When her troubled twin sister Jess mysteriously disappears, Sara Price (Natalie Dormer) discovers Jess vanished in Japan's legendary Aokigahara Forest. Searching its eerie dark woods with the help of journalist Aiden (Taylor Kinney), Sara plunges into a tormented world where angry spirits lie in wait for those who ignore the warning: stay on the path.
If only ‘The Forest‘ was a documentary on Forest Whitaker, everything would have been a lot better. Instead, we got another vague and wretched PG-13 horror movie to start 2016 off with a whimper instead of a bang. Based on the real Aokigahara Forest in Japan, where it’s said demon like spirits roam the woods and force people to commit suicide there in record numbers, this film takes that unfortunate aspect and makes a Japanese/America horror film that doesn’t do anything, but plead for the end credits to crawl onscreen as fast as it can.
Jason Zada served as director here, and I can’t imagine how he ever got this job, as his claim to fame was the “Elf Yourself” campaign for Office Max. I’m not making that up. Someone owed someone a HUGE favor. ‘The Forest‘ never picks up speed and stays at a slow pace from start to finish with the tiresome and typical Japanese horror tropes that includes an ultra quiet scene with someone walking down a hallway when a sudden ghost child with decaying makeup shows up and hisses at you for a few seconds. That’s what we’re dealing with here multiple times, and it gets old very fast. In addition to that, the film is a jumbled mess, editing wise and filming wise.
It took a little while to realize that Natalie Dormer from ‘Game of Thrones‘ was playing twin sisters, due to the uneven and shoddy editing. Then there's the script and performances by what seem to be solid actors. The screenplay is just downright laughable and cheesy through the entire film with zero wit or charisma. This infects the actors as well, who give lazy and laughable performances as well to a story that just doesn’t seem to make any kind of sense and is very predictable if not plain stupid.
‘The Forest‘ follows twin sisters Sara and Jess Price (Natalie Dormer). One sister is married and seems to have her life in order, where the other sister teaches English in Japan and is always needing to be bailed out of trouble. The latter sister goes into this forest to supposedly kill herself, which has the former sister trek to Japan to find her sister. Virtually everyone tells her to not go into this forest and not to stray from the clearly marked path, let alone stay there overnight for several diabolical reasons.
Well, this sister doesn’t follow any of these rules, thus her descent into madness and horror. If only she listened, right? There are half baked plans of an incident from the twin’s childhood that are never formed, as well as a character named Aiden (Taylor Kinney), who might be a bad guy or a good guy. It’s never really revealed. This is a classic case of poor filmmaking and storytelling all a cross the board.
If you plan on making a horror movie, DO NOT make it like this. Again, the Forest Whitaker documentary would have been far better. All of this being said, the only real shining light here was the haunting score from Bear McCreary (‘Battlestar Galactica‘/’Everly‘). It’s the only thing memorable about ‘The Forest‘.
The Blu-Ray: Disc Stats
'The Forest' comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Universal that is Region A locked. There is also a digital download code here. The disc and download code are housed in a hard, blue, plastic case with a cardboard plastic sleeve. A trailer or two start up before the static still frame menu.
'The Forest' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This is a dreary and moody looking film, which is good, because the subject matter is just as bleak. I wouldn't say this picture pops at any moment, but is true to the atmosphere it creates, which almost seems filmic at times. The detail is mostly vivid and sharp, specifically in closeups that reveal the makeup effects nicely and the facial features of the actors. Wider shots show some decent textures in the trees themselves from time to time. Other shots look a little softer, particularly in the darker scenes.
Colors have are never warm, with the exception of one or two scenes, so don't expect anything to pop off screen here. The colors are mostly cold with vague greens, blues, grays, and browns. Black levels are deep and inky, and the skin tones are mostly natural if not a little pale. There was some very minor video noise, but other than that, this video presentation does a good job.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and does a good job with the haunting and eerie sounds that makes this an immersive experience. The sound effects are robust and flow through the surrounds and rear speakers nicely. Nature sounds in the forest and weird ghostly sounds haunt the soundscape often and makes you feel like there is something other worldly at work in your house. Each ambient noise and sound effect is well balanced and layered for some decent depth.
The score is haunting as well, with some good crescendos and softer moments and is the most memorable part of the film, being scored by Bear McCreary. The dialogue is crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills. There is some decent bass as well in certain scarier moments that never crosses into rocky territory. The LFE is great, and the dynamic range is wide, leaving this audio presentation with good marks.
Audio Commentary- Director Jason Zada discusses most aspects of the film, giving some information on shooting on location, how he used the camera in certain shots, his cast, and the true life inspiration of the film. There's a good bit of information here, and if you like the film, you'll enjoy the commentary.
Exploring 'The Forest' (HD, 8 Mins.) - A promo piece of the making of the film with cast and crew interviews and some behind the scenes footage.
Galleries - There are five different Galleries to choose, ranging from behind the scenes, to promo art, to storyboards, to makeup tests.
'The Forest' is a mess. It is poorly edited, poorly acted, and not really all that scary. There's a decent story in there somewhere that is based on true life stories, but it just wasn't executed well. It's unfortunate too, because there is some good talent here. The video and audio presentations are both good, but the extras are fairly lackluster. If you're a fan of horror movies, I don't think you'll be scared, but you may want to rent this one first before making the decision to purchase.