Recently: “The Forest”

Some horror films are better off not trying to be a horror film at all. There’s too many other elements vying for attention, something that can add another layer to make it more than just horror, but it all becomes too much. These approaches are bold and noble, but if not done well, it’ll be nothing but a missed opportunity.

The Gramercy Pictures film “The Forest”, wants to be several things, but in an effort to find itself, it gets so muddled and becomes just another victim.

This supernatural horror film stars Natalie Dormer (“Game of Thrones”, “The Roof (Short 2016)”), Taylor Kinney (upcoming season “Chicago Fire”, “Chicago P.D.”), Yukiyoshi Ozawa (“64: Part 2”, “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders”), and Eoin Macken (upcoming “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter”, “The Night Shift”).

The film was directed by Jason Zada (“Take This Lollipop (Short 2011)”, “Scenes from and Unmade Movie: Job (Short 2008)”) and written by Ben Ketai (upcoming episode “StartUp”, “Chosen”), Sarah Cornwell, and Nick Antosca (upcoming “Channel Zero”, “The Player”).

The film originally opened on Jan. 8, 20016.

Some decisions you know are flat out bad. No matter how you look at it, it’s going to suck. But you do it anyway. That’s what I’ve done here. I’ve sat through a film that I had a strong belief would be bad. But, like so many other films, I was lured in by the talent. If it weren’t for the cast, I really don’t think I would’ve sat to watch it. I certainly wouldn’t have stuck through it to the final ridiculous moment. Whatever positive outlook I had for horror, has once again been destroyed. This film certainly shows that no matter the studio or talent, horror stories aren’t given the type of thought they should be, and thus, we get the same crap as the last five films.

This may be the one time I wish I’d read more reviews from critics. If I had, I would’ve been made aware of the biggest problem with this film. It’s not scary. Not in the least. There’s nothing to scare you. Not even the incredibly lazy jump scares, of which there were so few, but in this case that’s not really a perk, managed to do anything for me. I sat there, waiting for something to happen, anything, and it never came. Nothing was even remotely attempted. At least if this film had attempted something that came close to scaring me, then I’d have been able to applaud the effort. There wasn’t even that. Such a disappointment.

Making things worse in this “horror” film, is the fact that this film also couldn’t even achieve the basic creepy level that I sometimes like and will let a film get away with. Far from it. I don’t even know if the three writers (three!) even tried to make this film creepy. Sure there were those creepy ghost visuals, which would’ve been just as irritating if they’d appeared in some Asian horror remake, but those weren’t effective even in the slightest. They just existed. I cried inside solely from the fact that I thought I wasn’t watching an Asian horror remake. Given what this film’s basing its story on, this makes sense, and the film sucks even more because of it.

Most of the problems, especially the lack of any scares or creepiness, lies with the fact that this film needed three writers. Now, I’ll never be able to figure out who wrote what, or who was merely responsible for a rewrite, which is just as bad, but somewhere along the way to the finished product, thing most definitely went wrong. These writers simply went off the path. The same path that Dormer, Kinney, and Ozawa took to wind up in all the predicaments they ended up in. Because of this terrible writing, so much of this film never achieved what it could’ve achieved. Now having said that, I will acknowledge that even if the story was better realized, it doesn’t mean it would’ve been good.

One thing that could’ve been better, but was still pretty decent all things considered, was the development of characters. This issue isn’t particularly new with horror, or supernatural films, or any other sort like this one, but in this case, I find that it could’ve easily been avoided. The writers attempted some things, but never followed them through. That being said, Dormer, Kinney, and Ozawa were able to work wonders with the little they got. More so Dormer than anyone, but still it helped. I could see some strong character in what Dormer did, and it actually made me care about her. I already liked her, but that could be the bias I have as I am a fan of hers. However, the little bit of the character just deepened the access, as did the backstory that could’ve been anything really. It showed this great bond they had as sisters.

Another thing that I blame on the writing and the three writers needed for this film (again, three writers?!) is the fact that this film wanted to be so many more things than just a horror film. The horror element, which again weren’t even attempted, was the primary focus, with a slight and undercooked approach to character, again, which is typical. As this didn’t happen, one had to hope there’d be more.

Fortunately it seemed there would be. This forest, referred to at times in the film as in real life, as the “Suicide Forest”, is believed to have some sort of supernatural qualities, like a lot of beliefs held in Japan. Not bad. This also makes sense. So, automatically there’s a psychological thriller element. Are the characters actually seeing supernatural things occurring or is it all in their heads? Are their minds working overdrive because of fear and uncertainty, maybe even plain paranoia? That’s the question that arises from time to time, but is seldom explored in any deep meaning or one that’s memorable or certainly could override the boringness that is the majority of the film. My thoughts kept drifting back to how beneficial this could’ve been. I would’ve rather had uncertainty and a feeling that maybe my own mind was being messed with, but it was replaced immediately by the need to show ghosts or not-so-disturbing images which led to bad jump scares.

Even if the character exploration was better done, I don’t think it could’ve come through enough for a well made film. It would’ve ended up being yet another element that needed to be balanced in a film with too much going on, a majority not well executed, and too many writers getting in the way of their own work.

With horror films, no matter the type, one thing is expected. Scares. It’s why horror fans watch them, and usually end up being disappointed. However, they at least usually can rely on cheap and badly executed thrills and scares. With some of these films, it’s the least that can be done. Asking for anything more from a horror film really wold be a waste of breath. I wish I could say that hoping studios and writer’s could learn from this film, but that too would be a waste of breath.

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