A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- In theaters: January 8, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: April 12, 2016
- Cast: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa
- Director: Jason Zada
- 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: September 20, 2019
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