The Forest - Film Review

Still from The Forest - a Japan inspired horror
   The Forest is not a good film.

   Its rare I will start reviews with such a blunt sentence, one which lacks ornamental and ostentatious sub-clauses like the one you are currently reading, but it is a necessary declaration which succinctly captures the essence of the movie.

   How, I hear you ask, is Jason Zada's feature so terrible that it warrants such a warning so early on in this write-up? Well, dear readers, let me share the ways.

   The first thing of note is that the premise for The Forest actually has the potential to bear great fruit. This is a tale of heroes finding themselves in a mystical location in which nature itself seems to be an enemy - a seemingly rural idyll drives those who enter it insane, a spate of suicides the result. This is not the green and pleasant land its appearance would suggest but rather a nightmarish region in which all is never as it seems.

   Our protagonists - Sara (Natalie Dormer), who has entered the forest to retrieve her missing twin sister, and her companion Aiden (Taylor Kinney) - find themselves trapped in a hallucinatory stasis in which they're never fully certain as to whether they've gone mad or if they really shouldn't trust each other. Just because they're paranoid, to paraphrase a popular saying, doesn't mean someone or something is not after them.


   Yet, sadly, any suggestions of intelligence within the premise are ruined entirely be the execution. Zada primarily tries to invoke fear from his audience in a pair of ways, both of which fall flat.

   The first, and perhaps most important, is the idea of the "uncanny". We're introduced to a land in which everyone sort of looks like the people we know and act similarly to us too but, crucially, slightly differently - the characters here do strange things like eat weird food and speak in ambiguous phrases and believe in ghosts. What Zada is doing here is asking us to be afraid of cultures we don't understand - in this instance, the Japanese. There's something slightly xenophobic in how we're asked to find Eastern culture creepy; this is short-hand horror at its most offensive for a couple of reasons.

   Secondly, and something which also brings the film down, is the manner in which the paranormal is presented. We know the forest has powers of some sort, but we're not sure what. Or why. Perhaps this would be interesting if, for whatever reason, the spectral hallucinations the land inflicts on our protagonist weren't plucked entirely from a slew of 1980s B-movies.

   What are the rules of the forest (and The Forest)? And, do Americans really see Japanese culture solely as spooky Asian school-girls in matching uniforms? If so, that may be far more creepy than anything else found in the movie.
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