The Forest Review: You're Sure Of A Big... Disappointment

Lot of promise, little scares.

Rating: ˜…˜… There was a lot of promise in Natalie Dormer's creepy sounding psychological horror - not least in the chance to see some range from the Game Of Thrones actress - but it proved too much of an ask. What could have been a solid, scary horror with deep psychological roots ends up being a by the numbers chiller with painfully inevitable plotting, no long lasting scares and a curious lack of atmosphere for something set in an infamously haunted suicide forest. At times there is some flirtation with excellence - like the intriguing idea of naive lead Sara's unravelling psychological horror echoing her past - but it's not artfully handled enough and the promise goes away to nothing. The enduring feeling left by The Forest is one of missed potential. There was some promise of a not-exactly-clever, but satisfying twist that would have had the her missing twin revealed to be a construct of her fractured psyche (she even verbally hints at it herself), but the story is far more simple than that. It's also a lot more nasty: a morality tale that if you're good and helpful and choose not to pick away at darkness and evil you're a lot more likely to find yourself in something deep and odious and disastrous. That seems to have been the film-maker's secret weapon in delivering the hinted sucker punch to the audience, but it unravels so quickly and so strangely in the last 15 minutes or so, that it lacks any dramatic impact - an important message steamrolled entirely in favour of a more flashy chase sequence.
It seems we're now getting to the point where the cliches themselves aren't even allowed to disappoint you from behind any shroud of surprise: one of the two big jump scares is actually shown in the trailer, and one of the most legitimately scary sequences is too. Those are supposed to be the redeeming scraps that horror fans can take from dross like this, and to have them already spoiled is misguided and a little manipulative (because the confidence suggests the film has even more to offer). Dormer is not bad at all, she just doesn't seem fraught enough and there's too little of the more interesting twin (possibly because the film is short at 90 minutes). Meanwhile Taylor Kinney is laid out to the horror cliche gods as a sacrifice and the most interesting character - Yukiyoshi Ozawa's Michi (whose awful job is to trek the woods looking for bodies and convincing people not to kill themselves) - is relegated to an intriguing bystander. A film about him, without the school girl ghosts and the superfluous elements (like the excellent Nightwatch with Ewan McGregor) could well have been a lot better. Individually, the elements could have all worked, but the balance of the film is completely off, and most fatally of all, it underplays the importance, the atmosphere and the character of Aokigahara Forest itself in favour of needless, disposable jump scares and lots of stumbling in the dark. Perhaps that would have been a more pertinent title both for the production and the end product... The Forest is in UK cinemas now.

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