Silver Screams V: The Forest (2016)

Silver Screams V

With Halloween almost upon us Silver Screams returns for its fifth year. A selection of horror movies; some good, some bad and bloody awful will be reviewed every day up to Halloween. So do not expect the usual rehashes of well-known, over-analysed movies but look forward to new releases, forgotten movies or films that you never knew existed.

This year’s Silver Screams kicks off with Leon Nicholson looking at The Forest starring Natalie Dormer and Taylor Kinney.

Located at the northwest base of Mount Fuji is Aokigahara. A place known to some as the Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees and sadly, as the one of the names suggests, it is notorious as a site where the troubled go to take their own lives. A few films over the years have used Aokigahara as the setting for their stories, the most well-known being Gus Van Sant’s The Sea Of Trees which incidentally, got an absolute battering at Cannes.

So how does Jason Zada’s movie get on? Is it worth watching? A film that takes place in a forest which is part of Japanese mythology that refers to angry spirits, surely we should have a winner on our hands… or do we?

Sara Price (Natalie Dormer) receives a phone call from the Japanese authorities that they think her twin sister may be dead as she was seen entering Aokigahara forest. Sara, decides to take the trip to Japan to get more information. Upon her arrival there and, combined with the ‘telepathy’ she shares with her twin, she believes that her sister is well and truly alive. After a chance meeting in a bar with a reporter named Aiden (Taylor Kinney) she discovers not only is he fluent in Japanese but he knows a man called Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa) who works at Aokigahara as a guide. So of course they enter the forest to look for Sara’s sister and strange inexplicable things begin to happen (surprise, surprise). The question is will Sara leave the forest alive or will she succumb to the angry spirits that reside there?

There have been many words (mostly negative) to describe this movie. Boring, predictable, dull, etc. Whilst this may be accurate other words that should be used are absolute and rubbish. Let’s not forget dreadful and awful (need I go on) …

It’s a shame actually because visually, the film looks great with Mattias Troelstrup’s cinematography certainly reflecting the mood and tone of the film. Jason Zada’s direction manages to get a strong performance for Natalie Dormer who does her utmost to keep the movie ticking along. The on-screen chemistry that Dormer shares with Taylor Kinney is decent enough but ultimately a movie such as this is about the scares and sadly this is where The Forest fails.

This could, and should have been an unnerving psychological horror flick that focused on claustrophobic tension instead of relying on the cheap, predictable J-Horror-esque visions of dead Japanese girls to provide the frights. The key here seems to be the relationship between Sara and Aiden which should have been explored further and that is what would have provided the horror rather than depending solely on the setting of Aokigahara.

The Forest certainly missed a trick with the path the story followed and unfortunately ends up as an extremely dull movie and a waste of the talents involved especially Natalie Dormer. More importantly however its 93 minutes (that felt more like 193) that you’ll never ever get back. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

FMV Rating *½

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