Review: ‘The Forest’ doesn’t live up to its ghost-story potential

Natalie Dormer and Taylor Kinney in "The Forest."
Natalie Dormer and Taylor Kinney in “The Forest.”
(James Dittiger / Gramercy Pictures via AP)

The supernatural thriller “The Forest” begins with an intriguing premise and fun, ghost story-type potential but quickly devolves into convoluted hokum that produces more laughs than scares.

Sara (Natalie Dormer), a married young American, learns that her punkier twin sister, Jess (also Dormer), a teacher living in Japan, is missing after visiting the eerie Aokigahara Forest near Mt. Fuji. What if the forest, a legendary suicide spot said to be populated by angry spirits, drew Jess into its evil clutches?

See the most-read stories in Entertainment this hour >>

Sara, convinced Jess is still alive, hops a plane to Japan. Upon arrival, Sara conveniently meets a hunky travel writer (Taylor Kinney), who happens to be going to the forest the next day.


Off they traipse into the woods, of which Sara is told, “If you see something bad, it’s in your head.” This conceit pretty much allows for anything to happen to anyone for any reason, upping the film’s sloppy-silly quotient.

SIGN UP for the free Indie Focus movies newsletter >>

Director Jason Zada has trouble squaring the spooky action with the script’s stabs at emotional resonance choppily penned by Ben Ketai, Sarah Cornwell and Nick Antosca. By the film’s fuzzy climax, it feels as if the editor went home early. Audiences may want to follow suit.

‘The Forest’

MPAA Rating: PG-13, for disturbing thematic content and imagesRunning time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Playing: In general release