11 Jan Popcorn in My Beard: The Forest(2016)
In the latest American visits Japan and local folklore attacks installment, The Forest (2016) follows the desperate mission of Sarah as she searches for her lost twin sister in the infamous Aokigahara.
To start, the cinematography of this film starts off very strong – placed on the backdrop of Mount Fuji rich in Japanese culture, you are immediately plunged head first into this story. First time director Jason Zada does not waste any time sucking the viewer into the backstory using an intuitive flashback/real time mechanism to quickly bring the film’s driving occurrences to light.
As the story unfolds in almost formulaic approach, we follow our protagonist, Sarah, as she haphazardly takes an international journey to find her misguided sister, Jess, who has gone missing after a school trip to Aokigahara also known as the Sea of Tree AND also known as The Suicide Forest.
To fully understand how exciting the premise of this movie, do yourself a favor and quick a few quick searches on the Suicide Forest (for those with 20 minutes on their hands, check out this mini-documentary on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FDSdg09df8.) As the story goes, Aokigahara was a place to take elderly, sick, and broken when hard times fell upon Japan. In recent history, the forest has become a destination of suicide.
Photo by Levi Rinker
With this history in mind, what better stage to explore for a horror flick? Aokigahara is real and the mythos even more so. After a two hour hike through The Forrest’s narrative, you will probably leave the theater feeling very vanilla about the experience. The biggest flaw of the film is not the one dimensional character development of our heroine, the typical jump scares associated with the J-horror genre, or the overplayed telepathic link between twin sisters; it’s the underwhelming use of Aokigahara to drive the story.
As the story unfolds, rushing through most of the back story and setup to get our characters into the actual forest, there is a general lackluster feel that this story could have been told in any wooded area in any other place in the world. The complete misuse of a factual place known as THE SUICIDE FOREST in a horror movie is a down right crime against cinema. The lightly scattered, often obscure, injections of apparitions seemed overly forced and completely irrelevant to the plot line. In a place that is said to magnify your own sadness and fears against you, the film maker dove farther into Sarah’s “daddy issues” then explore what most movie goers were looking forward to seeing: THE SUICIDE FOREST totally screwing with her world.
Photos from http://crowdedsubjects.com
All things accounted for, this is not a horrible flick. It may even be worth a night out with the casual horror film enthusiast accustomed to movies like The Grudge or The Ring. For those with a more refined cinema pallet…maybe wait for your favorite streaming service to pick this one up.