Friday, October 7, 2016

Film Review: The Forest (2016)

The Forest (Review)
United States/2016
Format Viewed For Review: HBO Now
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No
*A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review

"The plot was forgettable, the characters were hollow, the horror was nonexistent, and, worst of all, I was bored during most of the movie."

Sara (Natalie Dormer) travels to the Aokigahara Forest in search of her twin sister, Jess.

The Forest is a generic horror film with hollow characters and a paper-thin plot. In fact, a large chunk of the film is explained to you in a disjointed montage during the first five minutes of the film. Essentially, Sara receives news that her sister, Jess, has gone missing in the Aokigahara Forest, which is an infamous location in Japan where people often commit suicide. Sara refuses to believe her sister is dead because she can 'feel' it, so she travels to Japan to find her. So, she meets a few people, specifically Aiden (Taylor Kinney), who she convinces to lead her around the dangerous forest. That's it. From there, the plot goes around in circles with the same boring scenes. Due to its lack of character, the story is dull. It drags itself along until it hits its ending – which also happens to be bad.

The Forest is a frustrating movie because is so disappointing. First and foremost, the lack of character depth and empathy leaves this film feeling hollow. A connection is never formed between Sara and Jess, so you never feel anything for the characters. Who cares if she finds her sister? I certainly did not. The film has some psychological aspects – some that even interested me for about a minute – but it never tackles any of its significant themes. Suicide is obvious, but it is often dismissed – apathy. Oh, and back to characters for a moment: it doesn't help that Sara is completely unlikable. She's the haughty 'get-it-my-way'-type of character who you want to scream at because she makes so many stupid decisions. (The 'haughty' element comes from her constant dismissal of Japanese culture.)

This is a horror film, right? So, I should probably be a bit lenient. Horror films, especially modern horror movies, don't focus much on character or themes. However, even if I were to dismiss all of the above, The Forest would still fall flat. Why? Well, because it's not a scary movie. Bland story and hollow/annoying characters aside, The Forest also fails to deliver any significant scares. There is no suspense, therefore all of the jump-scares are duds. Since the film is almost completely reliant on jump-scares, there isn't much here. Aokigahara is a frightening place by itself, but the film still doesn't have any sort of atmosphere. You feel like you're in a generic forest with no personality. There is nothing scary about this movie – nothing.

Natalie Dormer was... serviceable. For the most part, her performance was boring, but that's probably due to playing 'generic horror character #520.' Taylor Kinney and the rest of the supporting cast were good, though. On the technical side, the film is competent. It looks good and the music matched the tone of the film. That's all there is to it. The Forest is directed by Jason Zada and written by Ben Ketai, Sarah Cornwell, and Nick Antosca. Zada knows how to craft a movie with a beginning, middle, and end, but he failed at making a horror movie. He shows promise, but horror might not be his genre. I'm surprised this movie had three writers. The screenplay couldn't have been that large considering the lack of character and, well, plot. Instead of insulting their writing, let's just ask ourselves one question: why did this movie need three writers? Let's think about that.

Overall, The Forest is, unfortunately, a bad movie. Truth be told, I was very excited for this movie. I've always been fascinated by Aokigahara and I always appreciate when horror movies travel to new locations – haunted houses are so 2015. To my dismay, this film was a dud. The plot was forgettable, the characters were hollow, the horror was nonexistent, and, worst of all, I was bored during most of the movie. I mean, I'm practically falling asleep while writing this review!

Score: 3/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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