The Forest (2016)

Looking for some Horror fare (Horrorween is almost upon us), I found this on OnDemand. This movie employs a lot of cheap tricks, and I have to admit, I expected more.

The basic premise of the movie, is that woman goes in search of her twin in Japan after learning she entered Aokigahara, the suicide forest. First off, the women are twins.  Sara is normal. She has a fiance and seems to have chosen the good path. Of course the ‘bad’ twin, Jess goes missing. As most Americanized Japanese films, Sara does not fit in in Japan and is a fish out of water. She of course stumbles across a perfect speaking American expat, Aiden. Within minutes the two are happily talking and swapping stories. Things quickly turn serious. The two have a shared goal; she wants to find her a sister and he is willing to exploit the situation to write a story. Soon, they are connected with a guard who does off the books, suicide hikes. The three agree to go into the woods together.

Despite being warned time and time again, that the forest is dangerous, Sara is determined to find Jess. She just knows that her sister is alive. Being identical twins, she cites some mystical twin connection. Mystical twin connection? Really? The facts are, even if her sister did not commit suicide, two weeks lost in a forest, does not bode well for anyone.

The trip into the forest, actually starts off well. Aokigahara looks like any forest one would find in the US to take a good hike. It isn’t long however before the ghostly whispers begin. When the three break the horror movie rules (crossing a fence that clearly says no entry), things begin to get weird. Their guide reminds them that anything weird that is spotted, is all in their head. But no one ever listens to the guide right?

Aiden ignores scruples and begins to ask Sara prying questions. We learn her sister has tried to commit suicide before. Her willingness to believe that this isn’t one of those times is almost laughable. When they find the body of someone who has committed suicide recently, Sara is unwilling to help them cut it down or even look at the body.

Before long, they find Jess’s tent, but no sign of Jess. Unfortunately it is at the end of their hiking day. Then begins the battle of should they stay and wait for Jess. Michi had earlier relayed that if someone brings a tent, it means they are not sure. Sara willingly sacrifices herself, rather foolishly to stay and wait for her sister to return. Aiden decides to join her because why not? If we are making stupid decisions, why don’t we both do it?

In the middle of the night, Sara finds a teenager, apparently intent on suicide. This changes things a bit, and she and Aiden decide to go get help. At this point, they both become lost, each seeing completely different things that get them confused on their heading. They soon become confused about their own motives. Sara realizes Aiden has been lying and it just now occurs to her that she is in the woods with a strange man she barely knows. She begins to doubt him and his story and of course, takes off into the woods. Smart.

Sara is now lost, with her sister’s spirit and her incredibly messed up childhood tormenting her. This causes her to make even more bad decisions and hurt herself. Now she’s lost and hurt in the woods by herself. At this point Michi has returned and cannot find her or Aiden. A search group is formed and more people plunge into the woods because of the sisters stupidity.

The film alternates between two bad guys, the Forest itself and Aiden. We are not quite sure who to trust. Having two bad guys at least keeps it interesting. In the end, with one bad guy defeated, Jess is finally found. But where is Sara? In her quest to free herself from the Forest, Sara sadly commits suicide meaning that she is lost, while her sister remains free. Jess reconnects with Rob and leaves and the forest claims its victims. What haunts us, eventually gets us.

The upsetting part of the film is that we are never really sure if Aiden was a bad guy? It appears he was an innocent victim which a clear violation of horror movie rules. Also, I really wish this movie had been done with an asian cast. I realize that is shitty of me, but I think it could have been done so much better. Good if you are bored on a Sunday night, but I would pass if there are more interesting options.


2 out of 5.

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