The Forest is long on jump scares, short on suspense

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, JAN. 7, 2016

By Steve Newton

The first scary movie out of the gate last year was the Jennifer Lopez thriller The Boy Next Door, which didn’t bode well for Hollywood horror in 2015. This year the first Tinseltown fright flick to hit theatres is The Forest, which–while vastly superior to that bogus J.Lo debacle–is still just a routine spook show.

Game of Thrones‘ Natalie Dormer stars as Sara, who we first see waking from a nightmare about a terrified woman running around in the dark woods. Turns out it’s Sara’s identical twin Jess (Dormer with dark hair), and the sisters have a psychic bond that allows one to sense how the other is doing. Unfortunately for Sara, the edgier Jess is prone to depression and bad choices.

The next day Sara learns from police in Japan that Jess has vanished into the Aokigahara Forest, the socalled “suicide forest” at the northeast base of Mount Fuji where troubled people often go to kill themselves. Soon Sara’s landing in Tokyo on a mission to save her sis, who she’s always felt guilty about not protecting from a pivotal childhood trauma.

Things get a tad hokey when Sara just happens to run into hunky travel-writer Aiden (Chicago Fire‘s Taylor Kinney), who offers to help her try and find Jess. The typical barrage of J-horror jump scares and gruesome visions are rolled out once the would-be rescuers–despite repeated warnings of it being haunted–venture into the dense forest. And the film remains quite unexceptional until a welcome plot twist livens up the final act.

First-time director Jason Zada gets a credible performance out of Dormer, but doesn’t prove very adept at crafting suspense. You’re left feeling like you could get just as creeped out by reading a good Stephen King story and then going for a hike in Stanley Park.

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