I need to start by complaining, and I’m sorry in advance.  It seems to be an ongoing complaint that when I go to a screening (or even a regular showing), but the amount of entitled assholes (both sexes) who go to movies to talk at full volume and laugh during the ‘high tension’ moments is getting out of hand.  I know that part of going to a horror film in the theater is experiencing the reactions of the rest of the room, the screams and jumps and such, but people are outright rude about respecting the sacred silence of a theater.  This is probably the 8th film in past three months where I have had to turn around and harshly state “SHUT UP” to fellow watchers because they simply couldn’t keep quiet.  If you cannot keep yourself from talking to your companions out loud at FULL VOLUME, the movie theater environment isn’t for you.  Please do the rest of us a favor and stay home.  If you think your MST3K joke will go over well in a full theater, keep it to yourself and make a youtube channel.  Anyhow, on to the review.


There were some high hopes going into The Forest, a new film from director Jason Zada and starring Natalie Dormer (The Tudors, Game of Thrones) about the Aokigahara Forest (the Suicide Forest) at the foot of Mount Fuji in Japan.  From the trailers, we got the impression this would be a pretty creepy movie, filled with Yūrei (Japanese spirit walkers) and theoretically some good jumps.  Oh, and a pretty awesome soundtrack, because Emmy winner Bear McCreary was on board.

I don’t know if there are enough bad forest puns in the world to adequately pepper this review with.  GOOD horror films are few and far between in the past several years, especially if you take ‘found footage’ out of the equation (thanks, Blair Witch -.-).

I’m sad to report The Forest falls flat in almost every way a movie can.  The editing was a mess, disjointed jump-cuts attempting to tell the history of the twin sisters Sarah and Jessica (both played by Dormer) and their sad childhood was pretty much pointless.  The potential of using one of the most haunted places in the world was a golden damn goose, and yet the Serbian-filmed wooded scenes were lacking in story cohesion and suspense.

It’s an interesting performance from Dormer, one that she kind of hits the nail on the head with her description in this interview, saying she likes to play “real people”, and that her take on character Sarah was one of vulnerability and guilt, things I definitely saw in her portrayal.  She’s pretty strong as far as female protagonists in this type of genre go, so that is a small plus in this otherwise negative experience.

We do need to talk about the soundtrack though, which was probably the best part of the movie.  I highly suggest reading McCreary’s blog post about the film, it’s highly informative and offers some insight into the most appropriate piece of score featuring an eerie choir of Japanese children. Bear writes:

“Toryanse is a traditional folk song, frequently played in Japan by traffic lights when it is safe to cross. The melody is rooted in a common Japanese modal scale, with asymmetrical phrasing, unusual to Western ears. When slowed down to a crawl and whispered by children, Toryanse becomes quite terrifying. The lyrics are delightfully appropriate to the haunting tone of the film:

You may go in, you may enter
Which way is this narrow pathway?
This is the narrow pathway of the Tenjin shrine
lease allow me to go through
Those without good reason shall not pass
To celebrate the 7th birthday of this child
We’ve come to dedicate our offering
Going in is easy, but returning is scary
It’s scary, but
You may go in, you may pass through.”

Yeah, so, keep *THAT* in mind if  you see the movie.

I will say I was somewhat surprised by the choice to kill the particular character the film does, thanks trailers for COMPLETELY spoiling that:

The Forest opens in theaters on Friday January 8th, 2016.


ABOUT >> Mary Anne Butler
  • BIO >> Mary Anne Butler (Mab) is a reporter and photographer from San Francisco California. She is a lifelong geek, huge music nerd, occasionally cosplays at conventions, does Renaissance Faires, and in general lives the life of a True Believer. She may be short, but she makes up for it with a loud voice.
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