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the forest horror movie review

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For a while, "The Forest" defies expectations. We're used to the usual scare sequences, in which some eerie music plays on the soundtrack while some character wanders through a spooky locale. The music builds as the inevitable startle moment approaches, and when it arrives, there's the dissonant, deafening sting to accompany the howl/screech/yell of the frightener and whatever terrifying form it takes (monster, masked killer, pale demonic child, etc.).

In his debut feature, director Jason Zada doesn't quite take the usual route. Sure, our protagonist wanders through an assortment of dark, potentially haunted places, but that score is absent. There's a reliance on building tension with editing rhythms and ambient noise here that theoretically is refreshing. When the inevitable does arrive, that jarring music cue is absent (the growl/shriek/scream is, of course, still present, because the audience's reflexes have to be tested somehow). Zada clearly knows that the usual tactics have grown stale and predictable, and while he isn't exactly reinventing the wheel here, he's at least reducing some of the traction by eliminating an aural redundancy.

It doesn't last for the entirety of the movie, though. That would be hoping for too much at a time when it seems that every other (if not every) mainstream horror movie feels obligated to end with a shot of the visage of some allegedly frightening entity rapidly approaching the camera. This movie does not buck that trend, and indeed, the other cheap, familiar tactics eventually show up here, too. In the meantime, there are plenty of other ones to compensate for the ones that are absent but not missed.

The story follows Sara Price ( Natalie Dormer ), who has come to Tokyo after receiving a call from local police that her twin sister Jess (also played by Dormer) has gone missing (it's a little amusing that Sara shows people a picture of Jess when all she really needs to do is point at her own face and say, "But she has black hair"). Jess was last seen walking into Aokigahara, a forest at the base of Mount Fuji that has become known as the "Suicide Forest," on account of the considerable number of people who end their lives within it. Legend is that spirits in the forest feed on people's sadness, driving them to suicide. The sisters, of course, have a traumatic event from their past that is easy fodder for the spirits.

Sara is determined to search the woods for her sister, even though everyone warns her not to venture into the place. She's eventually accompanied by Aiden ( Taylor Kinney ), a travel magazine writer who thinks her story would make for a good article, and Michi ( Yukiyoshi Ozawa ), who makes regular rounds through Aokigahara to search for bodies.

The screenplay by Nick Antosca , Sarah Cornwell , and Ben Ketai is in a rush to start, with the movie's expository scenes playing out in flashback as Sara arrives in Tokyo, but still takes a long while for anything significant to happen. As Sara uncovers more details about Jess' activities leading up to her disappearance, the movie offers scene after scene of her walking through darkened spaces, winding up startled, and realizing that it was all just a dream (the "It was only a dream" gimmick occurs so often that it deflates whatever tension may exist in the earlier scenes). Whatever difference Zada's relatively minimalist approach to scenes might make, it does not outweigh the overarching feeling that the movie falls into a predictable, repetitive routine.

The central locale (a real place with depressing, ever-increasing statistics that might make one question the taste of exploiting/publicizing it) holds a lot of promise. That promise, though, is only realized in fleeting flourishes—menacing fog rolls through the forest, tape and rope connected to trees serve as guides to the bodies of those who wanted to be found, a river seemingly changes course to discombobulate Sara. That last one points to the method of much of the movie's third act, which raises questions of what is real and what is imagined. There's little rhyme or reason to the confusion. It's just a matter of convenience to lead the story to its underwhelming, sort-of twist.

The admiration for the little that Zada does differently in the early sections of "The Forest" does not last for long, as the movie repeatedly hits the same beats over and over again. Zada's film ends up feeling like an extended journey to a predestined shrug of a conclusion. 

Mark Dujsik

Mark Dujsik

Mark Dujsik has been writing about film since 2001. He is the sole writer, editor, and publisher of Mark Reviews Movies. Mark was a staff writer/co-critic at UR Chicago Magazine from 2007 until the end of its print edition in 2008, has written reviews for various online publications, and currently contributes to Magill’s Cinema Annual.

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Film Credits

The Forest movie poster

The Forest (2016)

Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and images.

Natalie Dormer as Sara / Jess Price

Eoin Macken as Rob

Taylor Kinney as Aiden

Noriko Sakura as Mayumi

Yukiyoshi Ozawa as Michi

Yûho Yamashita as Sakura

Rina Takasaki as Hoshiko

Kikuo Ichikawa as Businessman

  • Nick Antosca
  • Sarah Cornwell


  • Mattias Troelstrup
  • Bear McCreary

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‘the forest’: film review.

Natalie Dormer and Taylor Kinney co-star in Jason Zada’s debut feature, a supernatural suspenser set in Japan.

By Justin Lowe

Justin Lowe

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With a vast array of supernatural beliefs and some of the most memorable psychological horror movies of the past dozen years, Japanese popular culture offers a wealth of references for any suspense film. Audiences unfamiliar with this legacy may initially find The Forest ’s imitative stylistic flourishes intriguing, although first-time feature director Jason Zada and his trio of screenwriters spurn most of the genre’s rich legacy.

By selecting only a few ghostly elements to establish some context and a modicum of authenticity, The Forest seems determined to withhold scares while attempting to establish a persuasive tone, although moviegoers will likely remain unconvinced by a low-wattage cast confined to an unfamiliar setting and a lack of franchise identity.

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Release date: Jan 08, 2016

Zada’s protagonist is Sara (Natalie Dormer), a thirtyish woman of comfortable social status who’s married to Rob ( Eoin Macken ), a restaurateur. It’s been some time since she’s seen her twin sister Jess (also played by Dormer), who has moved to Japan to teach English. Although they’re close in that twins kind of way, Sara is relieved that Jess has relocated to try something new, hoping it will alleviate her sister’s more self-destructive tendencies. So when Sara gets a call from the school where Jess teaches saying that her twin has gone missing in the notorious Aokigahara forest adjacent to sacred Mt. Fuji, she flies off to Tokyo the next day, leaving her concerned husband behind.

Read more Global 2015 Box Office: Revenue Hits Record $38 Billion-Plus

Her urgent response is based on Aokigahara’s reputation as a place where the distraught go to contemplate their fates or end their lives. Unable to extract much information from students or administrators at Jess’ school, Sara travels to the Aokigahara vicinity by train, taking a room in a forest inn where she encounters Aiden ( Taylor Kinney ), an American who speaks Japanese and claims to be a travel writer. Perhaps a bit too sympathetic to Sara’s dilemma, he explains to her more about Aokigahara’s reputation as a “suicide forest” haunted by angry spirits eager to draw the living into their tortured realm. Despite these rumors, he offers to take her with him on a forest walk guided by a local ranger, if she’ll agree to let him write a profile on her unusual situation.

The next day, Aiden introduces her to Michi ( Yukiyoshi Ozawa), who expresses concern about taking Sara into the woods, saying that her sadness over her sister’s disappearance may attract the vindictive yurei spirits. When she refuses to remain behind, insisting she knows that her sister is still alive, Michi leads Sara and Aiden into Aokigahara , also known as the “sea of trees.” Almost from the first moment entering the forest, the strange sounds and visions that have been plaguing her since her sister vanished begin to intensify as the group finds signs of recent suicide attempts. By the end of the day, Sara has seen enough to convince her that Jess is alive somewhere in the vast woodland, so she insists on remaining overnight. Aiden agrees to stay with her and keep watch, even after Michi departs, but neither is prepared for the frightening revelations that darkness will bring.  

Read more ‘The Sea of Trees’: Cannes Review

With the exception of one traumatic event from Jess and Sara’s childhood, the writers offer scant backstory to justify Jess’ disappearance, other than some dubious discussion of past, halfhearted suicidal tendencies. While the dense forest setting, substituting Serbia for Japan, creates a broodingly ominous atmosphere all its own, more than 30 minutes pass before any decent scares manifest. Meanwhile, the trio of hikers wanders around the woods without maps or obvious trails, somehow managing not to get completely turned around.

When darkness brings out Aokigahara’s barely concealed malevolence, the incidents that terrify Sara stretch credulity in a strictly practical sense. A segment depicting how rising fear drives her to question and disparage Aiden’s motivations elicits some inventive paranoia, but it’s not sustained for long. What’s worse, a promising hint that the forest may be acting as an independent, sentient entity that expels or consumes intruders is similarly wasted, while the final scenes entirely lack credibility.

