Movie Review: The Forest

I have seen enough contemporary horror movies to know all the tricks. There are jump-scares everyone sees coming, dumb characters that do not use reason, and a twist you can guess minutes before it happens. These films are shovel ware dumped into theaters to turn a profit from the stupid teenagers. Worse yet, they are not even bad by conventional standards. Contemporary horror is the epitome of banal, painfully average and predictable in whatever forms it takes. Of all the films I have seen in my year(s) as a critic, It Follows and Green Inferno are actually great. Does The Forest break the mold?

No.

After her twin sister goes missing Aokigahara forest, a place in Japan where people kill themselves, Sara, played by Natalie Dormer, goes to find out what happened to her. Upon entering the titular forest, she discovers it is a far more sinister place than she once thought.

After seeing a modest handful of these movies (two) and watching reviews for others, horror has reached heights of banality that would make Blake Snyder piss his coffin. The Lazarus Effect and The Gallows were so average in every respect I had no energy to work up any amount of vitriol. They are plain in concept, empty in scares, and so painfully ordinary in execution that in my criticism I was drained of emotion. All I could feel was the heavy weight of disappointment knowing this is the state of horror.

The jump-scares, found-footage, dumb characters, and even worse filmmaking have become standard practice and show no sign of going away. To that end, I am done being indecisive and depressed. From now on, the nothingness of contemporary horror will be treated like any other terrible movie. I did not even want to write this. I saw it Saturday, slept, and did not start working before late afternoon. As I wrote the last few paragraphs, I watched It Follows and Fury Road. I should just end it here because there is no point, but Forest deserves it.

First and foremost, Aokigahara is not mystical, but it certainly has a history of weird stuff. You can make all the excuses you want as to why people kill themselves there specifically until you realize Japan has a high rate of suicide. It is normal and one likely reason people die in Aokigahara is because the forest is actually quite beautiful, despite all the corpses. It is a nice place to die.

While it is a neat concept to build a story on, Forest screws it up. It is established halfway through that Sara’s twin has anxiety issues from an event in their childhood. She is the most normal of the two, but before Sara enters the forest, her guide tells her it has the power to make people see things. And for someone mostly all together in the head, she loses it minutes after going off the main path, having auditory hallucinations, followed by physical ones, and is convinced her guide is trying to killer her.

What would have been better is if there was no indication you hallucinate in the forest, only that it was implied to be mysterious. With a family history of mental illness, it would make sense if Sara had latent schizophrenia that was just now coming to the fore, hence the hallucinations and strange behavior. There would have been this build up to Aokigahara being a hellish environment that eats peoples’ sanity, until it is revealed to be a product of hearsay due to its reputation, and that Sara is plain crazy.

Would you not want to see that movie? Does it sound better than the actual premise? I made that up while watching the damn thing and all I got in the end was mediocre! Instead, the forest is actually haunted and after Sara starts showing symptoms, her guide continues to act suspicious, giving her more of reason to suspect him of foul play.

The one nice thing in Forest is Dormer and I am not saying that just because she has angelically good looks. She is a decent actress that did what she could with this detritus. Sara gave her a bit to work with come the time she goes crazy. It was an admirable attempt for something so worthless.

Do not see this movie. In fact, I would give up on all horror made after 2010 or so and stick with the old stuff. The Thing, everything made by Cronenberg, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Shining, Halloween (remakes included), Devil’s Reject, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original, duh), and Evil Dead 2 are great movies the trash of today cannot hope to emulate. It Follows is one of the rare exceptions and The Forest is another piece of shit.

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