The Forest (2016)

the forest poster 2016 movie
4.0 Overall Score
Story: 3/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 6/10

Some nice visuals, decent cast

Potentially interesting story gets progressively worse and feels exploitive

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Forest

Studio: AI-Film

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s): January 8, 2016

MPAA Rating: PG-13

the forest aokigahara japanese spirits natalie dormer

This isn’t turning out like a nice reunion with my sister like I hoped

At the base of Mount Fuji, the Aokigahara Forest lies thick and deep.  Legends of spirits haunt the woods, but the woods have also become a destination for those seeking to end their life.  When Sara Price (Natalie Dormer) learns her twin sister Jess (Natalie Dormer) disappeared into the forest, Sara knows that Jess isn’t dead.  Traveling to Japan, she teams with a guide named Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa) and a journalist named Aiden (Taylor Kinney) to search the forest for Jess.  Finding Jess’s camp, Sara and Aiden stay behind for the night…but sometimes the forest makes you see things.

Directed by Jason Zada, The Forest is a supernatural horror movie.  The movie was released to negative reviews but performed well at the box office.

For a while, it seemed like the Aokigahara Forest was everywhere.  Gus Van Sant’s Sea of Trees also involved the “Suicide Forest” and YouTuber Logan Paul also made headlines in 2017 by posting a video of a deceased person while visiting the forest.  Like The Forest, all of them feel a little dirty because it feels like they are exploiting a horrible situation for entertainment.

the forest aokigahara japanese spirits

I admire the spirits for keeping their whites so white in a forest

The exploration of suicide isn’t something bad.  The better understanding of suicide and what and why the person took those actions and the repercussions to those left behind potentially can educate people to the signs or encourage those contemplating it to think of the bigger picture.  The movie abuses this.  It does start out with promise, but turns into a rather blasé ghost story with some cheap jumps and an ending that just feels like meh.  It tries to be a thriller for a bit and even that falls through…it feels like a film about nothing.

It is too bad because the cast isn’t bad.  I like Natalie Dormer and think she’s an interesting actress and Taylor Kinney can play a good skeevy person.  It largely becomes a film starring these two actors after Yukiyoshi Ozawa leaves them in the forest…and he was potentially the most interesting character as someone who goes into the forest to retrieve bodies (that is a good story that has potential).

the forest japanese school girl demon

I like to play with souls

The film was not allowed to be made in Aokigahara (film is prohibited there) and Serbia was used for the movie.  It doesn’t look bad and some of the scares are effective even if they are cliché jump shots.

The Forest feels rather unnecessary.  It also comes off as kind of weirdly racist in a way because you have an outsider entering the forest as kind of a judge and jury to the ways of a people.  Why do the Japanese choose to do this?  What is the cultural significance of Aokigahara and taking a life?  What would the reaction be from a Japanese family who learned their loved one disappeared into the forest?  The whole twin-outsider storyline just didn’t work well in a situation that is already horrific…there seems like so many better and more adept storylines surrounding Aokigahara and to turn it into a cheap horror movie doesn’t feel right.  Stay out of The Forest is good advice.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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