The Forest is a horror movie where the strangest parts are true. It is about the “Sea Of Trees”, a dense forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, where Japanese traditionally go to commit suicide. Stylized suicide has a long history in Japan going back to the days of the samurai.
Even today, people will travel from all over Japan to commit suicide in Aokigahara Forest rather than do the act at home. Often individuals have not yet made a decision, so they will bring tents and camp deep in the forest. Sometimes, days or weeks later, the person will decide to live and return from the forest. However, more times than not, the person never returns.
In The Forest, Natalie Dormer is Sara Price, an American who is in Japan searching for Jess, her missing identical twin sister. Jess is a teacher who went to the Aokigahara Forest more than a week before and has not returned. Sara cannot accept that Jess has killed herself, and decides to take on the futile task of trying to find Jess in the immense “Sea Of Trees”
No Japanese person wants to help Sara search in the Aokigahara Forest. They are afraid of the Yurei, which are demonic figures lurking in the forest trying to trick people into killing themselves. Then Sara meets Aiden, another American (played by Taylor Kinney), who is willing to help search. It is only after they are deep in the forest when Sara realizes that perhaps it was not smart for a young woman to go into the woods with a large muscular man who she actually knows nothing about.
The Forest has all the usual horror movie scares. Strange creatures appear that may be real or may be hallucinations brought on by being alone in the woods. It has the regular “jump scares” where people or things suddenly pop up.
However, we found the the true story of Aokigahara Forest and ritualized suicide in a modern society the most interesting part of the film. Japanese politeness extends even into this darkest hour of human existence. For example, if you are walking through the forest and see a person camped with a “suicide tent”, you are not to interfere. Japanese feel the decision should be left to the individual and you should not try to “rescue” that person.
There is also the bizarre feature of bright yellow tape crisscrossed in the forest. People want to kill themselves deep in the woods, but many also want their body to later be found and taken away by family. Therefore, when people go deep off the trail to kill themselves they leave a path of bright colored tape from the trail to their final death location.
The Forest is not a great horror film but it is still worth watching. Unfortunately it has some unintentional humorous aspects that take away from its scariness. Natalie Dormer (Sara) keeps showing people a photograph of her identical twin asking if they have seen her. Why does she need to carry around a photo, when they are “identical”?
The funniest scene is when Sara decides to visit the school where her identical twin was a teacher. Remember that Jess has been missing for a long time and presumed dead. Without thinking about this, Sara walks into the classroom. The children start screaming, believing that Sara is a ghost. The director of the film (Jason Zada) probably meant this to be scary, but it actually comes across as really funny.