Natalie Dormer stars as an American woman who travels to Japan when her identical twin sister goes missing in a forest with a sinister reputation.
Dormer (Elementary’s femme fatale Irene Adler) plays sensible Sara, who leaves husband Rob (Eoin Macken) behind as she flies across the Pacific to find wild twin sister Jess. Teacher Jess had abandoned her students during a school trip and gone off the path into a forest where people go to commit suicide; a locale already decidedly creepy because of the practise in times of war and famine of abandoning the sick and elderly there to die. Sara falls into the company of fellow American Aiden (Taylor Kinney, The Vampire Diaries’ ill-fated Mason Lockwood), a journalist who proposes joining her on a journey off the path into the heart of the suicide hotspots in the company of park ranger Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa). It will make a great story if they find Jess. Unless the angry ghosts of the forest get them…
This is Jason Zada’s directorial debut and he achieves some notable highlights in this glossy horror. There is a scene of doppelganger terror which is strikingly realistic, and a lengthy agonising sequence of lo-fi suspense where Dormer slowly walks down a hallway with a flickering light and we and she suspect, nay, are sure that just beyond the final light we have seen a figure in ghostly white, but we can’t be sure till she gets closer, and closer, and closer… Screenwriters Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell, and Ben Ketai keep The Forest from settling into the groove of other ‘Americans at sea in Japan’ horrors like The Grudge and Shutter. This is not like The Eye, where once you figure out what the ghost wants the scares end. Here the ghosts want you to kill yourself. This is their design.
The Forest is a consistently unsettling horror movie, but it’s a shade too reliant on jump scares; including a blatant Sinister rip-off; and ultimately promises more than it can deliver.