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While horror films that claim to be “based on a true story” feel like they are relying on a tired gimmick, there seems to be something interesting about stories that are based off of legends and mythology. With movies like Krampus that draw their influences from other cultures and folk lore, it takes advantage of having the audience feel like they an outsider in this much larger narrative. While The Forest does a good job at setting up a foreboding premise and atmosphere, the poor execution of its horror leaves little to be desired.
The way that The Forest sets up its story feels like it’s calling back to other Japanese-inspired films like The Grudge or The Ring. It spends its first act creating an odd sense of claustrophobia as Sara (Natalie Dormer) begins her journey in Japan, a country and culture that she is completely foreign to. While Sara’s development at the beginning feels rather dry, the film takes time in setting up the lore surrounding the Aokigahara forest. By the time we actually begin exploring the forest, the audience is prepared for just about anything.
However, this is where the film begins to devolve from interesting to tiresome. For the longest time, it felt like The Forest was meant to be a drama instead of the thriller that it was advertised to be. As soon as you have this thought, the film turns around and delivers one of its many obvious and ineffective jump scares. And while a lot of the imagery shown has the capability of getting under your skin, it feels underused and out of place with the rest of the movie.
This problem becomes more apparent with the sluggish pacing of the story. While The Forest is a relatively short for being a horror film, there are several moments where it felt like they are needlessly stretching the story. I can appreciate that the first act takes its time setting up the film, but the rest of the movie suffers by losing focus of its structure the longer it goes on. Plot threads and visual ideas are introduced later than they should have been, and while they do receive some sort of pay off at the end, they feel rushed and not totally earned.
Plenty of the ideas that The Forest tries to showcase are actually interesting and could have brought an interesting psychological twist. While the film constantly reminds you that Sara and Jess are twins who appear to share some kind of strange telepathic connection, this idea feels completely underused and adds nothing to the drama. The tragedy of this is that it does play an essential part at the end of the film to explain away some things, but with its poor use, it feels more like a plot convince than something that’s organic to the story. The Forest feels like it was written with a certain intention for the story, but the director had different plans visually, leaving certain aspects feeling dropped.
The Forest has a lot of great ideas that could make it stand out in the modern state of horror, but its downfall seems to be its slow pacing and lack of vision. On a horror level, The Forest isn’t even that scary, consisting mostly of jump scares that any audience member can see coming. With that being said, there are certain aspects of the film that can be pieced together to bring up some interesting ideas. While it comes off as a film that belongs more at a Redbox than at a movie theater, its quality visual aspect and spirts of creativity make viewing it once justifiable.
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- Great visual ideas
- Mediocre pacing
- None of the resolutions feel earned by themselves