The Forest

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Forest Movie Poster Image
Ghost story has promising start but too many jump-scares.
  • PG-13
  • 2016
  • 95 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 10 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations

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.


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.


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


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


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.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bysam83za September 14, 2019

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

More unsettling than scary, but some good jumpy and suspenseful moments. Knowledge about anxiety, hallucinations, suicide, etc. recommended before watching this... Continue reading
Parent of a 6 and 11-year-old Written byKeegs M December 21, 2016

Predicatble, Spooky, Umimpressing Horror Flick

The Forest didn't impress me as much as the trailer did. In my opinion the film was predictable. I knew what would happen before it did. I enjoyed the sudd... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byIzzie666 June 15, 2020

This movie sucked

There was no character development. I was also confused about the missing sisters back story. It was a long movie mostly just shots of them having conversation,... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byaqkta May 4, 2020

Thrilling, mysterious horror movie

This movie was very well made. I loved the story and plot, and it was way different from many other movies I have seen. I am very impressed with how they execut... Continue reading

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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love scares

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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