Hello cupcakes, long time no speak – sorry about that! Let me break the silence by helping you see the wood for the trees when it comes to spooky mystery “The Forest”…
The talented Natalie Dormer – who has been busy of late in “The Hunger Games” as well as TV’s “Games of Thrones” and “Elementary” – stars as Jess Price (and to a lesser extent) her twin sister Sara. Sara has gone missing while hiking in a remote Japanese forest and not just any forest: the Aokigahara forest, at the foot of Mount Fuji, known as the suicide forest – where people go to die. Jess refuses to believe her sister is dead and, through the connection she has to her identical twin feels that Sara is alive and needs her help so sets off to Japan to bring her sister home.
The supernatural tone of the film is established from the get-go with the ‘psychic’ twin connection and continues and grows are we reach Japan and the true nature of the forest is revealed. Underpinning this preternatural creepiness of the story are the cultural differences, especially the rituals, customs and beliefs associated with death. Add to this the local authorities’ refusal to collude or engage with anyone wishing to enter the forest and the scene is set for the scares to begin.
The portrayal of women in this film really interested me. Dormer is well known for portraying strong women and there is no doubt that the women she plays here have strength, but once again Hollywood can’t seem to allow the creation of a strong woman character without portraying her as damaged. To that end, we’re provided with a socially acceptable backstory of childhood trauma resulting in one twin – Jess – having it all together while Sara is mentally unstable (and off her meds) as a result. I can’t help but wonder how different the film would have been if it remained the exact same premise but switched to male twins as the protagonists?
As Jess undertakes her search for Sara, there are some good spooky moments and jumps along the way while the spectral paranormal presences of the forest builds up some good tension and suspense. There are some disappointing stereotypes used which undermine the film a little – a clichéd creepy Japanese school girl appears more than once both before and after Jess heads into the woods. A little more originality would have gone a long way and helped avoid the stereotypical perception of Japanese culture’s morbid obsession with phantasmagorical school girls in tartan skirts! Along the way Jess does manage to recruit assistance in her search, albeit somewhat reluctantly at times, and the confusion and paranoia that her choices bring is well done and provides a lot of fun.
All in all a solid 7/10 from me. The decent budget means good special effects and despite its shortcomings it’s a solid, entertainingly eerie horror/ thriller.
Did you explore “The Forest”? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section!
Until next time, thanks for reading!