The Forest (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Forest (2016)


Film: I’m no fan of the cinematic ghost story, mainly due to the fact that I don’t believe in ghosts, so unfortunately with no threat, comes no horror.

That’s not to say that stupid jump scares don’t momentarily frighten me, it’s just the idea of impending doom coming from spiritual vengeance holds nothing over me.

My family, however, love a good (or bad) ghost story so I do on occasion find myself stuck in a darkened cinema being insulted by a Paranormal Activity or a Conjuring or one of their kin.

So why did I end up watching something that on the surface has all the hallmarks of a bad western remake of a j-horror classic? Well, that answer can be summed up in two words.

Natalie. Dormer.


Yep. Call me base. Call me sexist, but that is the sole reason why I wanted to see this film. The weird thing is, I haven’t actually seem her in anything else’ I don’t watch Game of Thrones, I never watched the Tudors and the only Hunger Games films I haven’t seen are the final two…which happen to be the ones she’s in!

Heck, I didn’t even know she was from the UK until I heard her real speaking voice in the sole extra on this disc.

I’d only ever seen images of her in magazines or the Internet, and have been fascinated by her half-smirk feline look…they should make her Ben Affleck’s Catwoman in the new DC cinematic universe… So when I saw her name appear as a cast member of a horror film, I decided to give it a go, even though normally I wouldn’t touch something like this with the pointy end of a P.K.E. meter.

Anyway, The Forest tells of Sara (Dormer) who has been informed by the Japanese police that her twin sister Jess (also Dormer) is dead. The police don’t actually have a body, but she went alone into the Aokigahara Forest, which is known for two things: legends of ghosts and demons inhabiting it, and the large amount of suicides that coincidently take place there.

So Sara goes to Japan to search for her sister and quickly learns of the local legends that the forest is haunted by yūrei, demons of the forest. At her hotel, she meets a travel journalist Aiden (Taylor Kinney) who offers to introduce her to a local guide Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa). Michi goes into the forest to look for bodies so he can report them to the police.


The three set off and they find one body, which he makes a note of and then a tent. He informs Sara and Aiden that people who take a tent into the forest are usual not sure about committing suicide, and he acts as somewhat of a councillor to them as well.

Towards the end of the day, the three find Jess’s tent. Sara insists on staying overnight even though Michi insists she doesn’t. Aiden offers to stay with her, but after a while she gets the idea that maybe Aiden had something to do with Jess’s disappearance…

Did he, or are the yūrei, ghosts of the forest, attempting to deceive her… If they even exist, that is…

Unfortunately this film never really stood a chance. The direction is ok, and director Jason Zada has created a wonderfully cold environment. The actors are mostly fine, though not much has been given to Dormer to really differentiate Sara and Jess from each other other than hair dye, and Kinney’s portrayal of Aiden can be somewhat pedestrian at times.

The problem with this film lies in how damned generic it is.

Several years ago, j-horror was huge, and quickly after that, the American’s started remaking every single one of them. Soon the entire horror market was flooded with this sub genre of films where’s blonde female American (usually TV) star would be terrorised by a little black haired ghost girl… Usually set in Japan so the whole stranger-in-a-strange-land alienation angle could be played to its fullest.

I thought those days were gone, but apparently the writers of this film, Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell and Ben Ketai, have decided they are still with us, and every single stereotypical beat made within those films is back with vengeance. Japanese schoolgirls, flickering lights, old white haired Japanese women appearing out of the darkness, the whole nine yards.

It’s for this reason that I just can’t think too highly of this film. I believe you could almost sit down with a checklist of supernatural j-horror impersonator tropes and tick every single one as you watched the film. At no time do I feel like I am seeing a new movie, rather a highlight reel from 10 years ago.

Score: *1/2

Format: The review copy of The Forest was presented on a multi-region Australian release bluray. The image is presented in an amazingly crisp 1.85:1 widescreen with a perfect, and moody DTS-HD 5.1 audio.

Score: *****


Extras: Stupidly, there is only one extra on this disc and that’s something called Exploring the Forest which basically takes everything you want to know about this place, mixes it with the making of the movie and compresses it to barely 7 minutes. The idea of the REAL forest is so fascinating you could have done a 90 minute doco just about that, but no… At least it’s not a stills gallery!

Score: **

WISIA: Like I said before, I’m not really a ghost story fan, and it’s difficult to want to rewatch something that is so generic. Even Dormer can’t help with that!

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