The Aokigahara Forest in Japan has long been known as a site where locals and visitors commit suicide. The movie “The Forest” has been coming under attack because of what’s being said is exploitation of a place that requires a lot of sensitivity. It’s like whenever one of those zombie movies get made having to do with Nazi’s or concentration camps. I’m intrigued by the subject of Aokigahara and am awaiting Gus Van Sant’s “The Sea of Trees”. It bombed at Cannes, but I’m hoping it’s better than the slow-moving and often illogical “The Forest”.
In “The Forest” Natalie Dormer plays twin sisters Sara and Jess. Sara is the maternal one who watches over Jess who is always depressed. When they were little Jess was the one who witnessed the death of their parents to a drunk driver while their grandmother babysat. But, it seems that the truth was a murder/suicide.
Jess was last seen alive in The Aokigahara Forest while studying abroad six thousand miles away in Japan. She has not been heard from since entering the forest, but Sara believes she’s still alive so she boards a plane to go look for her. She says that she gets a feeling as an identical twin whenever something goes wrong. Some people believe this is a real phenomenon.
While there she meets the local guide Michi and Aiden who’s a journalist. She convinces them to let her go with them into the forest while Michi does a suicide prevention check and Aiden covers the story.
Sara is warned not to enter the forest sad and that her mind may play tricks on her. She’s told that the forest is haunted by yurei, the souls that died there who aren’t at rest. The writers did their homework resarching Aokigahara including the “Do Not Enter” signs and the trees with colorful rope and twine people use to find their way back shall they change their mind about suicide.
What follows is a second and third act with a few jump scares and some psychological moments that don’t really make sense. There’s a subplot with Aiden (Taylor Kinney) possibly not being who he seemed at first that never seems to really go anywhere. The ghosts look like zombies and don’t really do much other than stand off to the side.
The location they used to film at gives off a creepy vibe (not actually Aokigahara) and there are a couple of spooky scenes such as when Sara runs into a blind old lady in a dark hallway of her hotel or runs into a Japanese schoolgirl who turns out to look like a demon.
Being a paranormal investigator the movie did offer some enjoyment as far as the yurei aspect. However, I did not find the movie scary and was left confused by some parts when the movie ended.