“The Forest” Or How The American Horror Genre Died

By Scott Kurland

Film: The Forest
Starring: Natalie Dormer, Eoin Macken, Taylor Kinney, and Yukiyoshi Ozawa
Rated PG-13
Director: Jason Zada

If something is marketed as a “horror” movie, not only should it be scary, but it should be rated R. When I say this, I don’t mean an R rating for gore, swearing or nudity. Only an R-rated film will have the tools to truly torment your psyche. “It Follows” was rated R, and the film succeeding in its job of toying with our minds in ways that were both new and disturbing. A PG-13 rating almost feels like a cop out. It's as if the studio has so little faith in an adult demographic that they need to mess with the minds of tweens and teenagers. This week’s film “The Forest” is one of those PG-13 horror movies that is more laughable than horrifying. Let’s find out how bad it really is shall we?

“The Forest” is the story of Sara (Natalie Dormer), a married American woman living a typical suburban life. However, its not long before things take a turn. Sara gets a call from Japan that her twin sister Jess (also Dormer) has gone missing in a place known as "The Suicide Forest"; a real-life 35-square-kilometer forest at the base of Mount Fuji. And as the name suggests, people who enter the forest are rarely heard from again. Sensing that Jess is alive via "twin telepathy" Sara goes to Japan where she meets a travel reporter named Aiden (Taylor Kinney). Aiden graciously offers to take her into the forest to find her sister. What Sara soon discovers is that the forest is haunted by dead spirits who seek to play with her mind and break her sanity. Safe to say, its not long before Sara is pushed to her limits. 

Ok, this film is garbage. From the awful dialog to the unimpressive plot twist, its 100% trash that no one should ever have to watch. “The Forest" is a lazy film that proves that director Jason Zada wasn’t informed about the actual subject matter. There’s a great script about The Suicide Forest somewhere in Hollywood, but it isn't lying in the horror-movie pile. This film could have easily been a compelling drama about a down-on-her-luck woman who goes into the forest to end it all. Instead, it was a film about a woman running from vengeful spirits who appear as little school-girls; absolutely tasteless. 

Another good film about The Suicide Forest would revolve around its origins. If you do your research you'd discover its not simply a popular destination for those looking to end it all. Japanese families would bring their weak and elderly to the forest to starve when they could no longer care for them in a practice known as "obasute". “The Forest” is just another “The Ring” or “The Grudge” knock-off that was never informed that it’s no longer 2002 anymore.

The story driving this film makes no sense. What is supposed to be the plot twist is actually a very annoying conclusion to end the film. The three screenwriters, Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell, and Ben Ketai wrote some of the worst exposition and dialog I have every seen on film. In addition, the performances from Dormer, Kinney, and Macken come across like bad community theater. The way these actors perform is painful to watch onscreen, and I think that’s because they’re under the direction of a novice director. 

Normally, I like Dormer in television and films. However I don’t think she can carry a lead in a film like this by herself. When I say film, I'm talking about bad teen horror films such as "The Forest". I know this is how Naomi Watts got famous but, in this particular case, the odds were not in Dormers favor. Most young television actors start with a romantic comedy and then transition to other films. I feel like Dormer would have benefitted from that approach. 

Dormer isn’t the only poorly cast actor. Mr. Lady Gaga himself Taylor Kinney is also miscast. Like Dormer his acting is decent. I don’t watch “Chicago Fire”, but I hear great things about him on the show. Kinney’s character seems unfitting for this film. We know why he’s there, but it still feels like they wedged him into the major story arch of the film.

I really hated “The Forest,” and this genre of PG-13 horror needs to go away. It’s not frightening, the CGI is cheesy-looking, and all the “ghosts” look like they’re straight out of a video game from 1999. Do yourself a favor and skip “The Forest.” This is a film you never have to see. Don’t watch it in theaters, on rental, don’t even watch it on TBS when its watered down with commercials. This is a film that must vanish from the face of the earth. Save your money.

scott kurlandComment