Although he can’t quite get a grip on guiding the lightweight narrative, Zada demonstrates a fluid visual style, particularly in the complex sequences filmed in the forest settings. The horror flourishes are largely by the book, however, drawing little inspiration from Japanese sources or demonstrating much inventiveness. The fairly spare visual effects are also disappointing, offering nothing surprising in terms of either imagery or execution.

Dormer ( Game of Thrones ) sometimes seems confused by her character’s poorly explained personal mythology, but when it comes to conveying terror, her reaction registers are only mild alarm. Kinney ( Chicago Fire ) has some intriguing moments and with a stronger script could have made more of Aiden’s inclination for duplicity, but he ends up hamstrung by the narrative’s plot-related demands. Ozawa, a promising American-trained actor, and Macken serve largely functional roles without much opportunity to distinguish themselves.

Production companies: AI Film Entertainment, Lava Bear Films , Phantom Four Films

Distributor: Gramercy Pictures

Cast: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Eoin Macken

Director: Jason Zada

Screenwriters: Ben Ketai , Sarah Cornwell , Nick Antosca

Producers: David S. Goyer , Tory Metzger , David Linde

Executive producers: Len Blavatnik , Aviv Giladi , Lawrence Bender, Andrew Pfeffer

Director of photography: Mattias Troelstrup

Production designer: Kevin Phipps

Costume designer: Bojana Nikitovic

Editor: Jim Flynn

Music: Bear McCreary

Casting director: Elaine Grainger

Rated PG-13, 95 minutes

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My Favorite Horror

What is your favorite horror?

The Forest (2016) Horror Movie Review

“The Forest,” directed by Jason Zada , is a psychological horror film that takes its audience on a haunting journey through the real-life Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mount Fuji, notoriously known as the Suicide Forest. The movie follows Sara Price, played by Natalie Dormer, who ventures into the ominous woods in search of her twin sister, Jess, also portrayed by Dormer, who has mysteriously disappeared. Jason Zada is credit for writing The Houses October Built .

The film opens with a sense of urgency and a rush of expository scenes that set the stage for Sara’s desperate search. As she arrives in Tokyo and heads to the forest, the audience is quickly introduced to the legend that the spirits within Aokigahara prey on sadness, driving individuals to their demise. This premise alone sets a chilling backdrop for the narrative, promising a blend of emotional depth and supernatural elements.

Zada’s approach to horror deviates from the conventional path. Early on, the film relies on ambient noise and editing rhythms to build tension, rather than the typical eerie score that often accompanies the genre. This choice is refreshing and adds a layer of authenticity to the experience, making the audience feel as if they are part of Sara’s journey, every step of the way.

However, as the story unfolds, “The Forest” seems to fall back into familiar territory, employing some of the more predictable scare tactics that the genre is known for. Despite this, the film offers a few twists and turns that keep the viewers engaged. Natalie Dormer delivers a compelling performance, effectively portraying the dual roles of Sara and Jess, which becomes a central element to the film’s psychological exploration.

Critics have had mixed reactions to “The Forest.” Some appreciate the slow build-up of suspense and the cerebral approach to horror, while others find it lacking in genuine scares and too reliant on horror tropes. The film has been described as an “expertly crafted missed opportunity,” with solidly intriguing ideas that it hesitates to fully explore. Despite the criticisms, “The Forest” has been noted for its visual appeal and the performance of its lead actress.

In the Nutshell

“The Forest” is a film that may not redefine the horror genre but offers a unique setting and a strong lead performance that are worth the watch for fans of psychological thrillers and supernatural horror. It’s a movie that walks the line between exploiting the lore of its setting and providing a character-driven story of resilience and determination against unseen forces. Whether it succeeds in delivering a truly frightening experience is subjective, but it certainly provides a thought-provoking look into the depths of sorrow and the human psyche. I give 2 out of 5 stars.

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Movie Review: The Forest (2016)

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  • --> January 16, 2016

In junior high school, my good friend Sara would show me “fast-forward” versions of films — she would sit me down and show me her favorite movies, speeding through the parts that were too drawn-out and inconsequential, with the purpose of getting to the good stuff faster.

The Forest , the first mainstream horror movie of 2016, begins with just this type of “fast-forwarding” in order to “get to the good stuff.”

Having recently been informed that her identical twin sister, Jess, has gone missing in Japan, Sara Price (both girls played by Natalie Dormer, “ The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 ”) becomes determined to find her. She shrugs off any professional advice from authorities and any offers of help from her husband, growing increasingly convinced that her sister, reported to have disappeared into Japan’s “Suicide Forest,” is alive, yet lost, and needs her help.

She arrives in Japan and is warned about the dangers of the Aokigahara forest — known as the “Sea of Trees,” the forest is incredibly dense, standing at the foot of Mt. Fuji and resting above a network of ice caves. A real location, and the site of hundreds of suicides, the Aokigahara forest is believed to be home to malevolent demons (who lure people into the forest, confusing them with voices and visions, causing them to become irretrievably lost), and yurei , lost souls filled with sadness and anger seeking vengeance for wrongs in their mortal lives. Despite the warnings of every Japanese man and woman with whom she comes into contact, Sara pushes on, visiting the school where her sister taught, speaking with her students, and searching her apartment for clues about her state of mind. She boards a train for the Aokigahara forest, and meets Aiden (Taylor Kinney, “ Rock the Kasbah ”) a travel reporter who convinces a Japanese guide friend of his to take her along on their next hike through the forest.

The guide, Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa, “ Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends ”), tells Sara that he walks through the forest regularly to search for the remains of men and women who have committed suicide, or have gotten lost in the trees succumbing to the elements. He stresses the importance of searching only in the daytime, and tells Sara that anything bad she sees is only in her head, and isn’t real. As in every encounter she’s had to this point, Sara disregards what he tells her, and decides she wants to take the lead, drawing the small group down a new path that leads them to a tent she recognizes as her sister’s. Convinced Jess is nearby, she refuses to leave, and she and Aiden remain in the forest overnight, faced with those visions and voices and terrors they were repeatedly and emphatically warned of.

Written by Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell and Ben Ketai, The Forest is an exercise in watching an arrogant foreigner tramp her way into another country’s historical landmark, convinced she knows better than those native to the area. Granted, Dormer’s Sara is intent on saving her sister’s life, but she comes across as rude, ungrateful, and completely condescending to the Japanese men and women who try to keep her from making a terrible mistake. She is the typical horror-movie-girl who boldly, and foolishly, marches into the dark room where everyone — including all of the characters — knows a madman lurks. Despite how often she tells you she wants to save her sister, Sara speaks of Jess very coldly — she describes her as always needing to be bailed out of trouble, as someone dealing with her own demons, as the one who looks at the dark side of life. She tells Aiden that Jess tried to commit suicide twice before, and we’re shown that Jess takes anti-anxiety medication, but at no point does Sara seem genuinely concerned for Jess’s well-being or state of mind. She’s treated as an annoying errand interrupting Sara’s otherwise upscale life. As a result, it’s difficult to sympathize with Sara’s insistence that she can “sense” that her twin is still alive and in need of help. Moreover, her treatment and disregard for everyone who’s trying to convince her that the Aokigahara forest is a very real and very dangerous threat makes you feel that she deserves what’s likely coming to her.

As a horror film, The Forest is short on frights, relying principally on loud noises that precede rush-at-you/in-your-face jumps scattered throughout the narrative, seemingly as ways to remind the viewer that the movie is supposed to be scary. The writing, as mentioned already, is rushed in the beginning, but it doesn’t get appreciably better once it settles from condensed conflict set-up to main character in danger essentials. Additionally, the conversations had between most characters are stiff, flat, and, at times, laughable; for example, when showing Aiden a cellphone picture of her missing twin, Sara says, “Same, right?” and Aiden replies, “Identical.” Finally, it’s incredibly difficult to suspend disbelief (an accepted element of watching horror) when Sara seems to have purchased the world’s one-and-only never-ending cellphone battery — her constant use of the cellphone flashlight is incredibly distracting, putting more focus on the unlikelihood of still having power after two days in the forest than on the tension that should be developed by a character exploring a dark cave.

