"It is pretty forgettable and unoriginal, but Dormer elevates the material with a captivating performance that keeps you invested in her character’s fate"

It is very hard to find a horror movie that is truly scary these days. Mainly because audiences have gotten used to the cheap tricks to terrify us because they’re so overdone and we can sense every jump coming, which defeats the point.
The Forest suffers from this problem. It takes an interesting story and employs unoriginal ways to scare, giving it a cheap, extremely low budget feel. If it wasn’t for the known leads like Natalie Dormer and Taylor Kinney, you could easily be mistaken for thinking this was a straight-to-DVD release, rather than a theatrical one.

Dormer (best known as Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones) is Sara Price, an American who flies out to Japan after hearing her twin sister Jess is missing. She was last seen going into the Aokigahara Forest, which is known as a suicide hotspot. Although she has been gone for a few days, Sara is convinced Jess is still alive due to their twin connection and she heads into the forest with travel reporter Aiden (Kinney) and a guide, but when the latter suggests they leave before it gets dark, the other two decide to stay.

The forest in question has been used before in films, most recently in Gus Van Sant’s Sea of Trees starring Matthew McConaughey. The suicide aspect is real within the parameters of the film, but The Forest works more on its supernatural mythology. According to the film, the forest makes you hallucinate, preys on your fears and demons and turns you against yourself, and forces you to commit suicide. What a perfect horror setting!

The forest is scary in itself because you don’t know what is going to happen. That is until the obvious foreshadowing of a jump creeps in and you brace yourself for the moment, which is usually a bit disappointing. The main problem is the obvious scenes where scares are added for no apparent reason other than the filmmakers felt one should be there.

The cheap tactics are a shame because the story, characters and acting are really good. As Sara begins to feel the effects of the forest, she questions Aiden and becomes convinced he is against her. I loved this psychological element of it and would have preferred this as the main horror theme. Is he who he says he is? Why is he helping her? It is very interesting and should have been explored more.

Dormer is incredible in this dual role as both twins. They have different hair and style but you could probably tell them apart without that because her acting is very different between the two. She is also convincing as the troubled woman determined to find her sister. But most of that goes to hell and descends into screaming and running once the forest really starts working its mischief.

The Forest is a fairly enjoyable slice of horror, but will not be scary enough for seasoned fans. It is tame and predictable, and would have worked better as a psychological thriller. It is pretty forgettable and unoriginal, but Dormer elevates the material with a captivating performance that keeps you invested in her character’s fate.