At the base of Mount Fuji lies the legendary Japanese forest Aokigahara, a historic place where thousands of people have gone to commit suicide.
Every year, hundreds of bodies are recovered from the sea of trees nicknamed the Suicide Forest. Local police have even posted signs at the entrances of several trails leading into the forest with encouraging messages, such as “Your life is a precious gift from your parents.”
AI-Film’s newest horror movie, “The Forest,” was released on Jan. 8 and is based on this unsettling locale. Directed by Jason Zada and written by Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell and Ben Ketai, “The Forest” centers on the character of Sara Price, portrayed by Natalie Dormer, whose twin sister — also played by Natalie Dormer — has entered the forest presumably to take her own life.
With the help of journalist Aiden (Taylor Kinney) and park ranger Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa), Sara pursues her sister and quickly picks up her trail before ultimately becoming lost in the forest and plagued by evil supernatural forces.
Rated PG-13, “The Forest” focuses primarily on the Japanese folklore of yūrei, angry spirits that supposedly haunt the forest and sometimes inflict powerful delusions on those who stay too long. These spirits attempt to drive people to (as Michi says) “do bad things.” As our protagonist becomes more and more isolated in the forest, she begins to second guess her senses and see things that aren’t there.
One of the most frightening aspects of the film is taken directly from reality, and that is how easily one can lose their way in Aokigahara when deviating from the path. Some areas are so densely wooded that sunlight does not reach the ground, and iron deposits in the soil reportedly cause compasses and GPS devices to malfunction.
In recent years, many people have placed colored tape throughout the forest to serve as trail markers, either to help them find their way back or in hopes that someone will eventually find their corpse.
The movie was met with generally poor reviews from critics upon its release, bashed for having a lead character who is Caucasian and accused of being insensitive to its subject matter. However, “The Forest” accomplished what it set out to do, which was create an incredibly scary film with a plot and storyline that is both engaging and entertaining to audiences.
To say the movie has its viewers sitting on the edge of their seats would be an understatement. Only the bravest of fans dare to keep their eyes open throughout the film’s entire 95-minute runtime. Although many of the jump scares are admittedly predictable, “The Forest” is also filled with captivating suspense and several surprises along the way. Overall, even though “The Forest” may not be winning any awards, it will please fans of the genre as a good thriller to start off the new year.