Overall, while the movie itself isn’t necessarily boring, it creates more frustration than fright. The Forest , like its protagonist, doesn’t respect the history of a real place in the world; instead, it cheapens a somber location into another disappointing supernatural horror movie that will soon be gone from theaters and forgotten in minds.

Tagged: forest , investigation , Japan , sister , suicide , supernatural

The Critical Movie Critics

School teacher by day. Horror aficionado by night.

Movie Review: Little Fish (2020) Movie Review: The Unholy (2021) Movie Review: The Mark of the Bell Witch (2020) Movie Review: Chop Chop (2020) Movie Review: Coven of Evil (2020) Movie Review: Mara (2018) Movie Review: The First Purge (2018)

'Movie Review: The Forest (2016)' have 5 comments

The Critical Movie Critics

January 16, 2016 @ 8:50 pm CANMBIE

Who is Natalie Dormer and why are they trying so hard to make her a star?

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The Critical Movie Critics

January 17, 2016 @ 12:16 am LiamAllGood

She’s Britain’s answer to Jennifer Lawrence and because of Game Of Thrones and The Hunger Games she is a nerd’s fantasy girl. This was supposed to be her leading lady coming out party. Guess it didn’t go off as planned.

The Critical Movie Critics

January 16, 2016 @ 10:21 pm Eliot

The moment anyone in a film knowingly and willfully goes against the advice of those with specific knowledge to their cause, I wish them a foul end.

The Critical Movie Critics

January 17, 2016 @ 9:52 am CSchell

The Forest. The Boy. With inventive names like those it’s hard to imagine them not being great!

The Critical Movie Critics

February 1, 2016 @ 6:10 pm future-amplification

I don’t see it as harshly as you do Lisa. It principally relies on jump scares for its abrupt shocks but I thought it had the psychological creepy factor the entire time. It also ended with a good twist that I didn’t see coming

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the forest horror movie review

Ghost story has promising start but too many jump-scares.

The Forest Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Not a "message movie," but characters do choose to

Though the characters are helpful and interesting,

Bloody wounds; gory images of dead bodies with blo

A character alludes to picking up college girls by

One or two uses of "s--t," "damn," "goddamn," "Jes

One shot of Nike shoes. A View Master toy is part

Some social drinking. Characters share beers at a

Parents need to know that The Forest is a horror movie set in the real-life Aokigahara forest near Japan's Mt. Fuji, where many people go to commit suicide and which is rumored to be haunted. There are lots of creepy ghosts, hanging bodies, scary sounds, and jump-scares; some blood is shown, and characters…

Positive Messages

Not a "message movie," but characters do choose to help others (some more selflessly than others). The movie may also encourage teens to discuss the issue of suicide.

Positive Role Models

Though the characters are helpful and interesting, they don't really learn or grow, and their behavior isn't exemplary or worth emulating. And their helpfulness doesn't pay off in the end.

Violence & Scariness

Bloody wounds; gory images of dead bodies with blood pooling around them. Lots of scary ghosts, scary sounds, and jump-scares. Hanging corpses in a forest. Character falls into a cave, with a painful injured foot. Creepy maggots. Knife held to throat, character stabbed in chest, knife stabbing at clutched fingers. Talk and images of suicide. Shotgun shown.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

A character alludes to picking up college girls by memorizing poetry.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

One or two uses of "s--t," "damn," "goddamn," "Jesus" (as an exclamation).

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Products & Purchases

One shot of Nike shoes. A View Master toy is part of the plot.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some social drinking. Characters share beers at a bar while talking. Spoken story about a drunk driver killing people.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Forest is a horror movie set in the real-life Aokigahara forest near Japan's Mt. Fuji, where many people go to commit suicide and which is rumored to be haunted. There are lots of creepy ghosts, hanging bodies, scary sounds, and jump-scares; some blood is shown, and characters die. A knife is used to cut and stab, and a shotgun is shown. Language is infrequent but does include uses of "s--t" and "goddamn." There's some social drinking, and a scene of characters talking and sharing beers in a bar. Sex isn't an issue. As far as horror movies go, this one isn't terrible, and horror hounds will be interested. And fans of Natalie Dormer ( The Hunger Games , Game of Thrones , etc.) will want to see her in her first major starring role. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

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Community Reviews

  • Parents say (7)
  • Kids say (14)

Based on 7 parent reviews

Good option for preteens who are looking for a scary movie.

Predicatble, spooky, umimpressing horror flick, what's the story.

Sara Price ( Natalie Dormer ) gets worried when she doesn't hear from her twin sister, Jess (also Dormer), who's been teaching in Japan. Sara learns that Jess went to the Aokigahara forest near Mt. Fuji, a place legendary for its unholy history; they say that people go there to commit suicide and that dark spirits wander within. Undaunted -- and sure that her sister is still alive -- Sara journeys there and meets travel writer Aiden ( Taylor Kinney ), who knows a man, Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa), who knows the forest. The trio go searching and find Jess' abandoned tent. Sara decides to spend the night but soon starts seeing and hearing strange things. Before long, she's no longer sure what, or who, she can trust.

Is It Any Good?

This ghost story starts off well, with an interesting setup and characters, but then it starts relying too much on cheap jump-scares and eventually lets the mystery slip away and fall apart. Director Jason Zada clearly started out with some good ideas, combining images from J-horror and American scary movies, as well as a terrifying forest setting, with its hideous mixture of crawling life and creeping death. And Dormer, who stole scenes in The Hunger Games films and on Game of Thrones , brings unexpected depth; she creates a touching relationship with ... herself, playing her own twin.

On the downside, THE FOREST uses the same sudden percussive sounds and visual effects that most other horror movies use, and as the story goes on, things become more muddled. The storytellers clearly want to keep some kind of mystery alive, but their juggling act starts to fall apart, relying on shocks instead of ideas. It's an admirable attempt but ultimately a disappointment.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about The Forest 's violence . How much is shown, and how much is suggested? Which has more impact, and why? Do different kinds of violence have different effects?

Is the movie scary ? How are jump-scares different from scary sounds or other types of slow-building scares? Which scares you more?

How does the movie address suicide? What makes some people think that that's their only option? What impact does their decision have on their friends and family? Where can kids in despair turn for assistance ?

How does Sara decide whether to trust -- or not trust -- Aiden? How do we decide who to trust in life? Who do you trust, and why?

Movie Details

  • In theaters : January 8, 2016
  • On DVD or streaming : April 12, 2016
  • Cast : Natalie Dormer , Taylor Kinney , Yukiyoshi Ozawa
  • Director : Jason Zada
  • Inclusion Information : Female actors
  • Studio : Gramercy Pictures
  • Genre : Horror
  • Topics : Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
  • Run time : 95 minutes
  • MPAA rating : PG-13
  • MPAA explanation : disturbing thematic content and images
  • Last updated : May 21, 2024

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The Forest Review


26 Feb 2016

This is the second film in a year to centre on an American who ventures into the Aokigahara forest at the foot of Mount Fuji, a notorious suicide spot. As with Gus Van Sant’s Sea Of Trees , which screened at Cannes last year and then vanished, there’s something a little distasteful about using a real place of tragedy as the backdrop for some Westerner to have a personal revelation. And it’s even worse to use it as the setting for a rather average set of horror scares, which is unfortunately what we get here.

The sheer number of jump scares wears any tension down to nothing.

In the lead-and-supporting roles, Dormer is rather good as a twin who has her own demons to face while she searches for her missing sister. On arrival in Japan, she meets a handsome but slightly shady journalist (Kinney) who invites her to accompany his guided tour of the forest with ranger Michi (Ozawa). That sets up a nice but brief dilemma: is the forest itself really malevolent, or is something seriously amiss with Sara’s travelling companions? Kinney at least seems like bad news, but there are a few too many mysterious and monstrous visions in the woods for this to work as a straightforward thriller.

Instead, things devolve fairly quickly into another ghost story, albeit one set in glorious arboreal surroundings. There are jump scares aplenty and horrific apparitions all around, but the sheer number of them wears any tension down to nothing.

