Horror films that tend to open within the first couple of months of the year often have a bad track record and don't tend to exactly be great - January and February arr renowned as the cesspool where studios drop their bad films. One of the first horror films of 2016, however, is the Natalie Domer starring The Forest but can it break the trend and just how good is it? Here's my review.

When Sara Price (Natalie Dormer) receives a phone call from the Japanese police, informing her that they believe her troubled twin sister Jess is dead, after they see her go into the Aokigahara Forest - a forest which is notorious as a place where people go to commit suicide - she heads out in search for her. All to the disapproval of her fiancé Rob (Eoin Macken), heading to the hotel in Japan where Jess was staying, Sara meets a reporter, Aiden (Taylor Kinney), and a local park guide, Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa), where the three then head into the forest. However, upon arrival, things start to go awry for the group as Sara tries to look for her sister but the line between reality and hallucination begins to blur as the forest's ghosts and horrors begin to creep out.
I'm not a big fan of horror films and, more often than not, the ones that tend to release early in the year are pretty bad. Nonetheless, I'm a big fan of Natalie Dormer's and I was aware - even if vaguely - of the infamous reputation of the Aokigahara Forest in Japan (also known as the Suicide Forest). It's one of the scariest places on Earth so I was intrigued to see how a horror film tackled this setting. Taking that all into consideration, I was - dare I say it - somewhat looking forward to The Forest, in the hopes that it may have been a decent, scary horror flick to kick off the slate of 2016's horror films. Now, whilst it's by no-means an atrocious or terrible film, it's certainly not exactly a very good one either. However, you can't help but feel as though it could have been; it feels like a missed opportunity that wasn't utilised to its full potential.

Jason Zada makes his directorial debut here with The Forest but I can't say he has exactly gone and created a good first impression for himself. For starters, this film has such a creepy premise and is set in one of the creepiest locations in the world. But it just feels as though it wastes it all; tossing all the potential out the window. In all honesty, the film starts off fairly well and has a solid first act that sets up the story nicely and creates a lot of tension and uneasiness but that's all this film does because it just goes downhill from there. The script is just so poorly written and uneven. Not only is the dialogue bland and contrived but the source material and premise are mawkishly executed and poorly handled too. The characters are fairly one-dimensional and we don't invest in them enough to care about what's happening. But what it, quite simply, really boils down to is the fact that this film is just not scary.
It's not a very good thing when you have a horror film that doesn't do a good job of scaring its audience. Zada opts for the clichéd jump-scare method here but it doesn't work because it's all too predictable and lazy and contrived; the scares are executed quite ineffectively. Again, the first act is the best one and there are couple of scares that aren't bad and that made me jump but it's not quite as scary a picture as it could have been. I'll give credit to Zada for creating a fairly creepy and tense atmosphere at times throughout this picture but, unfortunately, even this isn't consistent and the chills and thrills are few and far between. It's a shame seeing as this film had lots of promise. The ingenious premise and the terrifying Aokigahara setting just doesn't work for The Forest. But my biggest complaint with this film is the finale. It's such a frustrating and cop-out ending that just deflates all the little glimmers of hope that came before. The film is very confused and convoluted and the narrative is all over the place and the finale tries to tie things together but does an awful job at doing so and it's very disappointing to witness, to say the least. The film starts with a good idea but doesn't know what to do with it so ends up being a convoluted and frustrating and incoherent film that has no idea what's going on or where to go and what to do.

The Forest is an inconsistent, disappointing waste of promise and potential at best. The cast are all fine and give competent performances but they just have so little to work with. Natalie Dormer is an incredibly talented actress and whilst she gets to show off a bit more range and flexibility as an actress, in a dual role, playing twins Sara and Jess, her characters are just so underdeveloped and bland that there's only so much she can do with the material she has been given. The Game of Thrones alum is convincing and she brings a lot of emotion and genuine, believable terror and fear to her twins and whilst Dormer holds this project up well, she just, ultimately, can't save it from its inevitable doom. The film is bold and audacious in its ideas and approach but, unfortunately, it's just not good and it fails to be scary.

VERDICT:
The Forest can be fairly tense and creepy at times, and shows a lot of promise with an intriguing premise. Unfortunately, it's also a very confused and convoluted mess that has no idea where it's going or what's happening.


About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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