I had my eye on this movie since it came out earlier this year. It was a January release so I was in no rush to see it, but it had a genuinely cool premise: looking for someone in the suicide forest, which is an actual place in Japan where people go to commit suicide. It's pretty unsettling. In the movie, it's said that the forest compels people to kill themselves due to supernatural forces or vengeful spirits. The Forest focuses on Sara, whose sister has gone missing in said forest, and Sara's desperate endeavors to find her sister despite the evidence pointing to her being dead. Up until about the 30-minute mark, I was on board. The pieces were set, the exposition was established, and the characters (Sara, her journalist friend Aiden, and a tour guide) were finally heading into the forest. Again, the atmosphere is creepy throughout. The director clearly has a grasp on how to build tension.
The problem is that the promising build ups lead to zero payoffs. There are handful of cheap jump scares, a couple of which admittedly shocked me but only momentarily. Once the initial shock wore off seconds later I was in the same state of mind as before. Effective jump scares linger for a while; they imbue dread and usually add something to the narrative. The jump scares here are your typical, "Boo! Something's behind you!", which are easy to shrug off. Also, once they're in the forest, the characters make some decisions that are unfathomably stupid and out-of-character. Like, the main point of the forest is that it makes you think you see things, a psychedelic effect if you will. So after Sara receives this crucial information, she runs after the first thing she sees scurrying around in the forest. While it's pitch black, mind you. It completely takes you out of the movie and makes you lose all empathy for the characters for putting themselves in these avoidable situations.
Also, The Forest focuses more on the bond between Sara and her sister than the actual forest. So there are plenty of flashbacks, dream sequences, all that garbage that just muddles the fact that, hey, this forest is really f*cking scary. Why not focus on the forest instead of forcing character development, if you can even call it that? It makes no sense. Also, there's nothing we haven't seen before. People being hung? First scene in Sinister. Claustrophobic underground tunnels? The Descent. The only thing that makes the movie unique is the actual setting which is used as a backdrop more than anything.
The acting is good, as is the premise, but the potential littered within this movie is never fully realized. The director can definitely creep you out but he'll need a better script if he wants to make a truly great movie. The Forest just leaves you feeling hollow and disappointed.
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