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Movies | 31 08 2016

The Forest

Review by Brian Eggert January 10, 2016


Going into a horror movie like The Forest , one automatically lowers one’s expectations. After all, it’s an early January release, a time that’s historically a dumping ground for brainless fodder soon to be forgotten. Regrettably, The Forest meets standard January release expectations. Viewers will leave it with a shrug. Rated PG-13 and devoid of suspense, the movie relies on a series of generic jump-scares to jolt the audience. Fortunately, the movie stars British actor Natalie Dormer, best know for roles on The Tudors and Game of Thrones , as well as rebel director Cressida from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and  Mockingjay Part 2 . She’s a promising lead in dual roles as twin sisters, but she’s wasted on a dull script and hokey delivery.

At least the concept is interesting. Japan’s Aokigahara forest (a.k.a. The Suicide Forest) at the base of Mt. Fuji carries a disturbing legend in real-life. Locals have been known to enter and commit suicide, or get themselves lost and never return from the lush woodlands. It’s a haunting idea ripe for filmic exploitation and mishandling. Indeed, Gus Van Sant’s The Sea of Trees , which debuted during 2015’s Cannes Film Festival to unfavorable reviews and has yet to secure U.S. distribution, explored the Aokigahara forest with stars Matthew McConaughey, Naomi Watts, and Ken Watanabe. Both that film and The Forest exploit the myth of these woods, although this yarn was largely inspired by J-horror and all its various clichés.

Dormer stars as American identical twin sisters who are annoyingly distinguishable. Sara is blonde, responsible, and carries a mild parental temperament; Jess is goth, her nose pierced, and more of a risk taker. When Jess goes missing in Aokigahara forest while teaching abroad, Sara uses her twin sense powers to feel that something is very wrong. She heads to Japan to find Jess, learns of the Aokigahara forest, and teams up with a friendly travel reporter Aiden (Taylor Kinney) and a forest guide Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa) to wander the woods and find her. Early on, Michi warns Sara that the forest is haunted by yurei , ghosts who torment those who are sad or weak. The yurei will make her see and do things she normally wouldn’t, so Michi cautions that Sara just needs to remember it’s all in her head. Do you think she takes that advice? Spoiler: No, she doesn’t.

From start to finish, you can look forward to all the formulaic scenes you might imagine would come from a Hollywood J-horror mash-up. Expect giggling Japanese schoolgirls turning into gray-faced ghosts. Expect strange sounds to draw people out from the safety of the forest trail or from tents at night. Expect hallucinatory spirits to leap out from the dark. Expect someone to be revealed as dead in a twisty twist. And, like most horror movies nowadays, expect a final shot of a badly animated CGI ghostface leaping at the screen for one last prod at the audience. Director Jason Zada and his trio of scripters (Ben Ketai, Sarah Cornwell, and Nick Antosca) haven’t put much effort into drawing outside of the sketchy blueprint for such horror fare, so it all seems very familiar.

Normally, familiarity wouldn’t be a problem if it were matched with equal measures of formal innovation or interesting characters. But The Forest not only doesn’t have a novel filmic approach, the story overlooks the cultural significance of Aokigahara for the Japanese by centering the events around an American. When upwards of 2,500 Japanese people commit “honorable suicide” in Aokigahara each year, the movie’s whitewashing of the story seems unnecessarily exceptionalist. Instead of turning the forest into a place where Japanese people find some kind of sad and disturbing comfort on a mass scale, the filmmakers have chosen to turn the place into a haunted house. Not only is The Forest a bad movie, it’s also a culturally offensive one.


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The Forest (2016) Ending, Explained

 of The Forest (2016) Ending, Explained

‘The Forest’ is a horror movie that presents a thrilling story revolving around the infamous Aokighara Forest in Japan. The actual forest is often referred to as “the suicide forest” as it has become one of the world’s most-used suicide sites. Moreover, it is also believed to be haunted by the locals. The movie stars Natalie Dormer of ‘Game of Thrones ‘ fame. She plays two characters in the movie: Sara and her twin sister, Jess. The former heads into the Aokighara Forest in search of the latter who has been missing.

The Forest Plot Suumary

Sara is informed by the Japanese police that her twin sister, Jess is suspected to be dead since she entered the Aokighara forest and has not returned for a few days. The forest is thought to be haunted and people who go missing in the jungle hardly return. She travels to Japan and heads to the hotel where her sister stayed.

At the hotel, a man named Aiden starts conversing with her. He is a reporter and offers to accompany her to the forest along with a guide named Michi. He wants to report Sara’s story in return. Sara tells Aiden how her parents had died after a drunk driver rammed into their car when they were turning into the driveway. Jess had ended up seeing her parents’ dead bodies while Sara had not.

In the forest, Sara finds Jess’s tent and wants to stay the night there if her sister decides to return. Michi tries to persuade her to leave and come back the next morning, but Sara disagrees. Aiden volunteers to stay with her. After Aiden sleeps, Sara hears noises in the forest and steps out of her tent. She finds a Japanese schoolgirl named Hoshiko who tells her that she knows where Jess is. However, she asks Sara to not trust Aiden and runs away upon hearing his voice.

The next day, Sara demands to check Aiden’s phone. She thinks that he has ulterior motives. She finds Jess’s picture on his phone. When Aiden continues to deny having met Jess, Sara runs away from him and ends up falling in a hole to an underground cave.

Sara sees Hoshiko in the cave once again and follows her. Hoshiko turns into a ghoulish figure, making Sara run back near the opening. Aiden finds Sara and uses a rope to pull her up. Sara’s fiance starts looking for her with Mishi and a search party.

Sara and Aiden go to an abandoned ranger station. Sara sees a closed room. A note is slipped out from under the room’s door informing Sara that Jess is in the room and that Aiden has held her captive.

Sara ends up killing Aiden with a knife after her demand for the room’s key turns into an altercation. She realizes that her distrust for Aiden had been a result of hallucinations. The door opens to a basement where she sees visions of her dead parents. It turns out that her father had killed her mother and then committed suicide. Her father’s demonic spirit grabs her wrist. To free herself, Sara uses a knife to cut her father’s spirit’s hands away.

Sara runs out of the ranger station and sees Jess running in front of her. Jess does not listen to Sara’s shrieks but she ends up making her way to the search party. She is alive and has been rescued. Sara, on the other hand, realizes that she is already dead. Sara’s father’s spirit grabbing her hand had been a hallucination. Sara had ended up cutting her own wrist and dying due to blood loss. Then, ghoulish hands grab her feet and pull her underground. Mishi glances into the forest one last time and sees Sara with a demonic face.

The Forest Ending Explained

At first glance, one might think that ‘The Forest’ has an open ending. The film takes its time to develop its premise, providing viewers only a sense of imminent danger from time to time. However, the final forty-five minutes is when the set pieces boil over for a neat conclusion. The final scene sees Michi glancing in the direction of the forest one last time. He sees Sara with a ghoulish face advance towards him in a swish and let out a scream.

This leaves several viewers to wonder whether Sara has turned into one of the forest spirits. Moreover, did she actually die? Was the forest actually haunted?

Is Sara Dead?

Firstly, the most burning question is whether Sara actually died. Unfortunately, she did. While Jessica managed to make it to the search party and get out of the forest alive, Sara died in the process of finding her. However, there might be some unclarity here.

Jess’s final words in the movie are the strongest indication of the fact that Sara actually died in the forest. After realizing that she has been rescued, Jess cannot believe that Sara risked her life to find her and is now missing. Hence, she glances into the forest, before stopping abruptly and says “That’s it. It’s silent.”

Jess’s words indicate that she cannot feel the mystical connection with her twin sister anymore. Sara had known that Jess had not died because she did not feel her twin sister’s death. According to her, the twins had an almost supernatural connection and could feel what the other was going through. Hence, Jess not feeling anything/silence indicates that this connection has been broken due to Sara’s death.

Such a connection between identical twins is referred to as “twin telepathy.” The belief that twins share a form of telepathic connection has been around for a long time. However, science has discredited such a connection due to a tiny percentage of twins actually reporting such experiences. Yet, the belief still runs strongly and ‘The Forest’ (which is fiction after all) uses this somewhat unproven characteristic. You can read more about twin telepathy here.

