"The Forest" stars Natalie Dormer as a woman who goes to Japan to find answers regarding the mysterious disappearance of her twin sister and in doing so, she ventures into a real life forest in which dozens of people go there to commit suicide. As she wanders around the forest, the movie then becomes a basic horror movie that's suppose to start off the year like with every other year and their opening with horror films.
When it comes to January releases every year, a large majority of them are absolutely terrible and they basically make movie-going seem like an obligation rather than a passion or hobby. Previous instances of horror films starting off a year include "Texas Chainsaw 3D" and "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" and those were awful. This movie, however, isn't quite the mess I expected from a horror film at this time of year. Granted, it's not a good movie and there are better ways to spend your time, but this movie was honestly more of a mixed bag if anything.
To start off positively, the performances in this movie are decent. Natalie Dormer is the lead in this movie and for a horror movie, she's not given anything special to work with. It's a basic horror performance of wandering around, making shocked faces, and screaming and running. For that, Dormer did fine in this role since it's really all the movie requires out of her. Taylor Kinney also plays a supporting role of a guy she meets...and that's pretty much it. He's just a guy who doesn't add anything special to the movie, and Kinney is perfectly functional in that role. In all honesty, the acting is nothing special and it's not exactly going to get last minute awards consideration, but there are plenty worse performances in a horror movie out there, believe me.
I'll also give this movie some credit in the sense that it actually had a pretty creepy vibe to it as well as a few creepy scenes. The actual location of the forest had an eerie feel to it and the movie did a pretty good job of making you feel the isolation of this place. It probably helps that this forest depicted in the movie is a real life place with unfortunate circumstances involved with it, so I think it was a good move to use a real place and in my opinion, do a good job of capturing how creepy this place probably is. Mix the location in with some surprisingly suspenseful sequences with genuine build up and tension, and you have a movie that's somewhat effective in certain parts.
Now on with the things that didn't work in this movie, and that's starting with how it falls victim to your basic horror cliches in a lot of parts. For every genuinely creepy scene, there are moments immediately following that are typical, lazy jump scares in which there's a moment of silence, something stupid jumps at the screen and there's a big bang of music. Jump scares can work when built up right and the thing jumping out is a piece of disturbing imagery, but this movie didn't that. The scares were predictable and didn't do their job in sticking with me after the film was over. When I can walk to my car in the darkness and not feel affected by a horror movie I just saw, that's a pretty big problem.
Also, by the time this movie starts to wrap up and give us some of the answers that we were craving, the movie starts to fall apart. The movie did a halfway decent job of setting up these questions and creating some intrigue for the story, but I personally didn't feel satisfied with how some of the answers are either forced into the plot or just passed over with very brief explanations. The movie then shifts its gears from solving the mystery to just being a basic jump scare-fest in the woods. That's honestly disappointing to think about considering that I was honestly invested at a point in the first half.
In the end, "The Forest" isn't the disaster that I was expecting, but I still wouldn't recommend it entirely. The performances are decent and there are some parts that I found to be creepy and built up well with good suspense, but it falls victim to the easy, cheap scares you'd find in any generic horror movie and the story eventually starts to fall apart and get sloppy once certain questions are answered. Like I said before, it's not the shitty January film we're use to seeing at this point, but the fact that it's just "meh" still doesn't make it a good movie that I would recommend seeing.