blurring the lines than we do. So, when the course of a river apparently changes direction, did Sara imagine it or did it really happen? More importantly, do we care? And there is a limit to how many spooky Japanese schoolgirls an audience can take.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa.

 

Dir Jason Zada, Pro David S. Goyer, David Linde and Tory Metzger, Screenplay Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell and Ben Ketai, Ph Mattias Troelstrup, Pro Des Kevin Phipps, Ed Jim Flynn, Music Bear McCreary, Costumes Bojana Nikitovic.

 

AI-Film/Lava Bear Films-Icon Film Distributors.

93 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 26 February 2016. Cert. 15.