Moving on, the film aptly explains how Sara died. She sees visions of her late father’s spirit grabbing her hand and uses her dagger to set herself free. However, the spirit had been a figment of her imagination and Sara ends up cutting her own wrist and dies due to too much blood loss. What about the hands pulling her underground? This is best explained in the next section…

Is Aokighara Forest Haunted? What Did Michi See?

Whether the Aokighara Forest was actually haunted in the movie or not can be considered a question open to interpretation. There can be both, a psychological explanation and a supernatural one. Let’s start with the former.

One ought to remember the warnings given to Sara by multiple people at the beginning of the film. She is told that the forest makes people hallucinate and sees visions of things that trouble/sadden them the most. This is the reason Sara sees ghosts of her dead parents.

From a psychological point of view, one can imagine the psyche of a person who ends up being trapped in the forest at night. The place has a petrifying myth/legend and actual dead bodies of people who committed suicide. This ought to be quite stressful even for the most rational person. Hence, it is not too far-fetched to assume that people start to lose their minds in the forest at night and see visions of things that horrify them the most.

Michi is seen expressing his regret for not forcing Sara and Aiden to leave the forest at night. He thinks that Sara is in danger because of him. Hence, it could be this regret that makes him see a vision of a ghoulish Sara after realizing that she might be dead. If the psychological explanation is true, then Sara was not actually pulled underground by ghosts/spirits. She only hallucinated being pulled underground since she was dying anyway.

However, there is also an equally convincing supernatural explanation. The Aokighara Forest is said to be haunted by spirits of those that died there. These spirits are referred to as “yurei “ in Japanese folklore. They are said to be roaming the material world due to some unresolved emotional conflict or not having received proper last rites. Perhaps, Sara turns into a yurei and that is what Michi sees.

However, even with that explanation, it ought to be noted that Sara sees the spirits of her parents in the forest. This has to be a hallucination or another yurei showing Sara visions of things that trouble her the most since her parents’ spirits cannot be in the Aokighara forest as they did not die there.

Read More: Best Japanese Horror Movies


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Review: 'The Forest' wastes good ideas for cheap scares

Natalie dormer stars as a woman whose twin goes missing in a japanese "suicide" forest, so she goes to japan to look for her. it's a good setup, but jason zada's film suffers from an incoherent plot..

the forest horror movie review

  • Critic's rating: 2 stars out of 5
  • The setting and setup are ideal for horror
  • The horror is muted by a plot that makes little sense

“The Forest” is one of those horror movies that starts with an intriguing idea but has no idea what to do with it.

So, lacking coherent plotting, director Jason Zada opts for cheap "gotchas!" in hopes of scaring up the horror-movie crowd that still thinks having a man smack his hand on a taxi window out of nowhere during a quiet scene is up there with the shower scene in “Psycho.” (It’s not.) More discriminating horror fans can rent “It Follows,” perhaps.

"The Forest" stars Natalie Dormer as Sara Price — and as Jess Price, her identical twin sister (two roles for a “Game of Thrones” alum for the price of one). Sara is concerned because Jess, who is living in Japan, has gone missing. She explains to her husband, Rob (Eoin Macken), that their bond is such that she can tell Jess is still alive, so she hops a plane to search for her.

2016 movie guide: A preview of films opening January-April

Upon arrival, the news gets worse: Jess, a school teacher, disappeared into the Aokigahara Forest, at the base of Mount Fuji. Dense and dangerously thick with foliage, it is also known as the suicide forest, because of its popularity as a site for people to kill themselves. People who go in usually don’t want to come out, Sara is told. But she is convinced that Jess is still alive, so she insists on looking for her.

The suicide-forest part is true — Aokigahara is one of the most popular sites for suicide in the world. But everyone Sara meets warns her against going in. The principal at Jess’ school tells Sarah the forest was once used for the practice of ubasute, in which the elderly, sick and infirm were left in the forest to die. Thus it is haunted by yurei — think ghosts, only angrier.

The bottom line: Stay out of the forest.

Sara’s decision: Go into the forest.

And there’s your movie. There’s a little more to it than that. A travel writer named Aiden (Taylor Kinney) offers to accompany her, along with a guide, Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa). It wouldn’t be much of a movie if they waltzed right in and found Jess sitting by a campfire toasting marshmallows, so that doesn’t happen. That might have made more sense than what does, however, but you’ll have to decide that for yourself.

The tricky bit is that the forest is especially dangerous for people with sadness in their heart. It picks up on it and feeds off it. You see bad things there, things that are not out there, Michi explains, but in here, pointing to his head.

The writers responsible for the screenplay should have paid a little more attention to what's in there, too. It comes as no great surprise that Sara and Aiden wind up having to spend the night in the forest — the last, worst option — or that plenty of yurei will make an appearance before the movie is over. But the resolution, in its attempt to reveal a character’s inner torment, winds up feeling like it came out of nowhere.

The Forest (2016) | Phoenix Arizona Movie Theater Showtimes Reviews

Like the old guy who smacks the taxi.

Horror movies are notoriously hard to conclude in a satisfying manner. You just have to hope that what has come before makes up for the potential let-down. And sure, if you throw a monster at the screen with an attendant goosing of the soundtrack, you’ll jump. But, despite its setting and its setup, “The Forest” never establishes the sense of dread that should come naturally to it. Boo! Big surprise. The end.

That about covers it.

'The Forest' 2 stars

Director:  Jason Zada.

Cast:  Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa.

Rating:  PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and images.

Great ★★★★★ Good ★★★★

Fair ★★★ Bad ★★ Bomb ★

Screen Rant

The forest: hallucinations and ending explained.


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30 Best Horror Movies Set In The Woods

10 scariest horror movies based on japanese legends, scarlett johansson's post-mcu rotten tomatoes streak continues with fly me to the moon.

  • Sara's hallucinations in The Forest were caused by yūrei, spirits of the "ruined" who haunt the Aokigahara forest due to its high suicides.
  • Sara's eventual accidental suicide in The Forest was a result of her traumatic past and the negative thoughts that attracted the yūrei.
  • The ending of The Forest leaves Sara trapped in the forest forever, but there is a hint that she may have successfully moved on after saving her sister.

The ending of The Forest movie explained that Sara Price went to save her sister Jess from the Aokigahara forest in Japan. However, she did not expect to find the supernatural living between the trees taking hold of her with auditory and visual hallucinations. Starring Natalie Dormer as twins Jess and Sara Price, the complex relationship of two traumatized sisters is amplified by the stress-inducing nature of their location. The film begins as Sara travels to Japan after hearing that her sister entered the Aokigahara forest in Japan.

As The Forest movie explained, Aokigahara forest is infamous due to the high number of suicides there, meaning that Jess is probably dead. Sara claims to still “feel” her sister, so sets off for Japan to search the forest to find her. She enters with a guide named Aiden (Taylor Kinney), but as night falls, Sara begins to hear and see things. The supernatural hallucinations overtake her, causing her to die by accidental suicide right as Jess escapes. In The Forest , the expected script is flipped on the sisters as the put-together one, Sara, dies, whereas the troubled Jess, lives.

The Witch, Evil Dead and Eden Lake

Horror movies set in the woods have existed as long as the genre itself, but only the best know how to make forests truly terrifying.

The Supernatural Hallucinations Explained

Why was sara hallucinating in the forest.

Before Sara enters the woods, she is warned that yūrei reside within it. They are the supernatural entities that control the hallucinations she experiences that lead to her end. In Japanese folklore , yūrei are the spirits of the “ruined,” meaning anyone who died by suicide or otherwise died in a traumatic way. When a person dies, they wait for their proper rites to be performed and then move on to the other side. Those who die violently do not have their final rites, and they then exist to haunt where they died.

Once the yūrei enter the picture, Sara's hallucinations begin.

As the Aokigahara forest is known for its suicides, it is a hotbed for yūrei . If one of these spirits senses a negative thought in any form, it can enter the physical world and escalate the situation to meet an end. Even the most innocuous thought can disturb the yūrei. Once the yūrei enter the picture, Sara's hallucinations begin. She realized her mistrust of Aiden was based on hallucinations. She also hallucinates that her parents are there, which is because her father killed her mother and then died by suicide. Her trauma was great, and the hallucinations led to her eventual death.

