Hollywood is usually good for a weak horror movie or two come January. 2016 starts off no differently, as Natalie Dormer ventures into an Asian-horror wannabe that comes off like the big-screen adaptation of the survival-horror video game franchise Fatal Frame. When Sara Price (Dormer) learns that her twin sister, Jess (also Dormer), has gone missing in Japan’s famed Suicide Forest, Aokigahara, Sara knows her sister is still alive because twins just know these things.
The movie relies on similar logic throughout. Once Sara gets to Japan, she is lucky enough to run into Aidan (Taylor Kinney, an actor-model perhaps best known for squiring Lady Gaga to various events), an expat with connections to get her into the forest. Naturally, the forest is where things go batty. Can Sara trust what she sees and hears in these woods that feast on sadness—of which Sara has bunches?
The movie’s real hero is poor Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa), who volunteers to scour the woods for suicides in his free time; he did not deserve to lead a willful American woman who refuses to heed his veteran advice about these scary woods. He says “go home”; she stays the night.
From three screenwriters with nary a feature-film release between them, The Forest has a surprising dearth of ideas. All of the good concepts seem copped from Asian cinema and video games. The movie would have made a swell horror game, where out-of-the-blue narrative developments are apropos. Dormer, Kinney and the landscape are pretty; they make this 95-minute jaunt through the woods less painful than the nearly absent script.
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