"Ghostly Horrors Fall Short in the Forest"
What You Need To Know:
THE FOREST sports a milder form of horror than most movies of the genre. It meets the minimum amount of scares. Also, although the scares are predictable, the plot remains mostly unpredictable due to deliberate confusion designed to add suspense. The story is told from a pagan viewpoint bordering on the occult as the Japanese locals believe in a spirit world that can drive people to suicide. THE FOREST also has some foul language and scary, graphic violence. Extreme caution is advised.
(PaPa, OO, B, Ho, LL, VVV, A, DD, M) Strong, slightly mixed pagan worldview where main characters refuse to believe in a spiritual world, but local Japanese believe in evil spirits that target people and cause them to have violent hallucinations, but some moral acknowledgement of evil, plus one joke with homosexual innuendo; 11 profanities and obscenities; very strong and strong violence includes man stabbed in the heart and suffers for several minutes before dying, woman accidentally cuts her wrist with a knife and bleeds to death, several scenes where skeletons or rotting bodies that have committed suicide hang from trees in the forest, a decomposing body is briefly shown in a morgue, implied murder and suicide by shotgun showing the dead bodies in the aftermath, a dead body is shown floating down a river; no sex; no nudity; a couple scenes show characters drinking beer in a bar; one brief joke about hiding a drug “stash”; and, characters lie to each other and several scenes imply a grandmother lied to her grandchildren about their parents’ death.
THE FOREST is a supernatural horror movie.
Jess and Sarah grew up identical twins. At just six years old, they both experienced a terrible tragedy. One evening while they were watching television with their grandmother, they heard a crash outside. They were told that a drunk driver had killed their parents just outside their house. Although Sarah was shielded from the scene by her grandmother, Jess was able to sneak a look and found out the truth: that their father killed their mother and then committed suicide in the garage with a shotgun. Jess lives with this secret her entire life, opting to let Sarah believe the drunk driver story.
This incident still haunts Jess, however. In fact, it has dared her to face her own psychological demons, predisposing her to attempt her own suicide twice as a teenager. Therefore, it’s hardly a surprise to Sarah when she learns Jess has ventured into the Aokigahara Forest, an infamous “suicide forest,” at the base of Mount Fuji. Her sister had been living in Japan for several months as an English teacher. She’d made the move to restart her life after making a mess of it back home, which always required Sarah to constantly bail her out.
Sarah learns from a call by the Japanese authorities that Jess has gone missing. They fear Jess has done what so many others before her have done: commit suicide. Through a sixth sense of sorts, Sarah believes her twin is still alive, so she decides to fly to Japan and find her.
When Sarah arrives in Japan, she begins searching for clues about the purpose behind her sister’s trek into the forest. Finally, she decides to go in herself and ends up meeting Aiden, a fellow American who’s a travel writer very familiar with the forest. He offers to be her guide as they search for her sister. His only caveat is that he be allowed to write a story about Sarah’s search for her twin sister, including their life story.
Sarah reluctantly agrees, so the next day they stray off the path against the advice of the locals. According to them, veering off the path and staying in the forest overnight makes one susceptible to Yūrei, alleged “ghosts of the dead,” who cause evil hallucinations. Sarah dismisses these claims as myths. After finding her sister’s tent, she and Aiden decide to stay there for the night and wait for her to come back.
Sarah soon realizes that her skepticism was unfounded when that night as she begins experiencing the power of the Yūrei. As the hallucinations take hold, she becomes increasingly impaired in discerning what’s reality and what’s not. She had gone into the forest save Jess, but it becomes Sarah who needs to be saved from the demons she herself had never faced as a child.
THE FOREST sports a milder form of horror than most films of the genre. It meets the minimum amount of scene-containing jump-scares and does its best to paint the Aokigahara Forest as one of the worst places to be on earth. This is juxtaposed by the beautiful scenery of Mount Fuji and the luscious, life-giving green of the forest. However, the fright gets predictable as the movie lingers. For instance, anytime a young girl appears on screen, it’s a safe bet that her face will eventually transform into that of a demon-like creature, prompting a scream from the other characters and a rise in the viewer’s blood pressure.
That said, the use of mind games in the plot remains somewhat unpredictable through the ending gets as it becomes difficult to follow whether or not something is really happening or if it all is just an hallucination. In that sense, perhaps the movie wildly succeeds. However, the biggest takeaway from THE FOREST is that it’s just not that scary and fails to live up to the story’s potential for scares.
Also, the story is told from a pagan viewpoint bordering on the occult as many of the Japanese locals do believe in a spirit world that can drive people to suicide. To some, this may line up with the biblical teaching that the devil can play tricks with people’s minds. However, THE FOREST has no mention of God, the Bible or Christianity, just the scares centering on the malevolent spirits of dead people. In fact, the main characters refuse to believe in any sort of spiritual world and dismiss it altogether. On the positive side, there is a definite acknowledgement of evil in the world and its ability to wreak havoc on the thoughts of humans. THE FOREST also has some foul language. Finally, although there isn’t a ton of violence, the little bit that exists is fairly graphic and scary.
Because of its occult, pagan themes, scares, and suicide plot, THE FOREST is not a movie for children. Extreme caution is advised for adults.