Photo Credit: The Movie Blog
Jason Zada’s The Forest sounds rather promising: based on Japan’s real-life “suicide forest”, a forest at the northwest base of Mount Fuji where people go to commit suicide. However the challenge to make it even more horrifying on the big screen seems to have fallen short.
The Aokigahara Forest is infamous for its otherworldly presence and popularity as a last stop for those who want to end their lives.
According to International Business Times, authorities have removed roughly 100 bodies a year from the forest since 1971 – and, that’s just the bodies that were discovered in the 14-square mile-area. In the early 2000s, local government stopped reporting on the number of suicides in the forest.
The supernatural horror film stars Natalie Dormer, known for her roles in period and fantasy television series like Game of Thrones and The Tudors. She also appeared in the last two Hunger Games movies. This is Dormer’s horror debut, playing twin sisters, Sara and Jess Price.
Sara learns that her sister has vanished and fearing the worst, she hops on a flight from America to Asia to find her with, as Variety notes, “her ‘twin sense’ registering much more strongly than her common sense.”
Jason Zada, in his feature film directorial debut, “establishes a mood of sullen grief and methodical dread,” without a lot of “filmmaking energy,” writes the Chicago Tribune, adding that it is “roughly 40 minutes of story surrounded by 45 more minutes of Dormer in nonverbal distress.”
Everyone tells Sara to “stay on the path”, and predictably, she does not which leads to dreadful results like injuries and hallucinations involving bugs crawling under Sara’s skin.
The Tribune calls Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees, a 2015 film—that didn’t do well at Cannes—set in the same infamous suicide forest, starring Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe, “twice as frightening as this one,” writing in its headline that The Forest, is “not a very scary place to be.”
Some have criticized the film in advance for insensitivity and exploiting the real-life tragedies that have occurred in the area, though it isn’t blatantly disrespectful. Variety writes that “the most offensive thing about The Forest is that it simply isn’t better.”
The Forest opened in theaters nationwide on January 8.