Thursday, November 3, 2016

Movie Review: The Forest (2016)

The Forest (2016)
Sony Pictures Releasing, Stage 6 Films, AI Film, Lava Bear/ Phantom Four Films. USA, Japan, 2016.
The Forest 2016

Continuing with the reviews of reader-suggested films.

In Japan there is an infamous forest in Aokigahara where numerous people commit suicide every year. In ancient times old people were left to die in the forest in there was shortage of food. Japanese ghost tales tell that the place is haunted by ghosts and demons. Sara Price's (Natalie Dormer) teacher twin sister Jess (Natalie Dormer) vanishes so Sara travels to Japan to find her. The school says that Jess vanished in Aokigahara (actually the forest scenes were filmed in Serbia). The locals warn her about going to the forest as there are Yurei-ghosts who make people lose their minds. As a curious note Sara uses search engine named Tree.
Natalie Dormer
Sara meets seemingly nice freelance reporter Aiden (Taylor Kinney) who promises to show her the forest with a local guide Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa). The forest has a psychological effect on the visitors and Sara's childhood's traumas make it only worse. Creepy schoolgirls appear. Is she seeing ghosts or hallucinations? Soon Sara is alone in the dark forest with Aidan, but can she trust him? 
Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Taylor Kinney and Natalie Dormer
Michi, Aiden and Sara
Hoshiko (Rina Takasaki)
Some critics were offended by film using a white main character and being disrespectful for using subject of area where real suicides occur. As if this was the first time someone was using some tragic and creepy events from real life as a basis for a horror movie! There are also other movies made about the same forest "Forest of the Living Dead"  and "Grave Halloween" and The Sea of Trees" for example. Also Japanese have used the notoriety of the forest in their own stories, literature and rock music. For example manga "The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service" uses Aokigahara as a plot device. As Japanese pop-culture also loans from Western culture why shouldn't other countries also have their own interpretation about Japanese myths or places?

The Social Justice Warriors just decided that the film was bad and saw the film as just 'white washing' and 'disrespectful' but failed to see the surprisingly justified and tragic backstory: Sara and Jess had a childhood trauma that made the twins different personalities. Jess became more rebellious of the two. Sara was troubled that Jess had seen a tragedy and carried a form of survivor's guilt (although in the end there is a major twist and even the existence of Jess is uncertain) that made her care deeply about her sister strengthening the bond between twins. As Sara went into the forest the depressing atmosphere loaded with heavy baggage of the place's history opened old wounds that Sara was not even aware of resulting to her gradual mental deterioration. It is easy to see that visiting Aokigahara would have a disturbing effect on mentally anguished person. The plot smartly blurs the lines of reality and delusions. Sure the story could have been deeper and there are some flaws and some horror cliché decisions but for what was meant to be a relatively low budget debut horror it could have been worse or more exploitative. It will be interesting to see how Jason Zada's career will develop. 

It is a decent psychological/ghost horror with quite familiar J-horror elements. The forest is quite impressive and moody place. It is not a groundbreaking film but still a pretty good Halloween watch.

Rating: Good

Starring: Natalie, Eoin Macken, Stephanie Vogt, Osamu Tanpopo, Yasuo Tobishima, Ibuki Kaneda, Akiko Iwase, Kikuo Ichikawa, Noriko Sakura, Jozef Aoki, Yûho Yamashita, Taylor Kinney, Gen Seto, Terry Diab, Nadja Mazalica, Lidija Antonic, Takako Akashi, Yuriri Naka, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Nemanja Naumoski, Tales Yamamoto, Meg Kubota, Mieko Wertheim, Rina Takasaki, Carni Djeric, Yoshio Hasegawa, Masashi Fujimoto, Tatsujiro Oto, James Owen, Shintaro Taketani 
Director: Jason Zada 


  1. Interesting commentary on sjws

    How do feel about cultural appropriation, then? A lot of news have been made especially about how whites do this to black culture...

    1. I see it problematic when it is meant to be making other cultures seem inferior (racistic purposes) or for example using designs of folk art without giving reference to the origin (more like an intellectual property problem). But there has to be artistic liberties and right to personal expression.

      In this year the hot controversial topic seems to be Justin Bieber and some white model having dreadlocks.

      Telling people they can't wear certain hairstyles, eat Chinese food or practice yoga because they are white is just segregation and basically it contains the same racist ideas that different cultures should not be mixed. If the "end cultural appropriation" was taken into its extreme no ethnic group could use anything but their own cultural ideas and it would take the culture 100+ years back in time when there were "blacks only" and whites only" signs.

      Cultural influences go both way and all cultures loan influences from other cultures either refining the ideas further or not. often the origins are vague so saying that some group "owns" some cultural ideas is in many cases questionable. Rock'n Roll was based on Blues, that was based on Negro Sprituals and slave work songs that were mixture of African folk music and European religious songs.

      People really should stop being offended all the time. Different groups are saying what others can and can not do. Some time ago Kendall Jenner caused anger among ballerinas for appearing in a video as a ballet dancer although she's not a real dancer.


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