This forest is free of frights
When audiences head down to the woods to sit through The Forest, they can’t be sure of any big surprises.
That’s because this supernatural chiller ticks so many of the genre’s boxes, a drinking game designed to spot them would leave competitors more than a little worse for wear.
Brit Natalie Dormer, of Game of Thrones fame, pulls double duty to play twins Sara and Jess Price, the former travelling to Japan’s Suicide Forest to find her missing sister.
Jason Zada makes his full-feature bow behind the camera and it’s fair to say he doesn’t reinvent the wheel.
The two things his slow-paced horror have going for it are its lead and the stunning setting. Dormer shines as both siblings in her first above-the-title role and adds welcome uncertainty and an eerie calm befitting the genre she finds herself in.
The titular forest has creepiness pouring out of every square inch, even during daylight hours, and Zada deserves praise for utilising impressive framing techniques – and an abundance of mist – to build tension and an otherworldly atmosphere.
Sadly, that’s where the positives come to an abrupt end. Whether it’s slow-build nerve-shredding, look-away-now gore and memorable kills or heart-pounding jump scares, the horror genre’s best come up trumps on at least one of these staples.
The Forest, though, commits the biggest cinematic crime that can be bestowed upon the genre – it’s just not scary.
Like Zada, the film’s trio of writers – Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell and Ben Ketai – debut their work on the big screen and one of the most frightening things about The Forest is that it took three people to pen the script.
Ridiculously, the movie has been marketed as “based on a true story” but that’s utter nonsense and the use of existing Japanese mythology seems to only exist to allow the writers to lazily rehash J-Horror clichés like the creepy schoolgirl and harrowing images shown on modern technology.
We’re pounded with relentless monstrous visions in the woods and each apparition that pops up to say hello is less unsettling than the last.
None of the little-known supporting players is given anything approaching an interesting back story and exist only to help Sara in her search, or to get terrorised by the nastiness of the forest.
All of this could’ve at least been partly forgiven if Zada and his writing team served up a satisfying finale packed with twists, revelations and fun frights.
Instead, it all ends with a whimper, failing to resolve intriguing earlier plot strands involving the twins and its mythology in a rewarding manner.
For fans of Dormer and the Suicide Forest tourist board, The Forest is worth 95 minutes of your time.
For anyone else looking for some solid scares, you’d be barking up the wrong tree.
Don’t look back Natalie Dormer tackles The Forest