reviews

Glasgow Film Fest Review: The Forest

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Published by The Strathclyde Telegraph.

In typical horror films, the daylight offers a safe haven, free from scares and frights and bumps in the night. The Forest, however, set in the real life Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mount Fuji, famously known as Japan’s ‘suicide forest’, manages to make the natural, the sublime, and even the harmless, terrifying.

Director Jason Zada creates a world in The Forest with its own amplified pulse; a world that throbs with its own presence from every flicker of movement in a blade of grass to every creak of twigs snapping under hiking boots. With stunning, crisp cinematography and micro close-ups of the fine details of the forest, suddenly even canopies and snails take on an all new sinister and threatening persona.

Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) stars primarily as Sara Price, an American woman, and as her complicated, troublemaking identical twin sister Jess, who Sara has been bailing out and protecting since they were little girls living with grandma. Straddling the line between supernatural horror and psychological thriller, The Forest follows Sara as she journeys across the world to Japan where Jess was last seen before she went missing.

Warned by the locals to ‘never leave the path’, Sara hires Aiden (Taylor Kinney), an American journalist living in Japan, and park guide Michi to accompany her into Aokigahara to find her sister, who she can feel and ‘hear’ is still alive.

Throughout the film, we are given many classic foreboding horror movie hints that Sara isn’t making sensible decisions: from her disregard of Michi’s advice that she shouldn’t go into the forest because she has a ‘sadness inside her’ which the legendary forest feeds on and ‘makes you see bad things’, to her refusal to leave the forest as night falls when they find Jess’s distinctive yellow tent, filled with her belongings, deep within the forest.

As the plot progresses, Sara becomes more detached from the world outside Aokigahara; she falls for the beautifully haunting forest’s irrevocable hypnotism, cabin fever sets in, and the line between reality and fantasy blurs. Convinced that Aiden has kidnapped her sister and plans to kill them both – a seed of doubt that leaves the audience, too, unsure if Aiden is to be trusted – and without help from Michi, Sara’s quest to find her sister becomes an obsession as the forest curls around her ankles, grips onto her legs and – quite literally – pulls her under.

The concept behind The Forest is fascinating and enthralling from the outset, and the addition of the real life macabre, ritualistic destination for the suicidal only adds to the drama and potency of the film. I did jump, gasp, and get ‘the creeps’ from this film. But, like many horrors before, The Forest, too, is touched with traces of the exaggerated and the implausible. I was able to sleep after seeing The Forest, but not quite as easily as usual.

★★★

What do you think about The Forest? Let me know in the comment section below.

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