The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

THE FOR­EST Di­rected by Ja­son Zada. Star­ring Natalie Dormer, Tay­lor Kin­ney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Eoin Macken. 15A cert, gen re­lease, 92 min Ja­son Zada can take pride in one thing. His de­but hor­ror film is not the worst pic­ture in the past 12 months to take place in Ja­pan’s Aoki­ga­hara For­est. Mind you, few would brag about be­ing rated above Gus Van Sant’s Sea of Trees, among the worst films ever to com­pete for the Cannes Palme d’Or.

The For­est hangs around a per­fectly de­cent con­cept. Natalie Dormer plays Sara, a young woman dis­tressed by the dis­ap­pear­ance of her twin sis­ter. The cir­cum­stances could hardly be less promis­ing. The Ja­panese for­est into which the young woman van­ished is among the most pop­u­lar sites for sui­cide in the world.

Sara trav­els first to Tokyo – where she views neon lights from a car win­dow in the style of Lost in Trans­la­tion – and then moves on to the woods at the base of Mount Fuji. Will pes­simistic lo­cals warn her not to step away from the path? Of course they will.

No cliché of con­tem­po­rary or vin­tage hor­ror is shunned in this de­press­ingly per­func­tory en­ter­tain­ment. Sara meets a hand­some young man and – de­spite be­ing mar­ried to our own Eoin Macken – shares beers and ul­ti­mately tells him about the ter­ri­ble in­ci­dent that left her and her sis­ter as or­phans.

Even if The For­est were not set in Ja­pan, we would be re­minded of that strange pe­riod in the mid-noughties when, fol­low­ing Ringu and The Grudge, ev­ery se­cond US

Ja­pane­sey does it: Natalie Dormer in The For­est

di­rec­tor at­tempted to ape the rhythms and rhymes of J-hor­ror. Once again, we are packed onto a poorly de­signed ghost train and hur­tled past a ran­domly ar­ranged ar­ray of stuff that would fail to frighten even the frailest in­fant.

Strange school­girls surge out from be­hind trees. Some­thing less clearly de­fined emerges from a bush. None of this co­heres into any­thing like a plot and, as a re­sult, it’s hard to tell whether the blar­ing fi­nal se­quence con­sti­tutes a nar­ra­tive twist. By that stage, we have be­come so con­fused and so bored that the film-mak­ers could end with don­keys danc­ing in tu­tus and we’d feel noth­ing but re­lief that the ghastly ex­pe­ri­ence was nearly over.

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