Barking Up the Wrong Movie:THE FOREST (2016) Review


There is a forest in Japan where people are said to enter only to commit suicide. The spirits of those who die are left within. When a young woman learns that her twin sister has entered the forest, she quickly flees to Japan in order to save her. Entering the forest with knowledge of its history, she learns the legends are true. 

The Forest tells almost the same story as The Grudge 2. But there’s no real “curse” or anything. In this case, there only lies madness. The film jumps into the story immediately and we get little snippets of the twin sisters’ past. Combining that along with what the locals are telling our protagonist, it’s easy to sense that this will come into play at some point. The first half of the film is our lead Sarah going around looking for answers and hearing the same stuff over and over. It’s around the middle of the film when she’s in the forest when things actually start to happen. Unfortunately there is zero suspense or good build up. The jump scares in this film are well done if you’ve never seen a horror film before.

However, I will give it credit for its fantastic use of the forest setting. I am a HUGE sucker for horror films that take place in the woods/forest. The way they filmed certain scenes made the forest seem extra creepy and leaves you with the thought of isolation like our characters and the concept of being lost. Almost the same way Blair Witch made me feel (but Blair Witch did a much better job of course). The film also made you question what is and isn’t real along with the characters. Some of it was obvious, but then there were times where I was questioning whether it was a hallucination or not. Unfortunately that’s where it’s pros are cut off. Everything else in the remainder of the movie is Sarah running into ghosts and is completely rushed. When the ending rolls around, it ends up pretty predictable, but not entirely how I thought it was going to play out. So in that respect it was a relief. But I will say it does end with the infamous jump scare we all know and love. Yes, that one.

In terms of performances, Natalie Dormer tackles on the role of our lead Sarah, and her twin sister Jess. Quite frankly I was more interested in Jess, whom we obviously don’t get to know very well. And then there is Sarah who is very bland and uninteresting. Dormer does what she can with Sarah, but there really isn’t a lot to do with the role and no real emotional pull. Whereas when she played Jess, it actually seemed clear that Dormer has something to work with that involves acting. The only one who I thought gave the better overall performance was Taylor Kinney as Aidan whom Sarah enlists to help her. What Kinney does is leave us questioning whether or not he’s really reliable and he does a fine job at it. From the get -go he’s comes off as charming but there’s also something sketchy about him. So that at least gives some life to the story in terms of character.

Overall, The Forest has very few moments that grip you, but it’s definitely one that you won’t be missing out on if you choose to not see it. Excellent setting and good mind play were the strengths of this film but it’s not enough to make up for its many weaknesses. 

–Cody Landman