Natalie Dormer plays a woman with an identical, twin sister who has suicidal tendencies.  One night she has a dream that her sister, who is in Japan, is in trouble.  After making inquiries with the local authorities, Dormer is told her sister went to the infamous Aokigahara forest where people go to commit suicide.  The missing sister has not been seen for days, and it is presumed that she had killed herself.  Dormer doesn’t believe her sister is dead because she still senses that she is alive, and so she travels to Japan…and that’s when the nightmare starts.

With the reluctant help of a local tour guide — apparently, the haunted forest is a tourist attraction — and an Australian visitor/travel writer (played by Taylor Kinney), Dormer goes off the safe path and searches for her missing sister deep in “The Forest.”  She is warned many times by locals to stay on the safe path as there are angry spirits in the forest, and if she has sadness in her heart — which she does — the spirits will use it to trick her into seeing and hearing things that may lead her to kill herself!

Not believing the locals’ warnings, Dorman presses on with her search and finds her sister’s tent, but no sister.  Night is about to fall, and Dorman is warned repeatedly by her companions to leave the forest and come back in the morning.  Refusing to leave because Dorman has come so far and she believes she is close to finding her twin, Dorman chooses to stay in her sister’s campsite.  Kinney, wanting to help and somewhat enamored by Dorman, decides to stay with Dorman.  The look that the local guide gives the two white people is priceless!  He tells them to stay put and he’ll be back at first light.  The guide leaves, and for the next 24 hours, Dorman will be in a fight for her sanity and life.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Forest” is the scene when Dorman is in a dark hallway, and the dim lights are flickering on and off.  At the far end of the hallway, there is movement, and whatever it is slowly comes closer with each flicker of the lights.  The first 2/3 of this scene is great — in fact I would say it was masterfully executed.  But the director and writer resorted to ending this scene with a cheap scare.  What could have been a great scene has been demoted to a good one.

Another memorable moment of “The Forest” is the scene when Dormer looks at a stream in the forest and sees a body floating from right to left, going in the direction of the water flow.  Seconds  later she sees the direction of the water reverse, going from left to right.  Is she imagining things, or are these strange visions really happening?

Bottom line, “The Forest” is a decent horror movie, filled with cheap thrills and two or three genuinely scary moments. It’s like a burger with “the works”: lots of flavor, some nuance and subtlety can be discerned, but no one will ever mistake it for fine dining.

— M