What I'm Watching: The Forest
I missed The Forest when it was in theatres, for a number of reasons, but chief among them was that it just wasn't getting good reviews, and there were more better movies for me to spend my money on.
But ah, once DVD comes, then I'll waste my money on trash and see how it is! So here we are.
Before I get to into this, The Forest had a bit of controversy when it was coming out, people upset that it was being appropriative and disrespectful to Japanese culture and the Suicide Forest in the plot. Now, as you know, I generally avoid these sorts of discussions and prefer to tell you if what we got is a good movie or not. But I do understand the concerns, and I don't think this movie was either of those things. However, I will admit being your average white dude, I am a terrible judge of such things. If you've got a place with a supernatural mythology behind it, I think it's fair game for a horror story. That said, such things should still be handled with respect, especially since *real people have died*. I think the movie stayed on the right side of that line, for the most part.
The biggest problem with the movie is that it's just not very *good*. It's not so much that the movie is terrible, it's just banal, and not scary in the slightest. It utterly fails at all things horror.
The plot of The Forest is about a woman who suddenly senses that her twin sister has had something terrible happen to her, so she flies ALL the way to Japan to find her, and is led to Aokigahara Forest, where untold numbers of people have wandered off into to die or commit suicide, hence the more pulpy, lurid name.
Since this is a horror story, things get strange and supernatural, and along the way she meets a writer that speaks English but lives there, so serves as a guide. Eventually the paranoia drives her to distrust Aiden, and it seems terribly forced when it happens. It comes off as little more than trying to wring a little more drama out of the plot to keep the third act going.
The worst thing of the movie is that almost every moment of attempted horror is nothing more than a cheap jump scare. The movie has exactly zero other tricks. Someone is sitting around doing nothing? SOMEONE SLAMS ON A WINDOW. Walking down a hall towards a lonely figure? THEY SUDDENLY TURN AND POUNCE.
This is nothing more than Cheap Jump Scares: The Movie. Something suddenly jumping at the camera, with a VERY LOUD NOISE is the worst kind of scare. Of COURSE you jump out of your seat. You're *startled* not *scared*, per se. They're fine when used sparingly, but when they're the only thing your movie does? It loses all effectiveness.
Now, there are good things in this movie. Really. I genuinely like the *story* being told, the search for a lost family member, dredging up old memories of the loss of their parents, and the personal stuff really works, it's just surrounded by this unending feeling of being just kinda there.
The movie's cast is pretty solid, especially Natalie Dormer in the dual roles of Sarah and Jess. They're clearly different people, forged in the night their parents died, by how they reacted to that. But the cast is in a movie they are so much better than. They drag the workaday script up to another level, but even their work isn't enough.
I did really like the ending, the nice little twist, or I suppose reversal of fortunes is a better way to phrase it, without outright spoiling what happens. Jess and Sarah are as bad as the Winchesters when it comes to trying to save their siblings from death.
I can't really recommend this movie. The cast is good, but not good enough to make the movie worth seeing. The overall plot isn't bad, but not presented well. Any real horror is nonexistent and the cheapest of cheap scares. There are moments of enjoyment, but they are few and far between. And yet it isn't a BAD movie. It's just kinda there. If you wanna watch it, there are WORSE ways to spend 90 minutes...but there's also MUCH better ways to do that, too.
Remember what I always say; the worst thing I horror movie can be is boring.