Two side by side images from Howling Village and Kwaidan.

Some of these scary horror movies draw direct inspiration from classic or urban Japanese legends, while others are merely inspired by them.

The Forest Ending Explained

What happened to sara in the forest.

Sara pulled into the ground in The Forest

​​​​​​​Before entering the forest, Michi asks Sara not to enter because she appears sad, making her a target for the yūrei. As The Forest reaches its end, Sara’s hallucinations escalate to the point where she believes she is cutting her father's hands away from her. Freed from his haunting, she tries to escape the woods and finally finds Jess. Sara races to Jess and yells for her, but her friend does not hear her and heads to the rescue party that found her. Sara realizes that when she cut her father's hands, it was a hallucination, and she cut her wrists instead. Sara died by suicide without realizing it.

Jess escapes and Sara is now trapped in the forest forever. However, there is a hint that Sara won't become a yūrei. The last thing Jess says is that it is " silent ," meaning she can't hear her twin sister anymore. This means Sara is dead, but the fact the twin telepathy has been broken could mean that Sara successfully moved on after saving her sister.

Ultimately, The Forest highlights the emotions one can experience when a person is threatened with the possible loss of a loved one. It is a thrilling horror film that offers a lesson in Japanese folklore and insight into a culture foreign to Western eyes.

the forest horror movie review

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The Forest is a 2016 horror film centering on a woman's search for her sister after she disappears in Aokigahara in Japan, also known as the Suicide Forest. Natalie Dormer and Stephanie Vogt star as the two sisters, with Jason Zada directing the film. Upon release, the film saw controversy and was criticized for trivializing the tragedy that has taken place in the real-life forest for decades. 

The Forest (2016)

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The Forest Review

Exploration, discovery, and cannibalism in a story-rich survival horror sandbox..

Leana Hafer Avatar

I’ve been dumped in the middle of a foreboding, eerily quiet wilderness – like you typically are in open-world first-person survival games. As I make my way to the nearest coast, I’m startled out of my foraging by a bestial grunt and prepare to defend myself. But the hunched and disheveled creature pursuing me stops several yards short of tearing my face off… and waits to see what I do. This was the moment I realize The Forest is going to spend the next 30ish hours cleverly and terrifyingly subverting my expectations.

The wooded, alpine peninsula that becomes your home is almost idyllic in its quiet splendor, made up of delightfully verdant woodlands and sparkling ponds. But it’s also inhabited by several tribes of feral, macabre cannibals who mark their territory with grotesque effigies of human skin and bone from their victims. From the moment I first came across one, the peaceful, easy feeling turned into a constant paranoia. Everything was always just a bit too quiet, and even twigs snapping from my own footsteps or a rabbit darting out of a bush could make me jump.

Unlike so many video game enemies, the cannibals aren’t suicidally aggressive, and that’s what makes them so unsettling. The Forest’s greatest triumph is the convincing self-preservation of the AI that governs their behavior. Sometimes they run away. Sometimes they’re content to follow you at a safe distance to figure out where your base is so they can report back to their friends. Sometimes they’ll charge you to test your mettle, but stop short if you don’t back down.

The feeling that I was sharing these woods with intelligent enemies sent actual shivers up my spine.There are fascinating and observable differences in behavior between the different tribes, between individuals in the same tribe, and even contextual attitudes based on how much they have you outnumbered, what time of day it is, and how much you've changed the environment with the simple but functional base-building system. The feeling that I was sharing these woods with intelligent enemies with the capacity for rationality and complex decision-making sent actual shivers up my spine. It’s a fear above and beyond being chased by something that just wants to kill you as fast as possible. While honing my skills as a wilderness survivalist, spelunker, and axe warrior, I also felt like a little bit of an anthropologist – a novel and intriguing experience I’d never really come across in a game like this before.

Below the surface, things can get a bit more frustrating. A big one is that for some reason The Forest doesn’t have any gamma adjustment settings, and the dim default left many story-critical caves outright too dark to play through without darkening the room around me. Your only renewable light source is one of those little gas station lighters which barely lets you see as far out as your own outstretched hand, and that led to a lot of me getting lost. Using darkness to create tension can be great, but this is overdoing it.

When I wasn’t frustrated by the excessive gloom, I could definitely see what the designers were trying to do. The lighter, for instance, is set up to go out after random periods of time. Each time you click to attempt to re-ignite it, there’s something like a hidden coin flip to determine if it comes back on. This led to some wonderfully heart-pounding situations in which I was plunged into total darkness, knowing there were cannibals stalking me, and my lighter clicked five, six, seven, or maybe even eight times before the flame returned and allowed me to get my bearings. The cave cannibals seem scripted to flank, disorient, and spook you with their erratic movements rather than going straight for the kill, which is further proof that the team behind The Forest has a strong understanding of how to inspire horror.

The story you discover down in those depths is worth the trek.The story you discover down in those depths is worth the trek. It’s a multi-layered and creepy slow burn, doled out through abandoned camcorder tapes, disturbing discoveries, and clues left behind by your son who was kidnapped just after the plane crash that stranded you. The mysteries go deep and take you to some very unexpected environments that excitingly contrast the arboreal overworld and natural cave systems. The relatively small size of the map compared to other survival games is also a boon, making it more likely you’ll find at least some of the story areas without having to dive into a wiki. Make no mistake, though – you will more likely than not need to rely at least partly on community info to reach the end.

On top of your food and water gauges, a sanity score tracks how far you’re willing to go to survive, up to and including going native and cannibalizing the cannibals. The final moments of the story tie up the question of how much of your humanity you’re willing to lose to survive with an interesting moral choice. However, I do wish sanity had more noticeable impact on how you play – other than unlocking the ability to build effigies out of body parts to mark your territory when it gets below a certain point, the difference between 100 percent sane and zero felt pretty negligible.

The inhabitants of the island become more persistent and aggressive as time goes on.The eight-player peer-to-peer co-op mode offers a distinctly different and enjoyable way to play. Having friends takes the tension down several notches and makes some of the story stuff almost trivial, but also enables building imposing and expansive bases that would be prohibitively time-consuming alone. Since the inhabitants of the island become more persistent and aggressive as time goes on, especially if you plop a fortress in the middle of their hunting grounds, it becomes something of a horde mode that I had a really good time with.

Unfortunately, these peer-to-peer sessions are temporary, and as far as I can tell, the dedicated server option (which can allow more than eight players and a persistent world) is largely nonfunctional at the moment. The screen to join a dedicated server is missing a scrollbar, which is bizarre, and all of the servers I came across were password locked with zero players. It’s possible this is a feature that’s not yet fully implemented, but that begs the question of why it’s even available from the multiplayer menu in the public client.

Performance was also quite respectable across the board. A lot of open-world survival games tend to be resource hogs, but The Forest runs slick and smooth on my Core i7-4770K and GeForce GTX 1070 on max settings, no matter how much is going on at any given time. That’s impressive, given the sheer density of flora, ground cover, and other small details texturing the map. I encountered some minor intermittent bugs, such as the transition animations between areas of a cave that need to be loaded separately spitting me back out the way I came – but nothing that greatly hindered my ability to progress.

I’ve never been terrorized, stalked, or fascinated by enemy AI quite like I was in The Forest. It’s a harrowing survival ordeal that knows how to play with tension and create the sense of a real world with complex inner workings and mysteries I was eager to discover. It’s I Am Legend told in the depths of the hinterlands, with a meaningful story progression that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Disregard the warnings on the walls and hidden between the trees at your own peril – and if you want a unique and memorable survival horror experience, then you should absolutely dare to do so.

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This Slow-Burn Folk Horror Is Well Worth the Wait For Its Shocking Ending


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The Big Picture

  • The Feast is a masterful folk horror film that critiques humanity's consumption of nature.
  • The film's focus on a wealthy family's destructive nature highlights the worst of humanity.
  • The Feast 's shocking ending serves as a powerful metaphor for the consequences of abusing nature.

