CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS AND RAW HORROR
You know that feeling when you're watching a movie and you're seduced into the atmosphere and the general vibe? You're sucked into the mood and the look of the film, you've settled into its groove when DEMON!!! suddenly and without warning something horrible appears out of nowhere to make you jump? It's an undeniably effective and GHOST!!! reliable horror film tactic, like a jab with a sharp stick, but it looks a little hackneyed now and it feels cheap and WHOA!!! SCARY FACE!!! lazy when the film is absolutely capable of MONSTER!!! EEEK!!! conjuring up a perfectly persuasive aura of dread and anxiety without resorting NIGEL FARAGE!!!! to the easiest of jack-in-the-box techniques.
It's as if the makers of The Forest don't trust the material to deliver without zazzing it up, and they really should. Schoolteacher Jess (Natalie Dormer) has gone missing in Aokigahara, a forest at the base of Mount Fuji with a history as a suicide site. Her sister Sara (also Dormer) travels over to find out what happened to her: trusting the psychic bond between the identical twins over the fears and concerns of Jess' colleagues, pupils and the locals....
As an American stab at J-Horror (though shot over five and a half thousand miles away in Serbia), it certainly has the folklore and mythology aspect we got maybe a little overfamiliar with in the immediate wake of Ringu and Ju-On (mercifully, there are no jerky-limbed girl ghosts with faces obscured by lank black hair). It has a pleasing darkness and cold dread about it. But every so often it has to yell Boo! in your ear and while that may send the popcorn flying it leaves the sense that things would have been more unsettling had they concentrated on the film as a whole rather than the isolated (and sometimes irrelevant) jump moments. The end result feels like a missed opportunity as the legends of Aokigahara - a real place with a genuine history - would have made a perfectly decent movie by themselves.