The Attic: ‘The Forest’ Film Review
Welcome to The Attic, do not leave the path.
In early 2016, The Forest was released to mixed reviews. It was inspired by Japan’s Aokigahara forest, or as many have come to know it, the suicide forest. This “sea of trees” sits at the base of Mt. Fuji, and is a breathtaking sight of mother nature’s beauty. However, since the 1950s, Aokigahara has become a hotspot for the troubled, coming in only second to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge as the home to most suicides in the world. In 2003, more than 100 corpses were found among the trees, and to this day, many bodies are found on annual trips that local authorities make to try and recover the bodies. It is not if they will find them, but when and how many. Vice has an interesting video on youtube about the location that I enjoyed watching. There is some graphic content, so be warned.
Some say that Aokigahara became associated with suicide after a novel was released where a couple commits suicide at the end, thus sparking the trend in the first place. But others say that the forest has a history with death that goes much farther back, when poor families used to abandon their elders there as a sort of sacrifice to try and better their own lives. Regardless of how or why this became such a notorious site, it can be agreed upon that this is a heartbreaking site to see. Locals say that many people either come with a fascination to find and see the deceased, or with a desire to never leave it; both are incredibly morbid.
I have to admit that before I heard about the movie being released, I had somehow never heard of this place. It was only a matter of time before a horror movie would be set here, and The Forest turned out quite well actually.
The start of the movie was awful for me, and the worst part of the whole experience. Choppy, confusing, and disjointed, the intro of the film felt like it should have happened at least 15-20 minutes in. I felt like they jumped us right into the story later than they should have. A girl, Sara, is worried sick about her identical twin sister, Jess, who has gone missing in Japan. Jess has lived in Japan for some time, and has been known to be reckless and immature, so when she hears that Jess has not only disappeared, but ventured into what is known as the suicide forest, she naturally worries and decides to fly to Japan to go looking for her. It all makes sense from the storytelling perspective, but the way the movie cuts back and forth between different conversations with different people at different times all felt too rushed and choppy for me. About 15 minutes in, I was already saying The Forest was awful.
Happily, it gets better. Sara encounters a journalist, Aiden, and when he hears that Sara is here to find her sister in the local forest, he warns her not to go alone. They strike up a deal that he will not only come along, but also introduce her to a local man who knows the forest better than anybody to use as their guide. This is only if she allows him to interview her and write a story about it. She agrees, and so they set out the next morning.
Numerous people have warned Sara that entering the forest with sadness in your heart will allow the spirits that roam there to trick you into seeing and doing awful things. This quickly begins to prove itself, and things go from bad to worse when they find Jess’ tent and belongings. Refusing to leave without her sister, Sara decides to stay the night, ignoring the men warning her against it. The guide insists that they must leave, as it will be dark soon, and you are never supposed to stay at night, but she is determined and refuses again. Aiden stays behind with her to help keep her company, and hopefully, safe.
Night falls, and all hell breaks loose. The spirits are surrounding them, and clearly trying to influence the pair against each other. Throughout The Forest, there are some cheesy moments, I’m not going to lie here. However, there are also scenes that truly scared me, and one in particular that had me cringing away in fear. I watched this movie alone, at night, sitting in the dark, so I was asking to get scared, but that’s just how I roll. The ending was somewhat expected, but it also sort of made me mad. I won’t spoil it here, but it felt incredibly unfair and that bothered me. Such is life, I suppose.
Both Sara and Jess are played by Natalie Dormer, who has been in The Tudors, The Hunger Games, and perhaps most notably, Game of Thrones as Margaery Tyrell. Taylor Kinney played Aiden, and let’s be honest, he’s not the worst eye candy you could have. I know him as Mason in The Vampire Diaries, but he’s been in Chicago P.D. and Chicago Fire for years now as well. Both held their own in the movie, and did a decent job playing off each other in a film where you’re not sure what’s real and what isn’t.
Would I recommend The Forest to my fellow horror nerds? Absolutely. But I’d suggest you rent it, or find some way to stream it on demand for free like I did with our cable service. I won’t be buying this movie, but I’m glad I watched it.