Tony's Take

The Forest

The Forest poster

Everyone Comes Here Looking For a Way Out

The 2016 movie year is under-way this week, beginning with The Forest.  The film follows a young woman named Sara Price as she wakes-up in the middle of the night after a bad dream, and sets-off on a plane to Japan.  We then learn that her “special” connection with her sister has been interrupted and it only happens when she is in trouble.  Once she arrives, she visits the classroom of her sister Jess, who is a teacher at an elementary school.  She soon learns that Jess disappeared after taking her students on a field trip to Aokigahara Forest, more commonly known as “The Suicide Forest”.  Located at the base of Mt. Fuji, many people enter the forest to contemplate their morality, with many of them actually taking their own lives while inside.  Sara meets a young journalist named Aiden who is going into the forest for a story, and she tags-along to look for Jess with the help of a guide.  Once inside, they discover Jess’s tent (which means they aren’t sure whether they want to die) and Sara remains confident that Jess is still alive.  The rest of the film follows their search through Aokigahara as they must save not only Sara’s sister, but also themselves from the horrors of the forest.

Natalie Dormer stars as the twin-duo of Sara and Jess Price.  In one of her first starring film roles, Dormer is excellent at portraying two different personas and it is definitely the start of a budding film career.  Taylor Kinney plays the young journalist doing a story on Aokigahara, Aiden.  Yukiyoshi Ozawa plays the Aokigahara guide who helps Sara and Aiden, Michi.  Eoin Macken plays Sara’s husband, Rob.  Stephanie Voigt plays Rob’s boss, Valerie.  Noriko Sakura plays the principal at Jess’ school, Mayumi.  Yûho Yamashita plays the Aokigahara visitor center worker, Sakura.  Jozef Aoki plays the visitor center’s morgue man.  Rina Takasaki plays a woman Sara sees in the forest over and over, Hoshiko.

The Forest starts-out with a solid story and an even better real-life location to build around, but the film struggles to use them effectively and ultimately ends-up in disappointment.  In a film with so few characters, the two main leads are essential.  Unfortunately, only one lives-up to the billing, as Dormer shows that she is ready for the big screen.  However Kinney, also somewhat new to the film scene, displays too many emotions and the true intentions of his character are hidden (not a compliment).  The Forest does offer a few great storylines, dealing with what happened to Sara/Jess’s parents and the “sibling connection”, but then the film finds a way to demote itself.  Instead of building on the story, The Forest relies of cheap “scares”, some of which are mostly LAUGHABLE.  The film does deserve credit for choosing a real-life location such as Aokigahara Forest and handling it quite well, especially for not whitewashing the film completely.  While I may not have wanted to, The Forest certainly had me googling “Aokigahara Forest” to learn more information about it.  The film’s ending is also somewhat predictable, but it is just clever enough that you won’t roll your eyes at it.  The Forest has a run time of 95 minutes and occasionally stumbles its way through the forest (pun intended).  Overall, The Forest stars-out as a solid thriller, but it eventually derails itself, sadly.  While The Forest is ultimately a failure, this certainly isn’t the worst film to be released in January.  Another good story that is plagued by cliché.

The Forest follows a woman as she searches for her missing twin in the forests of Aokigahara.  The film features a few scares and a very interesting and real location.  If you are heading to the theater this weekend, only see The Forest if everything else is sold out!

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