Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
The Forest: What Happens in the Aokigahara Stays in the Aokigahara
Aokigahara Forest has long been one of the world’s top suicide sites. Some
estimate it ranks just below the Golden Gate and Nanjing Yangtze River Bridges
as a final ending place. It is hard to say for sure, because many lost souls
enter with the intention of never being found. Unfortunately, it seems Sara
Price’s twin sister Jess was one of them. It has been five days since she
walked in the woods. Generally, that is more than sufficient time to conclude
the worst, but Price feels she is still alive through their twinster connection.
She will duly go into the notorious woods after her in Jason Zada’s The Forest (trailer here), which opens today
years, the Price sisters only had each other, but Sara has since married Rob.
He is usually a stable lump of husband material, but he often loses patience
with Jess’s drama. However, Price understands her sister has always had a
greater affinity for the dark side and therefore makes greater allowances.
After freaking out everyone at the school where Jess taught English (or
teaches, if we share her optimism), Price retraces her sister’s steps to
Aokigahara, the destination of their recent field trip that now looks rather ill-conceived.
Jess will be difficult, even assuming she wants to be found. It’s like a forest
in there. Yet, Price seems to have good fortune when an aspiring American journalist
and an off-the-books guide agree to accompany her into the woods. At least
Meryl Streep isn’t in there, so how bad can it get?
bad, of course. Michi is a decent fellow, but the local knows enough to be
scared of the forest. There is no way he will spend the night out there. Aiden
on the other hand, is more than game. Inevitably, Price starts to suspect the
hipster expat had a hand in Jess’s disappearance. By this time, her mind has obviously
been clouded by the forest’s malevolent power, but that does not mean she is
wrong about Aiden.
The Forest is not dazzlingly
original by any stretch, but it is cool to see Zada incorporate a lot of J-Horror
influences without getting slavish in his homages. Zada taps into the
Aokigahara folklore rather effectively, even if the film was shot in the
Balkans rather than Japan, judging from all the Serbian names in the credits.
He also profitably invests a good measure of time exploring the Price Twins’
respective psychological hang-ups.
will be working to remind Academy voters about Natalie Dormer’s performance
this time next year, but she is not bad at all playing the twins. Frankly, the
extent to which she glams down might be what is most impressive. Most of the
time, it looks like she is uncomfortably damp and her feet are hurting her.
Conversely, Taylor Kinney’s Aiden never comes across as particularly
trustworthy or outdoorsy, so it is hard to understand why Price ever thought he
would be good to have around. Most of the Japanese cast serve in helper roles,
including Yukiyoshi Ozawa’s Michi, but Rina Takasaki nicely covers both ends of
the horror movie spectrum as the mysterious lost schoolgirl, Hoshiko.
It seems foolish to belabor The Forest’s shortcomings in a week when the nasty gristle of Uwe
Boll-produced zombie ugliness called Anger
of the Dead also opens. Although it basically ranks alongside middling
Blumhouse productions, a good deal of style went into The Forest, including Bear McCreary’s evocative score. Even casual
genre fans will have seen far worse. Not classic, but presentably distracting, The Forest opens in theaters today (1/8),
including the AMC Empire in New York.
Labels: Aokigahara Forest, Horror Movies