Located at the base of Mt. Fuji is a forest known as Aokigahara. It’s perhaps best known as the “suicide forest” due to the number of people who go there to kill themselves. There’s actually a sign at the start of the hiking trail that urges people who’re thinking of killing themselves to reconsider and call a special hotline. In The Forest, Natalie Dormer takes some time out from the wacky doings in Westeros to investigate the disappearance of her twin sister, who’s a teacher in Japan. Despite the fact that she has not been found, the twin has been last seen entering the “suicide forest”, and since she hasn’t come back out, she’s practically been written off as being dead by the Japanese.
But our heroine just knows that her sister is still alive, thanks to the psychic connection that they share (it was that same connection that alerted her to the fact that her twin was in trouble in the first place) and she’s determined to come to Japan and find her, even if it means upending the darn forest and shaking her out! If you’ve watched enough of horror movies, you know things go sideways the moment she walks into the forest. Despite receiving aid from a local guide, along with a handsome travel writer (who’s looking for a good story, and maybe a soul mate) Dormer’s character starts acting like a typical dopey horror movie heroine in that she keeps making really bad decisions for no reason.
Having your characters do stupid things is the norm for all ineptly-made horror flicks, in whose ranks of the goofily dimwitted The Forest now stands should to shoulder with. This looks like the type of movie that somebody like Dormer would make just to show that she can do other things aside from dodging dragons on a weekly basis. And, seriously, who can blame her? Especially if there’s a nice payday attached to the prestige of being the star of your own movie. But in addition to having the main character act like an idiot, the movie itself also feels idiotic in how it lacks any real scares whatsoever.
Part of the problem is that the filmmakers don’t make it clear from the start what we’re dealing with. Is the forest haunted by the souls who have ended their lives there? Ok, fair enough, but then we’re treated to the interesting idea that Dormer’s character might be being gaslighted by somebody. This would have been a cool twist, but no, never mind, it’s quickly dumped in favor of the spooky forest idea once again. Saddled with a badly thought out and confusing script that’s filled with cardboard characters, The Forest is a snooze-fest right up to its cheap, tacked-on ending. Skip it. –SF