Review: Horror tale ‘The Forest’ follows a lame path
“The Forest” is lost in the woods.
In it, Natalie Dormer — who sported a Skrillex-like half-shaved head in the final two “Hunger Games” movies — plays a dual role as twins Sara and Jess Price. When Jess, the darker of the twins (we know this because her hair is darker than her sister’s), goes missing in Japan, Sara drops everything and rushes to track her down.
Jess was last seen inside the mysterious and supposedly haunted Aokigahara Forest, which lies at the base of Mount Fuji and is said to be a common destination for suicides. (The movie will do wonders for its tourism industry.) Sara teams up with a hunky Australian journalist (Taylor Kinney) to traverse the forest and find her sister while battling demons that inhabit the forest and her mind, and along the way, we learn of the horrific family history that led the two sisters on their respective paths.
In his debut feature, director Jason Zada can’t manage to build tension or sustain a consistent air of dread. Once inside the forest, he struggles to properly render the psychological horrors that are plaguing the characters, and he resorts to cheap jump scares and inserts of creepy figures (like the girl in the Sailor Moon costume who continually attempts to act as Sara’s tour guide).
After slowly mounting the stakes and setting up doubt with Kinney’s journalist character — did he know Jess? Can he be trusted? — Zada sprints to a muddied, unsatisfactory climax that is bewildering in its clumsiness. The big picture gets lost in all the botched details, and it’s not worth trying to see the forest for the trees.
Rated PG-13: for disturbing thematic content and images.
Running time: 95 minutes