Folk horror is a special subgenre of fear, creators swapping out the insidious back alleys and creepy old cabins that usually fill the medium for picturesque countrysides drenched in blood. Many films have used these forest-filled settings as backdrops for their terror, but it takes a truly great movie to not only use folk elements as set dressing but incorporate them to create a thoroughly disturbing narrative. One of the best examples of this is 2021's The Feast , directed by Lee Haven Jones on on Hulu , which immediately features so many of folk horror's expected aspects: rolling green hills, thriving fauna, and, of course, a group of pesky humans who would dare intrude on this natural space.

Yet while most folk horrors try to inject these nature scenes with excitement and bloodshed early on, The Feast takes its time . With even-paced plotting and confusingly haunting imagery sprinkled across its story, the movie establishes a deeply uncomfortable energy, hinting at something dark without ever explaining to viewers why they should feel so scared. This culminates in a jaw-dropping critique of humanity's consumption of nature, using the people at its center and its mysterious protagonist to unnerve watchers before presenting one of the most shocking endings this subgenre has ever seen. It is a masterclass in why you don't rush greatness and is a great showcase of something many horror fans have always known: humans are the real threats.


Follows a young woman serving privileged guests at a dinner party in a remote house in rural Wales. The assembled guests do not realize they are about to eat their last supper.

In Folk Horror, Humans Are The Real Threats

Audiences wouldn't be wrong to initially think The Feast is a tawdry family drama masquerading as a horror since the movie's first half focuses more on the misdeeds of the wealthy – a horror unto itself – rather than the blood and violence that typically fill the genre. The movie follows a rich family in their countryside home: superior mother Glenda ( Nia Roberts ), the purposefully oblivious father Gwyn ( Julian Lewis Jones ), and their sons – recovering addict Guto ( Steffan Cennydd ), and defamed doctor Gweirydd ( Sion Alun Davies ). These people and their modern house are a blight on the surrounding countryside, the family using the hills of Glenda's home into the backdrop for their ongoing drama as each son's issues have turned the building into a sort of hideaway. The film starts with Glenda hiring a local to act as a server for that evening's dinner party: Cadi ( Annes Elwy ), a young woman whose mysterious silence confounds the family and viewers alike. The movie eventually devolves into terror, the climax paying off various hints at Cadi's true nature dropped throughout . However, the first portion of the movie spotlights the real terror of folk horror: humans themselves.

Custom image of Rea Lest and Jette Loona Hermanis in November against a blue background

This Surreal, Beautiful Folk Horror Movie Might Just Make You Cry

The twisted 21st-century fairytale stunned audiences with its gripping visuals.

The film's look at the family feels like a nature documentary, the cameras showcasing the ridiculous ways these people carry themselves – from Gweirydd consuming raw meat 'for his health' to Glenda's strange preening rituals – in a way that paints them as some other species that need to be studied. While the film immediately criticizes all of human consumption with its initial scene of a man drilling the hills for oil, it's this family that portrays the worst of humanity , these ultra-wealthy narcissists portraying a world that would be foreign to almost every person watching and rightfully seen as destructive by most. It paints them as the worst kind of animal: those that destroy the ecology around them . It's revealed that the party is a setup for Glenda and financial advisor Euros ( Rhodri Meilir ) to convince her childhood friend Mair ( Lisa Palfrey ) to let them mine on her land, Glenda explaining that they've already started on a local expanse called 'The Rise' – a place known to host the sleeping form of an ancient nature Goddess. The revelation of what this family has done, how thoroughly they've tainted and abused the nature they felt they owned, sets off the true terror of the film, leading to one of the most visceral examples of nature fighting back in modern cinema.

'The Feast' Brings People's Inner Demons Out For All To See

The first to suffer in The Feast – aside from nature itself – are the brothers, each becoming victims to the awakened Goddess who has been inhabiting Cadi since the movie began. The disgusting body horror of each one's downfall begins with Guto, as his leg turns into a sickening mess of maggots and dead flesh after he injected mushrooms "Cadi" helped him find in the forest. As she tries to convince an enthralled Gweirydd to chop off the gangrenous limb, Guto shouts out just why the man is hiding away: he'd been fired from his hospital for sexually assaulting comatose women. This makes his cringe-inducing fate an act of bloody karma as, after performing messy surgery with an axe , Gweirydd tries to have sex with Cadi – not knowing that she had shoved broken glass inside herself earlier in the day. These ends are terrifying in themselves, but the truly sickening scene comes from inside the house; an entranced Glenda begins to butcher up her sons' corpses – the bloody mother feeding pieces of her offspring to the now-feral Euros in a disgusting scene as viewers hear every difficult bite as he shoves each piece down his throat . It is a stomach-churning, terrifying subversion of the poised politeness this horrible family had worked so hard at, revealing through this gore the movie's core message.

Even with this petrifying climax, the movie continues to function as a sort of twisted documentary, the camera tracking this strange human sub-species and how their destructive natures wreak havoc on the world around them. These people are a special kind of greedy beast at their core yet try so hard to conceal their true natures. This ending strips their facades away, turning them into the all-consuming monsters they've proven themselves to – but swapping out the nature that isn't theirs for the flesh that is . All of their fates serve as apt metaphors; whether it be the always hungering Euros and Glenda finally feasting on everything, or Gweirydd being maimed while enacting the same pain he'd inflicted so many times – each punishment reduces these people to the nasty things they try to hide. It's a perfect deconstruction of this damaging way of life, not only punishing these people but turning them into a horrifying lesson: if you try to take from nature, nature will take everything from you.

'The Feast' Shows What Happens When Nature Fights Back

While many films use folk horror as a way to subvert expectations and terrify watchers, few embody the core tenets of this subgenre as successfully as The Feast . It's also understandable why some viewers would think it barely fits in that category. With the movie's initial focus on familial strife and the sins of the wealthy, they may turn it off after believing they'd been duped into watching a creepy, soapy drama. But it's how the movie showcases the horrors of humanity that makes the pay-off so successful , not only creating a scary finale but also stressing the film's entire message. Through this family, the plot highlights the terrible implications of how humans mistreat nature, laying out these devastating actions that exist today and emphasizing that while it may not be as direct as these people experience, the natural world will come back to punish those who abuse it. It truly becomes one of the best examples of folk horror , not only using the subgenre's elements to tell its story but, with its bloody end, showing the petrifying potential of nature on those who take too much from it .

The Feast is currently available to stream on Hulu in the U.S.


  • Movie Features

'Longlegs' movie will haunt your nightmares and 'hijack your subconscious,' critics say

the forest horror movie review

The reviews are in and the critics agree unanimously: "Longlegs" is absolutely terrifying. 

Neon's horror thriller film, starring Nicolas Cage as an unstable rural dollmaker and Maika Monroe as a young FBI agent, had its red carpet premiere at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on Tuesday.

Fans in attendance were each gifted a red 45" vinyl covered in "Longlegs Cipher," but left the theater too scared to play the soundtrack.

"Longlegs" is the latest film from actor and screenwriter Osg o od "Oz" Perkins , who is also the son of Anthony Perkins, the star of Alfred Hitchcock’s "Psycho. "

The film follows FBI agent Lee Harker (Monroe) as she tackles an unsolved serial killer case plaguing her small Pacific Northwest town, and takes an unexpected, supernatural turn as she discovers a personal connection to the occult killer.

Here's what critics are saying about "Longlegs."

went to the #Longlegs premiere and they gave us a vinyl but i’m too scared to play it 👀 — inet 🦭 (@lifegonewild) July 9, 2024

'Longlegs' will 'hijack your subconscious,' critics say

Critics are calling "Longlegs" a true horror film, with Peter Debruge of Variety writing that it can "hijack your subconscious:" "Less than 12 hours after seeing it, the demented Nicolas Cage character resurfaced in my nightmares."

David Ehrlich of Indie Wire shared a similar sentiment in his review: "Terrifying in the abstract even as it grows increasingly absurd to watch, 'Longlegs' slinks its way into that liminal space between childhood nightmares and grown-up practicalities."

The H o llywood Reporter calls "Longlegs" Perkins' "most fully realized and relentlessly effective film to date," despite concerns that he may "stir too many elements into the mix here."

Neon has used strategic marketing to convey the horror level of this film, releasing a teaser stating that "the first time Maika Monroe saw Nicolas Cage as Longlegs, her heart rate hit 170 bpm."

