I love all my psychological thriller/horror movies and books, but somehow I found myself in the seat of our local theater prepared to see The Forest, and my only thought was, “this is the first horror movie I’ve ever seen in theaters.” With that gripping thought mulling around in my head, I became more and more anxious for the movie to start. With every coming movie trailer and advertisement, I shrunk into my seat more and more. It wasn’t until the movie actually started that I realized what a wild ride this movie and experience were going to become.
The story follows a woman by the name of Sara, who travels to Japan in a last-minute attempt to rescue her delinquent sister, Jessica. Jessica had been found wandering into the Aokigahara Forest, famous for it’s rising count of suicides committed there. Because of this, the forest is referred to by locals as the “suicide forest.” As if that wasn’t creepy enough, as Sara arrived she was warned by everyone of ancient Japanese spirits that haunted the forest, making you see things that weren’t there in order to either drive you insane enough to kill yourself or provoke you to kill yourself. Either way, they wanted you dead. Sara was so dead set on finding Jessica that she went as far as spending the night in the Forest, something practically unheard of, especially with the spirits lurking. With her stayed Aiden, her guide who also was a journalist (or so he says). That night she sneaks out off the camp to chase after a young girl she spots, hoping for some information on her sister. The young girl continues to tell her not to trust Aiden without actually providing the answers she wants. At that point is where everything went downhill, it’s where we, as the audience, realized that practically anything she saw in there could be a figment of her own imagination leading her to her death. After that point, she slowly descends into madness as she drifts through the forest, unsure of who to trust and what was real, while we make the same journey from the comfort of our seats.
As if the setting wasn’t creepy enough, there come the jump scares. Personally, I’m more of a fan of all around creepiness and eeriness as opposed to one short moment of terror. Sadly, this movie had a lot of them. Whether they were expected or not, they still made me jump, and therefore, I began to look out more for potential jump scares than pay attention to the story. After the introduction and the first night in the forest, the movie, while still creepy, seemed to resort to cheap horror jump scares to strike fear into their audience. I thought it was unnecessary that they included so much of the fake horror elements when there was so much to work with in such a promising location.
If you couldn’t tell from my earlier paragraphs, I thought the idea and setting behind the movie was incredible, even if it’s scare tactics were not at 100%. This lead me to a website called documentaryheaven.com in search of a documentary covering the darkness and sorrow that floats in the Forest without having to worry about something random jumping out at me. The detail the movie paid to the original setting was incredible, even though it wasn’t shot there, so much of the setting and details were in tact that it made me appreciate the movie even more.
Overall, I wouldn’t say I disliked the movie because I certainly did like it, but I thought it would’ve been better had it taken more of a suspense and creep factor trail instead of the path of jump scares and gore. It just had so much material to work with, and so many things that were already set up to be scary that they could’ve done without all the random scares and disgusting creatures. It could’ve easily taken the “fear what is unknown” approach. Though now that the first horror movie in theaters is over with, it means many more to come!