Creepily foreboding, this is a nicely wound horror film, perhaps not tightly wound like it could be but there’s still enough worrying moments to find yourselves lost in, as the character herself gets lost in the forest.
Sara Price (Natalie Dormer) hasn’t heard from her identical twin sis for quite a while which worries her. The last Jess was seen was leaving her teaching duties in Japan to enter the apparently dangerous Aokigahara Forest; more troubling as it’s where people go to kill themselves. Sara is adamant Jess is still alive and with the help of a tour guide and Aussie journalist Aiden (Taylor Kinney) they set off the forest path.
It has a really slow start, cutting from a girl running to Sara’s journey into Tokyo and beyond. The true foresty things don’t really happen till about the 30/40 minute mark. Also for a horror film this isn’t really scary or in fact scary at all. It goes for jump scares, ghosts and morphing faces but they’re ticking the book…that’s all. I don’t mind that though, I liked the more psychological factor it leaned towards.
Jason Zada directs this film knowing the forest imagery is the visual audiences came for and he stuffs this landmark with creepy schoolgirls, hordes of ghosts and mind twisting questions as Sara wonders whether she’s losing the plot or not. In a similar but not as good way as ‘Oculus’ this movie plays on the brain, what’s real, what’s trying to kill you and in a big way, self. Having twins is the first and largest proof of this movie utilising the idea of identity for Sara’s decline.
What I found the most interesting was the forest, the history and spiritual belief behind this place. It is a lush looking ecosystem but wow is it made to look sad and empty. As if the souls of apparent yurei are calling out through the trees. This truth based idea for the forest is deep but sadly the story doesn’t warrant it to go deeper. There’s too many questions at the end and it becomes a standard stab at a horror film.
Natalie Dormer is great, showcasing talents in playing two characters, subtly in the more unhinged Jess compared to the blonde female lead of positive and caring Sara. Taylor Kinney comes in as a good character giving us questions to who he is, if not necessarily giving us the answers we wanted.
It shifts in a untidy way and where it could have triumphed by focusing on the changes into the psychological fear of Sara, it instead becomes lost in the Sea of Trees.