The first time Maika Monroe saw Nicolas Cage as Longlegs, her heart rate hit 170 bpm. LONGLEGS opens in theaters Friday: — ↃL⊥\\Ↄ—\\ᘰ (@LonglegsFilm) July 8, 2024

One user replied , "the marketing for this film (is) so good i’m actually getting worried."

"Longlegs" stars Blair Underwood as Agent Carter and Alicia Witt as Ruth Harker, Lee Harker's ultra-religious mother. The ensemble cast includes Michelle Choi Lee, Dakota Daulby, Lauren Acala, Kieran Shipka, and Maila Hosie.

Watch the 'Longlegs' trailer:

When does 'Longlegs' hit theaters?

"Longlegs" is out in theaters Friday.

More From Forbes

The best horror movie of 2024 arrives with a perfect 100% critic score.

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Every year there are a few buzzed-about horror movies released, but I haven’t seen this much hype for one in a good long while. The movie is Longlegs, hitting theaters this upcoming weekend, and it’s a strange name for what appears to be an incredibly terrifying, incredibly good film.

As it stands, with 25 reviews in, Longlegs has a perfect 100% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes , not a very common achievement for a mainstream horror film. Here’s a synopsis of the movie:

“In the 1990s, new FBI agent Lee Harker was assigned to an unsolved case involving the Satanic serial killer known as Longlegs. As the investigation becomes more complicated with occult evidence uncovered, Harker realizes a personal link to the killer and must act quickly to prevent another family murder.”

The cast is pretty great too. It stars Maika Monroe (It Follows), Alicia Witt (OG Dune), Blair Underwood (Rules of Engagement), Kiernan Shipka (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) and Nicholas Cage (everything). Monroe in particular is cementing her status as a true icon of horror after starring in both this as It Follows, which I’d consider to be an all-time great horror film, and one of my favorites. Cage as the killer (this is not a secret) is being praised as unsettling well beyond what we thought may have been possible from him.

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What’s so good about it? I was impressed with this high praise from Cinematic Reel’s David Gonzalez:

“Not since the likes of Zodiac and The Silence of the Lambs has a serial killer entry disturbed me the way Oz Perkins’ Longlegs did. It’s a psychologically relentless descent into the macabre that’s sure to crawl its way under your skin and never leave.”

I think my favorite piece of trivia about director Oz Perkins is that he played a character named “Dorky David” in Legally Blonde in 2001. But since then he’s directed a couple horror movies, but none that blew up the way we’re seeing here.

There were some early reactions to the movie in surprise screenings, and this one’s probably my favorite:

"No lie. Longlegs was so insane that a woman behind us started crying halfway thru lmao 10/10 movie."

For reference, here are some of the highest rated horror movies of last year, 2023, where none hit a full 100%:

  • When Evil Lurks – 97%
  • Huesera: The Bone Woman – 97%
  • Attachment – 95%
  • Talk to Me – 95%
  • M3GAN – 93%
  • Influencer – 92%

So, if you liked any of those, and this is scoring better, well, get ready. And these comparisons to Blair Witch, Silence of the Lambs and Zodiac are something else, as it’s not just a few people saying that, but many. I cannot wait. The movie is out July 12 in select theaters.

Follow me on Twitter , YouTube , and Instagram .

Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy .

Paul Tassi

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the forest horror movie review

1+ Hour Of Rainforest Horror Stories To Help You Fall Asleep | Black Screen For Sleep | Rain Sounds

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New tamil movies

Best & New Tamil Movies of 2024

By Devanshi Basu

The year 2024 is proving to be a blockbuster year for Tamil cinema, with a diverse lineup of films, including Lal Salaam, Garudan, Maharaja, Merry Christmas , and more. From intense action dramas to supernatural thrillers, this year’s releases so far have delivered a mix of emotions, gripping narratives, and stellar performances. Here’s a look at some of the best and newest Tamil movies of 2024 . 

Maharaja marks the 50th film with Vijay Sethupathi as the lead actor. Directed by Nithilan Swaminathan, this gripping tale revolves around a barber, Maharaja, whose life takes a dramatic turn when his home is burglarized. The burglars steal something he cryptically calls Lakshmi, leaving everyone puzzled about whether Lakshmi is a person or a valuable item. The plot thickens as Maharaja (played by Vijay Sethupathi) walks into the Pallikaranai police station in Chennai, claiming three thieves broke into his house and stole his Lakshmi.

The plot takes an emotional turn when it is revealed that Lakshmi is an old iron dustbin with sentimental value, having saved his daughter during a fatal accident that killed his wife. Furthermore, the film features two parallel stories, one of which focuses on Anurag Kashyap’s character. With a stellar supporting cast, including Abhirami and Mamta Mohandas, this Tamil movie is rich in emotion and intrigue.

Captain Miller

Captain Miller , featuring Dhanush, premiered on January 12, 2024 , coinciding with Sankranti’s release. Directed by Arun Matheswaran, this Tamil action drama is set in the British Raj era. The story revolves around a former British Army soldier, played by Dhanush, who rebels against the colonizers to protect his home village.

The supporting cast includes Shiva Rajkumar, Aditi Balan, and Priyanka Arul Mohan. Moreover, the Tamil movie has grossed approximately $13 million and is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video in multiple languages.

Directed by RS Durai Senthilkumar , Garudan features Soori, M. Sasikumar, Unni Mukundan, and Roshini Haripriyan . The film tells the story of Sokkan, an orphan living with sadhus in a temple. He becomes a loyal servant and friend to Karuna, the heir of a once-royal family.

As a politician from Chennai plots to acquire land belonging to the village temple, Sokkan finds himself entangled in a gripping tale of decadence, ego, and betrayal. This Tamil movie’s intense storyline and strong performances make it a notable addition to 2024’s lineup.

Aranmanai 4

Aranmanai 4 , directed by Sundar C, is a supernatural thriller set in a large house in the middle of a forest. The film features Tamannaah Bhatia as Selvi, whose husband suddenly tries to kill her and their children.

After surviving the attack, Selvi’s brother, lawyer Saravanan (played by Sundar C), investigates the mysterious events surrounding the house. The ensemble cast further includes Kovai Sarala, Yogi Babu, VTV Ganesh, and Raashi Khanna. Moreover, this Tamil movie features a mix of horror, comedy, and drama.

Lal Salaam features Rajinikanth in a special cameo appearance alongside Vishnu Vishal as Thirunavukarasu, aka Thiru. Directed by Aishwarya Rajinikanth, the film is set in the fictitious village of Murarbad, known for its religious harmony.

When Thiru injures Samsudeen, causing a rift between the Hindu and Muslim communities, the village’s peace is shattered. The film explores themes of camaraderie, conflict, and reconciliation.

Merry Christmas

Sriram Raghavan’s directorial Merry Christmas is a thriller featuring brand new pair Katrina Kaif and Vijay Sethupathi. The film follows Albert (Sethupathi) and Maria (Kaif) on a fateful Christmas Eve.

It starts as a seemingly romantic story but turns into a twisted tale of love and suspense. After a chance meeting, Albert ends up in Maria’s apartment, only to find himself caught in a crime scene. This Tamil movie’s blend of romance and mystery makes it a standout release.

Devanshi Basu

When not obsessively writing about anything and everything related to cinema, you can catch her documenting nooks and crannies of Delhi.

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    As it stands, with 25 reviews in, Longlegs has a perfect 100% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, not a very common achievement for a mainstream horror film.Here's a synopsis of the movie:

  28. "Tales from the Dark Forest" 1+ Hour Of Rainforest Horror ...

    IMDb is the world's most popular and authoritative source for movie, TV and celebrity content. Find ratings and reviews for the newest movie and TV shows. Get personalized recommendations, and learn where to watch across hundreds of streaming providers.

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    Directed by RS Durai Senthilkumar, Garudan features Soori, M. Sasikumar, Unni Mukundan, and Roshini Haripriyan.The film tells the story of Sokkan, an orphan living with sadhus in a temple. He ...

  30. Review

    Review by Jen Yamato. July 10, 2024 at 6:00 a.m. EDT ... "Longlegs" is easily the front-runner for scariest movie of 2024. ... a marvelous piece of supernatural horror wearing the skin of a ...