I know we love some Natalie Dormer around these parts. We love that thing she does with her mouth, and also… well, just have this again. Unfortunately, her track record in film hasn’t been so great; when the trailer for her latest, horror flick The Forest, came out, Vivian wondered why the actress was having such a hard time landing good roles. But was this just another case of a bad trailer for a good movie?
Ha. No. The Forest is just about as bad as it looks.
The main problem with The Forest is that there’s absolutely nothing to it. Natalie Dormer senses that her twin, also Natalie Dormer, is in trouble. When Natalie Dormer goes to find Natalie Dormer, she discovers that Natalie Dormer disappeared into Japan’s Aokigahara Forest, notorious for being a place where people go to commit suicide. Determined to find her twin, Natalie Dormer enlists the aid of a hunky journalist (Taylor Kinney) who agrees to help her as long as he can write about her story. Despite repeated warnings that Aokigahara is home to evil spirits that induce insanity, Natalie Dormer goes into the forest. The evil spirits induce insanity. There’s an ending that’s… kind of a twist? It’s vaguely wavy and wholly unimpressive.
You get the sense that the writers knew full well they’d have a tough time filling a whole movie, Natalie Dormer explains her psychic twin power like three separate times. If I found out that my sibling had gone into a forest known for being one of the world’s top suicide destinations, I wouldn’t take days to get to the forest and then flirt with a dude in a bar once I got there. But that’s just me, and I’m not responsible 95 minutes of running time. The Forest’s pacing is wonky. There are jump scares galore, but no real sustained tension. The score, admittedly, is pretty great, because Bear McCreary knows what he’s about. But when your score is five times more frightening than anything that’s actually in your horror movie, you have a problem.
The Forest might have had more than 20 minutes of movie in a 95-minute package if it had bothered to create compelling, complex characters, but no dice there, either. Sara’s identifying characteristic is…. she’s blonde. I guess? Jess is brunette, so you know she’s the ~*~emotionally troubled~*~ one. All the characters are cardboard, from Hunk #1 (Sara’s boyfriend) and Hunk #2 (the journalist) to the local guide who’s on deck to provide exhibition and the creepy schoolgirl whom Sara meets in the forest.
Yup. There’s a creepy Japanese schoolgirl, a necessary ingredient in horror cliche soup. In addition to the aforementioned Mystical Twin ESP, we also have some “old people are scary” on deck—and they’re Asian old people, so they’re even scarier, doncha know? Is it maybe a little a weird that Japanese people only get to fulfill the roles of stereotypes and local flavor (Look! Lolitas!) in a movie that’s about something that’s uniquely Japanese? Yeah… yeah.