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Review: The Forest

Natalie Dormer stars in Focus Features' THE FOREST

At the start of the new year, The Forest brings a few things that we haven’t seen much of in film. For some of you who have read my reviews before, you may understand how important that is to me. The movie world needs fresh stuff to keep things moving into the future, but it also still requires all of the qualities that make movies great.

What I like about The Forest comes in the form of the concept behind it. This features a story about Sarah (Natalie Dormer), a woman who flies out to Japan with the hopes of finding her twin sister who was last seen in the Aokigahara Forest, a place where many people have traveled to take their own lives. Going to a foreign land to search for a loved one is interesting in itself, but adding the supernatural elements to it gives these cinematic storytellers more to work with.

This is also one of the reasons why the build up is as good as it is. You understand that Sarah knows next to nothing about the land or its inhabitants, so you get to go along with her in a way that allows you to analyze everything that’s on the screen. That and the fact that the people behind this make it feel like a Japanese horror film is likely to get you intrigued.

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough here to carry the film the rest of the way. After we finally settle down and meet the secondary characters, The Forest can no longer maintain any legitimate kind of interest. Just about everything that made this intriguing in the first act fades as we get acclimated to what’s going on. The tension dies and the desire to explore dissipates as the levels of boredom and predictability start to rise and take over.

They try to throw some curveballs in our direction, but these features are clearly here to waste our time and stretch this thing out as much as possible. Seeing as this is only a little over ninety minutes, that can’t be considered a good thing under any circumstances whatsoever. I mean, a good concept can only get you so far before you need to add some things to keep everything moving along.

Another issue with this is the slow pace of the film in general. At the start, the pace clearly works in the movie’s favor. As things are unfolding at this point, you don’t mind the slowness of it all as it’s able to build up the creepiness and fear factors that need to be established. However, this also begins to wear thin since there’s nothing really going on after a while. Though the lack of speed looks to be a positive addition at first, it then turns into an excruciating component that had to be sped up in order to relieve our pain and end our discomfort.

As I’ve found out by forcing myself to sit through plenty of atrocious feature length pictures, movies like The Forest can sometimes have great endings. Sadly, that doesn’t happen in this instance as it’s difficult to get any satisfaction out of what is being used to close this horror flick. I guess you can say that the fact that the movie is finally over is all the satisfaction you get when it mercifully concludes.

The Forest and movies like it are frustrating because I end up thinking that they could have been better if there was more time put into them beforehand. A more active story to go along with the aspects of horror being implemented would have given this the potential to turn into a feature that’s truly worth your time and money. Instead of getting something with that kind of work behind it, we’re left with the typical January release that we’ve come to expect every year.

Rating: PG-13

Director: Jason Zada

Natalie Dormer
Taylor Kinney
Yukiyoshi Ozawa

Film Length: 94 minutes

Release Date: January 8, 2016

Distributor: Focus Features

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