It is ironic that a movie about becoming lost in a forest lacks so much depth. If you can look past the questionable taste of setting a horror movie in a forest in which over one hundred people commit suicide every year, there is a lot of potential for a genuine creepy and interesting film. Unfortunately, The Forest falls into the trap of cattle-prod horror and recycled tropes which any film fan will have seen many times before and much better.
This becomes apparent from the beginning of the film. The first half an hour is rightfully used to set-up Natalie Dormer’s motives for entering the forest. You can see the studio interference or just poor writing here though because rather than trust the source material, the film is desperate to fill each ten minutes of runtime with a cattle-prod scare. It means we get irrelevant moments like a blind lady searching for her room but during intermittent lighting. It seems desperate.
When Dormer’s Jessie finally reaches the forest, some of the potential and appeal of the movie begins to show. This is a place where people go to commit suicide and the trailers heavily pushed the “true” aspect of the forest. When the characters begin to search for Jessie’s missing twin in the heart of the forest, the idea that this is where people come to end their life adds the level of suspense, terror and intrigue that the movie needs. The lines people tie to trees, the tents of those unsure of their intentions and the hanging bodies; all of these are true aspects of the forest and add the required horror to the movie.
The film doesn’t trust it’s source and inspiration and still insists on throwing scares in designed purely to make you jump. This is where the cliches emerge. The girl who becomes a demon, the changing scenes on a viewmaster which become “haunted” or the opening of a tent to reveal the horror inside. They are all effective but have been seen many times before.
When The Forest is at it’s best is when it is using the story and myth surrounding the forest to fuel it’s tale. The idea of people becoming lost because their compasses don’t work (which is true), the many bodies which are still to be found (again, true) and the fear of people, especially local, who refuse to leave the path. The Forest seemingly ignores these and goes down the usual horror movie route, making it very generic.
As the film does reach it’s underwhelming conclusion, you hope for a twist or a good use of the forest’s location and history. It isn’t so clever after all and finale feels like it has been signposted from the beginning, destroying any chance of huge revelation or audience shock value.
Overall, The Forest wastes the opportunity that presents itself. The titular location is one of horror already, without having to add pointless cattle-prod scares or cliched gimmicks. When the film does start to use it’s location, it doesn’t trust it enough to stay with it and instead treads a path much more plain and ultimately dull.
Rating – 2
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)