HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Forest
HTS Overall Score:73
I knew from the minute that I saw the trailer for “The Forest” and the PG-13 rating that we would be getting a very neutered and watered down scare flick, and I had only seen like 2 minutes of the film so far. Sadly I wasn’t exactly far off, as we are subjected to another bloodless, scareless Japanese/American hybrid film where you know exactly when the “scares’ are going to happen. You know, where you’re walking down a silent hallway, or forest pathway and then suddenly a creepy ghost in prosthetics and makeup leaps out of nowhere with a thundering crash of the LFE channel only to vanish into nothingness while the heroine trudges on. This happens over, and over, and over, and over again to the point of monotony, making “The Forest” more an effort in willpower to keep watching rather than any nervousness or fright.
The story follows the tale of Sara and Jess Price (Natalie Dormer from “Game of Thrones”) and their terrifying trip into the real life forest of Aokigahara in Japan. This real life forest is where many people would go to commit suicide (a very real problem in Japan) and Jess has gone into the forest only to not come out. Her twin sister, Sara (also Natalie Dormer, just with blond hair instead of black) knows that something is not right and heads off to Japan to find a guide that can take her into the forest. Meeting up with a journalist by the name of Aiden (Taylor Kinney) Sara soon gains access to the creepy forest, only to find out that there is a LOT more than meets the eye.
Jess’s camp is soon found in the middle of the forest, but no sign of Jess. Refusing to come back in the morning despite the dire warnings from their native guide, Sara and Aiden spend the night there in hopes that Jess will find her way back to them. The two soon find out just exactly WHY the locals say to never spend the night as the forest starts to exert its dark will upon the pair. Trust crumbles as time goes on, with Aiden and Sara soon at each other’s throats imagining the deepest and darkest things about the other. As time progresses Sara finds out just how far down the rabbit hole she’s come and just how hard it is to find her way out.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=68610[/img]“The Forest” is a bit of a hacked up mess, complete with poor editing (it actually took me a few minutes of watching to realize that Natallie Dormer was playing two different characters due to some sloppy editing). Directed by a first time director who only has the privilege of directing the “Elf Yourself” advertising campaign for Office Max. So yeah, I’m not sure who OK’d his directing a feature length theatrical film without ANYTHIGN else of value to his name, but he must have cashed in a LOT of favors to get this job. It shows in the sloppy editing and well-worn Japanese horror tropes strewn throughout the film. Jump “scares” abound throughout the movie and after the 3rd or 4th time you stop jumping at all. They tend to be telegraphed quite sloppily and by the time the scare actually HAPPENS you’re sitting there with a stop watch saying “and it happens in 3-2-1 and bingo!”.
There’s some cool scenery in the Aokigahara forest, but overall the tension is next to nill and the characters are as cookie cutter as you get. Aiden is the hunky guy with a secret and the two must eventually be at odds with each other, even though there’s some sexual tension going on under the surface. There’s an ESPECIALLY silly scene near the end of the movie where Aiden and Sara are struggling over a knife and I was sitting there watching it play out wondering HOW a skinny girl with very little muscle tone was able to hold her own against a guy who VERY obviously has an enormous mass and muscle difference. It just felt silly and stuck in there because it was next in check box list. Natalie Dormer as Sara and Jess was decent, but only because she’s a solid actress who can actually emote. The sloppy editing to make Natalie BOTH Sara and Jess is kind of ridiculous as all they did was dye her hair black (or use a wig) and say “boom”, now you’re Jess!”.
Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and images
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=68586[/img]“The Forest” comes with a MOSTLY beautiful looking digital transfer that looks really really amazing most of the time. Colors are right and vibrant, with the Aokigahara forest looking resplendent with all sorts of greens and browns from the luscious foliage. Color grading leans toward the teal end of the spectrum and gives off a nice feel to the digital photography. Fine detail is incredible with the leaves and textures of the forest really standing out, as well as the intimate details such as dirt ground into fingernails or covering the skin. Contrast levels are excellent, revealing excellent skin tones that retain a natural feel to them. Black levels are usually very good, but I noticed that there was SO much darkness at times that it got a bit overwhelming and a tad murky. This alone caused me to knock off half a point from the otherwise stellar video encode.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=68594[/img]“The Forest” is given a very robust and powerful horror type of soundtrack that really gives the film its sense of urgency and “fear” when necessary. Dialog is above reproach and is centered firmly in the front soundstage and there is some incredible directional queues that shift around the entire room. The crunching of leaves underfoot, the rustling of branches in the trees overhead as well as the rush as something leaps out at you from the side or front. The surrounds basically never stop, whether it be the simple sounds of the forest or the more aggressive tones of a scuffle. LFE is throbbing and POWERFUL, adding a rippling sense of ferocity to the track, just pounding away at every possible moment. Intense and aggressive, the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is easily the highlight of the disc.
• Exploring The Forest
• Director's Commentary
If you’re looking for a good horror movie I really would look elsewhere. “The Forest” is a rather tame and predictable frightener that takes the fright out of the movie. There’s not even any gore for the blood hounds to enjoy. We have people cutting their wrists and what not with open gaping wounds but NO blood to be seen! (even though that person is supposed to be bleeding out in front of you). The film is just a ridiculous and boring rehash of a billion different horror tropes that we’ve seen a thousand times over, and with better success than this one was. Audio and video are fantastic, but the minimalistic extras are a bit of a disappointment. If you want to use this as a demo disc, that’s fine, otherwise I would just run in terror.
Starring: Natalie Dormer, Eoin Macken, Stephanie Vogt
Directed by: Jason Zada
Written by: Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 93 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 12th 2016
Buy The Forest On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: No, Just No
More about Mike